Amazon, VMware On Collision Course

At this year's Re:Invent conference, Amazon showcased new features and agility plans that could push it solidly ahead of its cloud competitors.

Gregory Ness, VP of worldwide marketing at CloudVelox

December 18, 2014

5 Min Read

Editor's note: The writer's firm, CloudVelox, specializes in cloud workload migration and disaster recovery in the cloud.

If you had any doubts about the future of the enterprise cloud, Amazon's annual Re:Invent conference swept them away, with Vegas-style bold strokes and theater. There were game-changing announcements, powerful enterprise testimonials, and throngs of enthusiasts. More than a thousand last-minute would-be registrants were turned away weeks before the show started.

The Seattle-based cloud giant established a clear business trajectory for its AWS IaaS cloud service for many years to come, making its aspirations known to everyone, including those who could not attend in person. To say that Amazon accomplished what it set out to do is likely an understatement. Show content and attendance had a distinct enterprise focus, perhaps for the first time since its beginnings.

Given the buzz around cloud adoption, I've compiled a list of three key points from the event related to addressing enterprise requirements and extending Amazon's influence in the private and public sector.

[Amazon embraces the hybrid cloud. Read Amazon Expands OpsWorks For On-Premises Server Management.]

AWS's enterprise grade features
As the leading cloud vendor with a secure and flexible cloud environment, Amazon Web Services has added services to its repertoire that nicely complement its seasoned, reliable, and scalable platform. They should be well received by private and public sector IT leaders, who are enthusiastic about the transformative power of the cloud.

For example, the AWS Key Management Service works with existing AWS services in an effort to more easily manage data encryption keys. This service allows companies to more easily create and control encryption keys. That's needed by enterprises under strict regulation and compliance requirements. Additionally, the AWS Service Catalog, which aligns with traditional IT management, allows administrators to control access to their applications and AWS resources. AWS users are able to browse and launch products from the administrators' designated catalogs that are in line with company policies.

Hybrid cloud finally part of the plan
Johnson & Johnson CTO Dan Zelem presented his company's move to the cloud and said that the Fortune 500 company is implementing a hybrid approach. This was a much-needed, yet not trivial, shift for Amazon. Zelem said that the line between where a data center begins and ends is getting blurred. That is a good thing for Amazon, which wants to shrink the barriers to AWS deployment. J&J plans to have nearly 500 apps in the hybrid cloud by the end of 2015.

Previous Re:Invent shows were focused exclusively on the public cloud. Hybrid cloud messaging was discouraged, and some execs had even questioned the existence of private cloud. This year was a kind of watershed in that AWS has finally accepted the hybrid cloud as a valid option.

In addition to the messaging, AWS also supports better relationships with on-premises environments (including features like AWS Direct Connect and plugins to support VMware virtual machine uploads). The question is: What can AWS and other cloud providers do to support the migration of physical and mixed environments, which make up the majority of traditional private and public sector workloads?

Reducing costs, resources, and process requirements for cloud migration could accelerate adoption beyond current expectations. Hybrid cloud with AWS (or another cloud provider with a low entry fee) could become the enterprise standard.

As Amazon execs talked about agility at Re:Invent, the discussion is already shifting to a new kind of agility: the ability to move easily between on-premises and the cloud data center. That kind of agility would be key to any victory over VMware, a company that already understands the importance of speed and scale to enterprise buyers.

Competing with VMware: Agility is critical
AWS continues to release more capabilities designed to make it easier to port VMware virtual machines into the AWS cloud. However, while migrating a single VM or image may be easy, a traditional enterprise environment needs more automation than VM export/import.

To put these requirements in greater context: VMware grew by allowing IT pros to manage more workloads than was at the time considered possible. Amazon (or another IaaS provider) could take this agility promise to the next level by automating agility across massively scalable environments.

If AWS delivers, we can only speculate as to the management, tools, and services that would emerge within powerful new operating models. It is clear that Amazon's pace of innovation is on a collision course with VMware. To win, Amazon will need to deliver on the agility promise -- faster and with more breadth than VMware and Microsoft. If it can do this, it will reduce the barriers to cloud-related migration for traditional IT workloads and encourage new operating models enabled by APIs and automation.

AWS Re:Invent grew at an astounding rate this year. Its attendance tripled, from 5,000 attendees at the first event to nearly 15,000 this time (according to a few AWS employees). No doubt, AWS Re:Invent is the most disruptive IT event around, by far. The question that should now be on everyone's mind: Can Amazon take the agility promised from new apps developed in AWS to existing apps that need to be deployed onto AWS? If it can, Amazon will be more than a mere player with which to contend -- it will become one of the most dominant forces in the tech industry.

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About the Author(s)

Gregory Ness

VP of worldwide marketing at CloudVelox

Gregory Ness is the VP of worldwide marketing at CloudVelox, a firm that helps migrate enterprise workloads to the cloud and provide disaster recovery there. He was formerly CMO at Vantage Data Centers, a provider of wholesale data center space, and VP of Corporate Marketing at Infoblox, the network controls firm. Ness holds a Master's degree in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been a speaker at Interop, Cloud Connect, Cisco Live, and Future in Review.

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