Inside VMware's Deep Multicloud Strategy


By: R. Scott Raynovich

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- VMware is making a lot of aggressive moves in the hopes to dominate the world of cloud management, including soup-to-nuts virtualization platforms, distributed applications management, and multi-cloud operations.

The timing seems apt, as buzz about "multicloud" and distributed applications use open-source Kubernetes tools grows. The strategy was detailed here this week in a multi-day analyst briefing. At the heart of VMware's strategy has been its acquisition strategy, which has included Heptio (2018), CloudHealth (2018), and most recently, Bitnami, which VMware bought last week. In addition, VMware in 2017 bought VeloCloud, a software-defined wide-area-networking (SD-WAN) player that allows it to extend its network reach and manage networking among clouds.

VMware has been following a methodical partnership plan for its multicloud strategy, which includes cutting deals to put VMware in the heart of all the major public cloud platforms -- call it "VMware Cloud in Cloud X." A key turning point was the announcement of VMware on Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2017. This was a catalyst to reigniting growth at VMware, and now VMware is doubling down on the strategy by blanketing the cloud world with management platforms and tools that will help enterprises manage applications and workloads across different cloud platforms.

One of the complaints that end-users have about public cloud operations such as AWS and Microsoft Azure is the fear of getting their software "locked in" to the cloud. VMware is aiming to be the Switzerland of the cloud world, putting its tools in the heart of as many clouds as possible, so that customers can use VMware to manage applications and hosting across the six major clouds, making it a sort of de facto standard for multi-cloud management.

Pursuing All Six Clouds

VMware has deals with IBM, Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Alibaba. Ajay Patel, Senior Vice President of Product Development, Cloud Services, with VMware, said that deals with other two members of the "Big Six" -- Google and Oracle -- will get done soon.

Patel said that multi-cloud tools and management is the next big platform battle in technology, and VMware is focused on winning this market. "If we get 20-30% share we become the market leader," says Patel.

VMware is well-positioned for this, according to VMware executives, because it isn't a cloud provider itself, meaning it can be a neutral third party for cloud management tools among multiple clouds. VMware executives said it will pursue these major goals for customers managing multi-cloud deployments:

  • Visibility cost management
  • Cloud resource management
  • Security and compliance
  • Insights and analytics
  • Automation and governance

Patel, a veteran of web and cloud services including Websphere (IBM) and Oracle, points out that VMware won't be without competition. He notes that the cloud providers have their own management services. He expects them to be both partners and competitors. And on the software side, VMware said that IBM and its recent juggernaut Red Hat acquisition are the biggest threat.

Patel said that because VMware does not operate its own public cloud, it has an advantage over the cloud providers by acting as a neutral party that allows enterprise customers to move applications and data among clouds. He said individual cloud providers such as AWS and Azure are likely to be less motivated to help customers be flexible with moving applications.

Bitnami & Kubernetes

Another big area of focus for VMware is building out use of Kubernetes for managing distributed cloud applications using container technology. Its recent deal for Heptio and last week's acquisition of Bitnami are key to building capabilities in managing distributed applications that can operate across multiple cloud environments.

VMware has been aggressive in pursuing platforms for container technology and Kubernetes, which helps manage distributed applications and workloads without virtual machines (VMs). In one sense, VMware's investment in Kubernetes is a hedge against potential migration away from VMs, a large part of its business. But Kubernetes and VMs have different strengths and roles and they will continue to coexist. As organizations start using more applications based on container technologies, VMware clearly wants to own Kubernetes and container management platforms.

Vmware now owns a lot of angles to this, including application development tools, data management products, and analytics intelligence platforms. Heptio provides training and support, and building open-source projects and Binami helps customers package and catalog distributed applications for cloud and Kubernetes.