VMware's Hybrid Cloud: Not Amazon's Model

VMware's Hybrid Cloud Service, detailed Tuesday, has important differences compared to Amazon Web Services. Customers will have to weigh the partner model and pricing.
Those lessons may still need to be learned. VMware has heard frustration in its own customer base that it isn't easy to move into a hybrid computing environment from the present vSphere and ESX Server-based part of the data center. At the same time, some knowledgeable voices among service providers have said VMware software is more enterprise-oriented than service-provider-oriented. Service providers have to meet a different set of needs and a larger scale of operations. One such voice, John Considine, CTO of the Terremark cloud unit of Verizon, said Verizon found it expedient to continue to use its own cloud provisioning software, even though it wishes to host as many ESX Server-based workloads as possible.

In that fashion, Terremark didn't become what VMware terms a "vCloud Data Center Partner." In the U.S., those partners are Bluelock, headquartered in Indianapolis; the AT&T Synaptic Cloud; and CSC, which plans to integrate its customers with multiple cloud vendors as well as VMware. Overseas, the data center partners are Colt in Europe, Singtel in Singapore and SoftBank in Japan. In addition, there are hundreds of "vCloud powered" partners, a lower-level designation of their VMware environments.

Given its strong position in the enterprise, VMware also sees an opportunity to evolve the nature of hybrid cloud itself. It will make what are sometimes described as legacy applications available as a service in its four hybrid data centers. One of its announcements Tuesday at its Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters was that SAP applications, including the in-memory database engine Hana, will be available through its vCloud Hybrid Service.

Fathers hopes many additional independent software vendors come to its hybrid cloud centers and use them to get their main applications to work in the cloud for multi-tenant use, while allowing customers to keep their data on premises by putting a piece of the same application on the customer's premises. "It would be a new pattern in software distribution if we can divide up applications that way," he said. The inability to allow enterprise data to remain on premises while using the cloud "has been a big barrier to the adoption of cloud computing," he said.

VMware Hybrid Cloud will have limited availability through an early access program that starts in June. General availability in the U.S. is expected in the third quarter. Availability in Europe, the Middle East and Asia will follow in 2014.

Pricing, while announced, also remains somewhat cloaked. As vCloud Hybrid Service becomes available in June, early access users will pay by the hour but will gradually graduate into monthly or annual rates, depending on the nature of the service used. The pricing listed for multi-tenant service, 4.5 cents an hour for one virtual CPU and one GB of memory, sort of approximates the medium-sized servers of Google and Amazon, if multiplied by three. So for a rough comparison, the VMware pricing comes out at $0.135 for VMware; $0.132 for Google and $0.12 for Amazon.

But, of course, there's no shutting down a virtual machine and saving money during the nighttime hours if you're going to be charged by the month or the year. The base unit of pricing is also too small a virtual machine to be of much use in most enterprises. Details remain to be explained in how the pricing will actually work out. Fathers said listing a price for a basic VM unit was an effort to impose simplicity on a complicated subject. It is also likely to impose some confusion as well.