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AWS adoption not a slam dunk for VMworld attendees

AWS adoption continues to skyrocket, but not everyone at VMworld was ready to go all-in, as attendees expressed excitement and concern over moving workloads to the public cloud.

LAS VEGAS -- AWS may be the darling of public cloud, but many VMworld attendees feel as much trepidation about the market leader as intrigue.

Unlike tech startups that often adopt a cloud-first mentality and forgo building their own data centers altogether, VMware customers typically have on-premises workloads to mind, and many are just starting to explore the public cloud. So, this week, here at VMworld, the largest annual gathering of VMware users, opinions on AWS adoption were decidedly mixed.

For a large Midwest financial firm, AWS adoption is "just not even an option" because of the regulatory environment and the company's more traditional view on IT, said Patrick Ziminski, senior systems engineer.

Ziminski said he knows cloud is coming; it's just a matter of when and how.

"I prefer a private cloud, where we have our gear in a data center or in a colocation and then we exit that way, versus having it on an Azure or an Amazon, where you don't feel like you have control and there can be outages beyond your control," he said.

Dealertrack Inc., a software provider for the automotive retail industry based in Lake Success, N.Y., is doing a proof-of-concept program with vCloud Air for disaster recovery. Even though its parent company, Cox Automotive, uses AWS, Dealertrack is still learning its way with the public cloud.

"We want to go there; it's just about getting everybody else to get there," said Emilio Salguera, senior infrastructure engineer. "We want to move with the times. We don't want to get caught behind."

Some customers noted how the emergence of AWS has reinforced their use of VMware. Speaking during a breakout session on NSX, Cody De Arkland, senior cloud engineer at San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co., told the audience how a large business unit within the company tapped expense dollars to put workloads into production on AWS without telling IT.

"All of a sudden, people who had never worked with AWS before had to figure out how to manage these small clusters on AWS," De Arkland said.

That experience -- and the fact that it would take weeks to deploy a set of servers -- secured company leadership support behind automating internal systems and moving to NSX, appeasing its line-of-business teams by getting their systems quickly, while also ensuring the workloads are isolated and secure.

Despite the hype behind public cloud and the unprecedented growth of AWS, public cloud spending remains a small fraction of enterprise IT budgets. But even VMware, which maintains a far more data center-centric approach to IT than the hyperscale public cloud providers, acknowledged enterprises of all stripes have some degree of interaction with AWS and the other public clouds.

In fact, VMware has moved away from its cloud strategy of keeping everything within its own ecosystem, and this week, it said it's working on a new service to more tightly integrate with AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform via NSX.

We want to move with the times. We don't want to get caught behind.
Emilio Salguerasenior infrastructure engineer, Dealertrack

The potential to use the public cloud but maintain the flexibility to move between providers is exciting, said Dan Field, director of midrange and network services at Energy Future Holdings in Dallas. The electric utility is looking at AWS adoption in addition to Azure and vCloud as it attempts to go from virtualized to a cloud-first philosophy -- and, in many ways, it represents the increased softening to some of the lingering apprehensions about public cloud and AWS adoption.

"It's really, really opening up," Field said. The energy industry is "like the government -- we move like snails," but the trend is "really driving toward [public cloud]."

In a keynote presentation, Motti Finkelstein, CTO at Citigroup Inc., based in New York, talked about the need for hybrid environments and the potential for bursting into the public clouds. That requires a high level of attention to security, but it can be done as long as on-premises platform as a service is built to allow workloads to work across environments, he said.

"For baseline needs, it probably can be optimally done within your own data center, but all those peaks and valleys are where you really want to arbitrate between cloud providers," Finkelstein said.

VMware, which has quietly pulled back from its own public cloud platform, has been heavily criticized over the years for its strategy by some of the more ardent public cloud proponents. Much of that is overblown, as choosing a private data center versus public cloud almost becomes religion for those who believe in one side or the other, said Glenn O'Donnell, vice president and research director at Forrester Research.

"The truth is somewhere in the middle with a hybrid model where you've got some stuff in the public cloud, some hybrid [and] some mainframe even part of the puzzle," O'Donnell said. "How you assemble this puzzle is the real magic -- and, unfortunately, most companies are not addressing that question."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at [email protected]

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