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VMware refines cross-cloud strategy

VMware’s CTO Kit Colbert talks up the evolution of the company’s cross-cloud strategy and how it stands out from other suppliers eyeing the multicloud pie

The adoption of hybrid and multicloud has created opportunities for enterprise IT suppliers, telcos and even public cloud providers – some of which had once dismissed the idea of a private cloud.

Today, much of the enterprise technology industry has rallied around so-called multicloud services, providing the plumbing that enables organisations to manage workloads and data across public and private clouds.

But the approach towards multicloud differs between suppliers. The likes of Red Hat are focused on providing an application platform that runs on multiple clouds, while data storage players such as Pure Storage provide a common data layer that aims to unify hybrid and multi-cloud ecosystems.

Then there are the hyperscale cloud suppliers such as Google Cloud, which has the Anthos hybrid cloud management platform that promises to make it easier to manage containerised applications regardless of where they are – on different public cloud services or on-premise.

VMware, with many enterprise customers that use its technology to virtualise the infrastructure on which applications are deployed, is not about to cede ground to the rest.

As early as 2016, it introduced VMware Cross-Cloud Services to make it easier for enterprises to track their cloud consumption and monitor the security and cost of their workloads residing in multiple clouds.

At VMworld 2021 earlier in October, the virtualisation pioneer refined its cross-cloud strategy, expanding its product lines beyond the Tanzu Kubernetes platform to cover areas including security and edge computing.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, VMware’s CTO Kit Colbert said compared to the time when Cross-Cloud Services was first introduced, VMware is now “much more laser focused on fact that there are many clouds”.

That means providing more functionality to support customer choice and flexibility, Colbert said, noting that Cross-Cloud Services today is of a “different architecture than what we were proposing earlier”, leveraging all the advancements that VMware had made since 2016.

One such advancement is at the edge in the form of VMware Edge, a product portfolio that lets enterprises run and manage edge-native apps across multiple clouds. This is a significant addition to VMware’s Cross-Cloud Services portfolio at a time when edge computing is on the rise thanks to growing roll-outs of 5G networks.

Besides offering an integrated virtual machine (VM) and container-based technology stack that will enable organisations to modernise and secure edge-native apps at the far edge, VMware’s edge offering also touts secure access service edge (SASE) capabilities.

At the same time, VMware is spearheading the Open Grid Alliance (OGA) to rearchitect the internet into a global, shared platform that distributes compute, data, and intelligence on-demand to when and where it’s needed, including at the edge.

“It’s really focused on how we support the next generation of the internet, outside of the telco core or hyperscale datacentres, to the end-users in their homes where we see challenges like performance and manageability,” he said.

“We’re working very closely with many telcos and industry partners to find a new architecture of what that should look like. And one way of thinking about it is sort of like a software-defined network for the internet,” he added.

Besides driving broader technological advancements, Colbert said VMware, being a neutral party in the public cloud race, differs from hyperscalers when it comes to its cross-cloud strategy.

“We don’t care where customers put their workloads and we’re totally fine if it's Cloud A versus Cloud B, on-premise or at the edge,” he said. “It works just as well for us in any of those cases and we provide great functionality and services.

“What some customers see is the public clouds’ business model is to run stuff in their public clouds, and so I think that gives us kind of an advantage,” he added.

As for the other suppliers that do not offer public cloud services, Colbert said the big distinction for VMware is its “extraordinarily large install base”.

“We have 80 million VMs [virtual machines] running across the world, and customers are looking to modernise and move a lot of these workloads to the cloud. That puts us in a special position to offer the simplest, quickest and smartest way to move those to cloud,” he said.

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