“VMware Cloud on AWS” & Cross-vSphere Cloud Management

Boom! The mike drops and the rumored VMware Cloud on AWS is officially launched. I was both excited and disappointed by VMware’s bold announcement with AWS on their new partnership. The high level headlines featuring the 2 undisputed masters of their own domains joining forces on a cloud offering seemed formidable for the rest of the industry. Having the world’s best hypervisor and compelling adjacent SDDC technologies such as VSAN and NSX available on AWS certainly could be groundbreaking. This direction was portended by the VMworld cross-cloud announcement. However, there’s a big partially hidden “hmmm” in this announcement. Despite the headlines, vSphere technologies are not going to be available on the AWS IaaS platform the world knows and has broadly adopted with this VMware Cloud on AWS offering.


After I digested the details of what was disclosed publicly in the joint VMware/Amazon announcement, this looks to me like a variant of vCloud Air, except this time Amazon is the hosting provider and vCenter is the management interface. Why would this be any different than VMware’s  previous attempts at vSphere-based public clouds? VMware has made several attempts at both hosting vSphere-based public clouds itself and also enabling partners to offer vSphere-based public clouds. The latest incarnations are known as vCloud Air and VCAN, respectively. Despite the best intentions, these have not garnered much market traction.

This announcement was not about a native AWS implementation/integration with vSphere-based SDDC technologies such as NSX or VSAN. The announcement also was not about AWS EC2 switching from its underlying Xen Server hypervisor technology and adopting vSphere as its underlying virtualization platform. It wasn’t about interoperation between VMware’s NSX virtual networking technology and AWS VPC. And it wasn’t about a new hybrid cloud capability that would join an on-premise vSphere deployment with the AWS public cloud. Instead, Amazon will be physically hosting (on bare-metal servers) a separate and independent vSphere-based private cloud on their facilities that will run vSphere software and be sold by VMware as a VMware managed service. Customer’s will manage and use it through vCenter, it’s vSphere-centric management platform.

To me, this sounds like vCloud Air hosted by Amazon, not vSphere technologies running in the AWS cloud. Now the announcement also mentioned, without details, that AWS PaaS services would be accessible. VMware used to have a collection of PaaS assets, but spun them out a few years ago into Pivotal, an EMC Federation venture. PaaS is a different battleground than IaaS and covers various middleware technologies to be used by cloud-based applications. The major public clouds such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google all have their own collections of PaaS services and there are popular open source PaaS platforms such as CloudFoundry which has commercial distributions from both Pivotal and Apcera. VMware has largely been agnostic on PaaS and this should give VMware Cloud on AWS customers access to some form of direct access to AWS PaaS for building cloud applications.

Some of the press articles highlighted this announcement as VMware moving into “cross cloud management”, which was similar to the VMworld keynote verbiage. Well, I read this announcement as VMware moving into cross-vSphere cloud management, but I wouldn’t call that cross cloud management and I’m not just narrowly parsing semantics.  VMware may well be the world’s best underlying virtualization platform, but this announcement did not really move that to the AWS public cloud in my opinion.

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