AWS, VMWare announce strategic partnership, new hybrid cloud service

Once rivals, Amazon Web Services and VMWare announced a new service running VMware's software-defined data center on the AWS cloud.

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AWS CEO Andy Jassy (left) and VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger (right) announce a new partnership at a San Francisco event on October 13, 2016.

Once on a clear collision course with one another, Amazon Web Services and VMWare on Thursday announced they're forming a strategic partnership, starting with a new hybrid cloud service.

Called VMWare Cloud on AWS, the service runs VMware's enterprise class software-defined data center (SDDC) on the AWS cloud, allowing customers to run any application across public, private or hybrid cloud environments. VMWare's vSphere, VSAN and NSX will all run on the AWS cloud, and the service will be optimized to run on dedicated, bare metal AWS infrastructure built specifically for the service.

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The new service offers "the best of both worlds, bringing together that dynamic flexibility combined with enterprise SDDC in a single solution," VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger said at a San Francisco event, alongside AWS CEO Andy Jassy.

Before this partnership, Jassy said, many customers were left with a "binary decision" between using the VMWare software and infrastructure they already rely on or moving to AWS.

"As more and more enterprises are moving to the cloud, they want to be able to leverage the software and infrastructure and tools they've used... on premise," he said. "You want to use that same software on premise as on AWS and in the cloud, but you also want to do so without having to buy more hardware, or worse yet, custom hardware."

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VMware Cloud on AWS is in a preview phase right now, and invite-only betas are expected to start in early 2017. VMWare will operate, manage and sell the on-demand, scalable service. Customers will be able to use AWS services like developer tools, analytics and databases.

VMWare struck a similar deal with IBM back in February to accelerate hybrid cloud adoption. After working jointly on product development, sales and marketing, nearly 1,000 customers have started moving their VMWare environments to the IBM Cloud.

With this new deal, AWS will be VMWare's primary public cloud infrastructure partner, and VMWare will be AWS's primary private cloud partner.

The Amazon deal is remarkable given VMWare's antagonistic approach against AWS a few years ago. In 2013, Gelsinger said at VMWare's partner exchange confernece that the company needed to "own corporate workload." As reported by CRN, Gelsinger said to partners that if "a workload goes to Amazon, you lose, and we have lost forever."

Now, however, it's impossible to deny Amazon's dominance in the public cloud space.

"This is a result of our customers telling us what they needed," Gelsinger said Thursday. "What they were really saying is, 'we need a hybrid environment."

"Some customers, hey, they're going to be largely on-premise environments but they still want some of that flexibility" of the public cloud, he continued. Other customers may exit the data center business but still may need many of the enterprise capabilities of VMWare. Then, of course, there's a range of hybrid options.

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