AWS vs. VMware: Is a cloud collision inevitable?

Amazon Web Services' management console is bait for VMware customers to move virtual machines to the public cloud. VMware's bet is hybrid datacenters win.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Amazon Web Services has launched a management console that could make it easier to port VMware virtual machines into the cloud. The move could put Amazon Web Services and VMware on a collision course in the years ahead.

Late last month, AWS launched a management portal for VMware's vCenter, which is used to manage virtualized datacenters. AWS integrated sign-ons and coupled the look and feel of vCenter with its own management portal. AWS's Management Portal for vCenter can be downloaded and installed within the vSphere application.


The upshot is that AWS should be easier to try out for hybrid datacenters. Ultimately, the reduced friction of moving virtual machines to AWS's EC2 could enable more cloud trials for enterprises.

How important is AWS' move? Judging from VMware's reaction Amazon's management console struck a nerve. In a blog post, VMware CTO Chris Wolf argued that AWS' vCenter console may just make things more complicated for cloud architects. Wolf wrote:

Amazon announced the AWS Management Portal for vCenter. Administrators will find this tool useful for importing virtual machines into Amazon and conducting basic management tasks from VMware vCenter.

However, as I’ve said before, the virtual machine is the easy part. Consider all of the management dependencies above as well as third-party integration. If you want to move those workloads or simply run additional instances in a region with no AWS presence, an outsourcer, another cloud provider, or your own datacenter, you may find that the cost and complexity associated with migration or a new deployment is too much.

The service stack would likely be bound to proprietary APIs, and all or most of the third-party management and operational software will have to be replaced. You will be burdened with new QA challenges and likely will need to reengage with the procurement teams.

Wolf then said that customers should question the strategic value of the AWS portal since third-party integrations, software licensing, and workload portability and orchestration are all big question marks.

In other words, VMware argued that AWS' portal could break things.

ScienceLogic, which has its CloudMapper application to move cloud workloads around, chimed in. ScienceLogic CTO Antonio Piraino quipped that AWS is batting its eyelids at VMware's users and that the virtualization player was wailing. Piraino said its hybrid management tool is really bait for enterprises to migrate workloads to AWS.

Like Wolf, Piraino did note that there are complexity issues and moving workloads to AWS from VMware isn't easy. Not surprisingly, Piraino then plugged CloudMapper.

The biggest takeaway here is that AWS could disrupt VMware like it has other big tech companies. As compute and storage move to the cloud enterprise, hardware is stumbling. VMware isn't a hardware company, but rest assured that the company's software runs on all those boxes that are sold.

Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha said:

The critical element is that Amazon workloads can be created on-premise and then shipped off-premise, reducing the need for owned capacity. Clearly, this balances interoperability between on-premise and off-premise and needs to be worked out in practice; however, it does highlight the continued disruption that AWS provides to traditional IT spending and pricing.

AWS's continued innovation, rising scale and price cuts come amid a subdued outlook for IT spending. We fear Amazon's offerings compress the effective total addressable market for traditional IT vendors and that the company is contributing to the muted IT spending.

Garcha added that AWS is mostly a threat to IBM, Cisco, HP and NetApp, but could hamper EMC, owner of VMware too.

Simone Brunozzi, chief technologist and vice president of VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service, isn't buying Garcha's argument. Brunozzi used to work at AWS and said he became sold on the hybrid datacenter approach after seeing the limitations of the public cloud. He also argued at a recent breakfast that VMware's prospects are strong because the vendor can play a big role in simplifying interdependencies and making public and private clouds interoperable.

The reality is that VMware and AWS will have plenty of room to grow going forward. However, the two are likely to collide at some point on cloud management tools.

Bottom line: AWS is a threat to VMware should it make the hybrid datacenter lean a bit more to the public cloud.

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