VMware has expanded its public cloud offering with the launch of its beta vCloud Hybrid Service in the UK, as it aims to challenge the dominant Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) players.
The vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) platform was revealed earlier this year in the US, with 100 customers signed on to its early access programme.
Now VMware has set its sights on Europe, allowing the company to address European customer concerns over data sovereignty and privacy – a major consideration for those looking to move workloads away from their private clouds.
The service will be launched first in the UK, which VMware cites as its biggest market, as well as the largest for IaaS in the region. Its first data centre is located to the west of London, in Slough, though VMware declined to say which data centre providers are being partnered with.
Once up and running, customers will also be able to access an application store with over 3,500 apps. vCHS will integrate with a range of VMware software including vSphere Web Client, vCloud Application Director, and vCloud Automation Center.
A private beta will begin in the final quarter of 2013, with general availability at the start of 2014.
Hybrid cloud strategy
VMware's vice-president for hybrid cloud, Bill Fathers, said the public cloud service was aimed at meeting the needs of enterprise customers as they begin to move workloads out of their on-premise datacentres, while still wanting to retain control of some elements of their infrastructure.
“We have now reached the point where the vast majority of our clients are starting to embrace the public cloud in one form or another,” Fathers said.
The concept of hybrid cloud has gained ground as many enterprise customers see private cloud strategies mature and begin to look to public resources, with analysts Gartner recently claiming that over half of large firms will have a hybrid model in place by 2017.
For those that have 'embraced' the public cloud already, this has meant buying IaaS from the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or many other more established cloud players. Where VMware believes that it can differentiate from other public cloud offerings is by offering customers a “seamless” method of transferring workloads between their own VMware managed private environments, to data centres also running on the software vendor's tools.
The hybrid cloud strategy builds on VMware's long-held dominance in the virtualisation market, as well as moves through acquisition into networking and storage virtualisation, and management and automation tools which enable its software defined data centre and private cloud plans. For the vendor, the public cloud is the logical next step, enabling customers to 'burst' out into data centres run by VMware partners, with a cloud payment model similar to what they would have with AWS or other cloud providers.
According to IDC analyst Spencer Izard, the VMware public cloud offers an interesting option to enterprise customers which are happy to implement VMware across their organisation, with ease of transition between internal and external workloads seen as a major plus for companies.
“They have a really compelling offer compared to someone like Amazon, where customers still have to integrate their own management platform with Amazon's. So, if you are really committed to VMware it is a really good solution,” he said.
However Izard pointed out that the VMware hybrid cloud strategy will require a commitment to VMware products and service, and may be off-putting for some customers who want to be able to use alternative cloud providers.
Although VMware has made efforts to allay fears of lock-in by attempting to integrate with open source cloud management tools such as OpenStack, it is important that there is a clear exit strategy.
“The biggest challenge for them would be customers not wanting commit to one single vendor,” he explained, though added that integration with third parties such as OpenStack or Microsoft "takes the fear out of some organisations which don't want feel they can't connect to other cloud services".
"One way around that is greater portability. They need to show a clear exit strategy and migration tools to help people onboard and offboard, as well as clear and transparent pricing, and being as scalable as possible with that pricing."
“At the end of the day people will veer towards a safe standardised platform, but they don't want to feel that they are cajoled into one vendor's strategy. Open integration will be a big thing for them."