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VMware and Amazon partner to bring enterprises to the cloud

In a move focused squarely on enterprise customers, VMware and Amazon are partnering to shift on-premises vSphere workloads to AWS bare metal.

Amazon is making its strongest push yet to get enterprises on its platform by "smoothing the on-ramp" for legacy workloads through a new partnership with VMware.

VMware Cloud on AWS, a new service from the two tech giants, is expected to be available next year, and it builds on VMware's recently launched Cloud Foundation partnership, which enables customers to run its software-defined data center (SDDC) on SoftLayer. This deal, however, makes AWS the "primary public cloud supported by VMware," according to VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, and likely will have a much larger impact as it pairs VMware and Amazon -- the virtualization provider with the dominant public cloud vendor in the market.

Amazon will provide dedicated resources for VMware's SDDC to run on top of bare metal -- a first for AWS. Customers can migrate workloads between their private cloud and AWS, and run workloads elastically and on-demand on the public cloud. The service will be sold and supported by VMware.

When VMware announced Cloud Foundation in late August, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) wanted to see Amazon on the list of providers. The utility, which uses VMware on premises, had a business unit put workloads on AWS without telling IT, and while it could pull production applications back in house, it had to keep the dev-test environments running.

Customers are determined to get on AWS, so this capability will help ease the concerns of the IT department, said Cody De Arkland, senior cloud engineer at PG&E.

"It's not really relevant what you want to do anymore, because our task is to support the things that people are asking for -- and people are asking for Amazon," he said.

Some workloads will always be kept on premises, but this could be an opportunity to move some lower-level environments such as dev-test and QA to Amazon, De Arkland said.

It's a no-brainer if you're using VMware, but for someone already there, it might be a bit more complicated.
Chris MoyerVP of technology, ACI Information Group

VMware and Amazon already work together through VMware's management product vRealize, which monitors a variety of public clouds as well as VMware environments. But this level of integration would have been unthinkable several years ago, when Amazon was focused on startups and cloud-native workloads, and VMware attempted to build its own public cloud.

Much has changed since then, however; and this partnership between VMware and Amazon represents more of a natural progression than a radical departure. Amazon has prioritized getting enterprises on its platform and VMware, which has largely abandoned its own public cloud, has reset its ambitions in favor of partnering to have its workloads run on myriad platforms.

The service is in technical preview and isn't expected to be available to consumers until mid-2017. There is no pricing available, so while VMware will sell the service, it's unclear if licenses will be transferrable to workloads running on AWS.

VMware and Amazon deal will make waves in enterprise market

The ramifications of this deal are huge for the enterprise market, said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst with Forrester Research. Many VMware customers have workloads they want to offload from their data center but don't want to convert. That's already possible through its partner network, but this AWS deal meets customers where the demand is.

"What it's doing is smoothing the on-ramp to cloud for huge VMware customers -- and there are lots of them," he said. "There are hundreds of thousands of customers and millions and billions of VMs, and Amazon wants to get them to their cloud."

Once customers are there, Amazon will sell its higher-level services not available to VMware customers on premises, including its database and analytics tools and services such as AWS Lambda. And those higher-level services will be the difference for customers, said Chris Rima, manager of IT infrastructure at a southwest utility company that runs on VMware.

"It has to be more than just infrastructure and platform as a service," Rima said. "It has to be [software as a service] or something you cannot install or buy yourself, and a lot of that is happening around analytics."

Rima said his company won't be able to utilize the new service because of industry regulations, but he can see VMware helping customers get a handle on their billing and areas such as chargeback and showback that have made some enterprises wary about moving to the cloud.

It's unclear exactly how much the deal will benefit existing AWS customers, especially those who are all-in on the platform.

"It's a no-brainer if you're using VMware, but for someone already there, it might be a bit more complicated," said Chris Moyer, vice president of technology at ACI Information Group and a TechTarget contributor. "I would probably give it a year first to see what they do with it."

It's too soon to tell, but the partnership also could lead to improved management of AWS through some of the VMware tools such as vCenter, Moyer said.

Another interesting service is the Elastic Relational database Service, also part of the deal. It would function similarly to VMware's on-premises tool for distributing VMs, but it would allow users to add hosts automatically and add more clusters on AWS as needed. EC2 Container Service lacks elastic scaling resources underneath, so expanding those capabilities would be a welcome addition for containerized workloads, Moyer said.

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

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