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Interview: VMware cloud R&D chief

cloud_computingVMware is showing more interest in the hybrid cloud scene. Why and how will you effectively address this, especially since VMware is known as the private cloud leader?

Obviously VMware’s history is around infrastructure virtualisation. As we start looking at the public cloud, we believe that the key strength is to move between the private and the public cloud and back and forth. Lines of businesses are going to look for flexibility, speed and a lot of self-provisioning these days. The IT organisation needs to provide them an ‘IT as a service’ model. The challenge is that IT organisation needs to be able to present that across the private and public data centres to give that same sense of management and flexibility. If the IT organisation does not do that, the lines of business will end up creating a ‘shadow IT’ and that leaves the IT organisations out of control in terms of what’s being spent, where the data is going and so on. Hybrid cloud thus starts to make a lot of sense.

The big change you are seeing from VMware over the last year or so has been the entrance into the public cloud through vCHS. Even before that for many years, VMware has had a program called VSPP, where we work with lots of partners, hosting providers, cloud providers and they run VMware technology in the background. And in fact, that model is still very much part of our vision even though we have our own public cloud story. So, the goal is to bridge those two.

So when somebody wants to burst out of their existing VMware environment to a hybrid model, will VMware build that outside compute capacity? How exactly does it work?

If you go back and look at some of our demos, presentations and real-life examples that have been done at the last VMworld, we can demonstrate models where you can take virtual machines running at a private data centre and you can move them to a public cloud data centre, provided the public cloud offering has a VMware base. You can move the data back and forth between them.
The big challenge when you do that is networking – how do you connect the pieces together? When it’s in the private data centre, you’ve got IP configurations and so on which might be quite different than that of the public data centre. So you can define that just like you define policies in applications. When you move the application, you move the networking infrastructure as well. The key there is networking, connectivity and the ability to take that same virtual machine and run it in a public or private cloud environment.

What if the customer wants to move to a public cloud that does not have a VMware base?

Managing different clouds is a tricky job. If you have a completely different management systems for your VMs and your workloads for the public and the private cloud – it leads to inefficiency; charge-backs are difficult; its curbs some of the agility because whatever you processed now need to be duplicated. So even for non-VMware technology, let’s say you are using a hypervisor from one provider and a public cloud from somebody else – some of our products like our vCloud automation centre product, it actually allows you to manage clouds which are not VMware clouds – so at least you can get a consistent management across the top.

When you combine the private cloud with a VMware-based public cloud, you will get an enhanced version of that. Now you get to do things like migrate VMs between those two clouds. From our point of view, it’s all about the customer’s choice. If the customer uses all VMware technologies, we can maximally work with them and optimise what they are doing. But if they are not using VMware technology, we will still deliver management capabilities across those technologies and across clouds (VMware or not). And that’s particularly true when it comes to networking. We have got a lot of focus on virtualised networking that can work across multiple clouds and not confined to VMware hypervisors or clouds.

That’s interesting because VMware is known as a proprietary vendor, which is quite ‘closed’ in its approach. I do hear that, but in reality if you go back even a few years ago, products like Cloud Foundry and SpringSource were part of VMware. These are major open source technologies. Cloud Foundry is a very heavily used Platform-as-a-Service. VMware had a lot of engineers focused on this and on delivering technologies in to those open-source communities. Now, we did a reorganisation a few months back and took a lot of those technologies and they became part of a new organisation called Pivotal. So VMware is not as closed as people seem to think.

If a customer is currently using a private cloud on a VMware stack and he wants to use a public cloud offering on OpenStack or a Hyper-V, what level of interoperability is possible using VMware technologies?

There are different degrees of interoperability. Each of the various cloud vendors have different APIs, different ways of provisioning VMs in to their environment and where it really starts to get different are the resources and capabilities of the cloud platforms in terms of accessing storage or networking. So there are a lot of differences between them. Since both the VMware public and the hybrid clouds are based on the same underlying technologies as vSphere, there are a lot of common APIs and the ability to manage across them.

Some of your competitors think that vCHS is just an old product that’s been repackaged. Your thoughts?

Old products are not necessarily bad! What I meant by that is the key component to any cloud model or most of the cloud models is virtualisation. And we are the experts in virtualisation. How VMs are getting to act with each other from a networking point of view, how the underlying technology is focused on isolating one VM from the other – all this becomes much more important on a public cloud. So yes, to summarise, all of that technology is old; but the management, provisioning, self-service technologies and other things are, for the most part, all “new” products. But I can proudly say that the underlying core virtualisation is the tried and tested technology that enterprises always wanted.


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