Infrastructure as a Service

VMware CEO Causes Public Cloud Stir

Pat Gelsinger asserts VMware ecosystem must capture customers before public cloud does. Will this be his Mitt Romney 47% moment?
More importantly, customers are bringing a sense of the cloud as a place where they can avoid vendor lock-in and move workloads around, if they choose, seeking the venue best for them. Will proprietary software ever do that for them? VMware is on the defensive on this front and Gelsinger's statements indicate some disquiet about lock-in might be justified.

The public cloud in many instances is a low-cost, open source-based organism that gets part of its elasticity from its ability to duplicate as much open source software as it needs, without impacting the cost of service. That doesn't describe the high-priced VMware environment inside the enterprise

VMware has performed, and can be expected to continue to perform, brilliantly in terms of advancing what virtualization can do to manage the data center. We are a long way from a software-defined data center, but it is a concept that holds huge potential for effective operations. But VMware won't get there by trying to block and tackle those seeking non-VMware public cloud services.

"VMware's hubris is to believe that their lead in enterprise virtualization will translate into success in the public cloud space. Other voices have since joined mine in making this point, yet Gelsinger's recent admittal at the partner conference is nothing less than a public statement of VMware's impotence in this regard," wrote Bias in a blog post Monday. Bias speaks from the point of view of a successful implementer of CloudStack, open source software that is ready to run a public cloud service.

Gelsinger spoke at the Partner Exchange from an inside-the-ecosystem point of view. His customers, wary of the VMware spend already in their budgets, are already looking to the public cloud, with its economies of scale, for relief. Gelsinger seemed to be saying the VMware ecosystem must hurry up and team up to defeat these expectations.

In the past, InformationWeek has noted VMware views the virtual administrator's management console and its vCenter Operations as the correct base from which to manage both internal and external cloud workloads.

On Feb. 4, I noted, "To get to 85% to 95% utilization rates, capacity of all hardware resources will need to be monitored and carefully honed. In all likelihood, it will require standby copies of virtual machines, waiting to be fired up in the public cloud as an extension of the data center during those periods when on-premises capacity isn't sufficient. VMware has such a development in mind as it assembles the components of vCloud Suite."

But what if VMware customers view the company's mission as different from managing both realms for them? Or perhaps they simply aren't willing to wait. Maybe they're happy with VMware's role in virtualizing legacy apps inside the data center, and they're looking to create a whole new generation of cloud applications that won't run as neatly inside a package of virtual files. If that's the case, then Gelsinger hasn't helped VMware's cause.

Gelsinger's comments reflect the tension VMware is feeling as interest in public cloud computing grows. For all I know, he's this minute having a beer with Mitt Romney as they discuss the words they wish they could take back: "commodity clouds" and "the electorate's 47%."

As if to agitate VMware's case of nerves, IBM announced Monday that it will base its SmartCloud Orchestrator for provisioning virtual machines and other cloud services on an OpenStack architecture. Consider the impact IBM's support had for Linux when it was struggling open source code. Maybe VMware sees a similar effect on what's emerging as its chief cloud competitor, OpenStack, and other open source code.

If VMware is to continue to attract customers, it will need to produce cloud software that's better than what the rapidly evolving, open source public cloud already offers. That's going to be a tall order.

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