VMware community faces Innovator's Dilemma

This week at the VMware Partner Exchange, CEO Pat Gelsinger and staff decided to demonize Amazon Web Services and their public cloud brethren in a very shortsighted defensive move that frankly betrays the fact that they don't understand the disruption they are facing.
Written by James Staten, Contributor

This week at the VMware Partner Exchange, CEO Pat Gelsinger and his executive staff decided to demonize Amazon Web Services and their public cloud brethren in a very short-sighted, defensive move that frankly betrays the fact that they don't understand the disruption they are facing.

Pat, you and your market have the Innovator's Dilemma and the enemy isn't public cloud but private clouds.

According to CRN's article on the event, Gelsinger was quoted as saying, “"We want to own corporate workloads. We all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds. We want to extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both. Own the corporate workload now and forever."

You need to learn from the clouds, not demonize them.

Forgive my frankness, Mr. Gelsinger, but you just don't get it. Public clouds are not your enemy. And the disruption they are causing to your forward revenues are not their capture of enterprise workloads. The battle lines you should be focusing on are between advanced virtualization and true cloud services and the future placement of Systems of Engagement versus Systems of Record.

VMware and its vSphere hypervisor have been the catalysts for significant IT efficiency through P to V migrations. Enterprise workloads that used to occupy the resources of physical servers are now safely sharing these vast resources so enterprise IT can slow down its server buying (sorry HP and Dell), and raise the ROI on its capital purchases while still increasing the number of applications they deploy and manage.

And there's a long runway ahead for this type of virtualization. Forrester's ForrSights Hardware Survey conducted in 2012 shows that there's still nearly 40% of enterprise workloads that haven't been virtualized. These are the migrations of enterprise workloads you alluded to in your statements and this is VMware's opportunity to capture.

But for the most part, vSphere is used to manage static workloads and it's best suited to these types of applications. The bulk of the workloads flowing into our vSphere environments are steady state applications that capture and record the state of our business. We cherish the live migration and disaster recovery capabilities on the vSphere platform as they let us to raise the SLA for these critical applications and slowly wean business- then mission-critical applications off physical resources.

But what vSphere isn't capturing are the new applications that are built to engage clients and partners in new ways. The applications that connect to mobile devices, have irratic resource requirements and unplanned and unpredictable capacity needs and the new efforts to gain greater business insight. It's not that vSphere isn't capable of hosting these applications – but that the buyer values functionality that lies at a far higher level than where VMware has its strength.

Systems of Engagement are built by front-line developers using modern languages who are driven by time to market, the need for rapid deployment and iteration, and value enablement just below their skill level. They value solutions that make it easy for them to deploy their application code with as little friction as possible – both in what needs to be configured below their executable and in the cost and time to do so. This is why front-line developers love public clouds. And today's vSphere environments aren't even close to satisfying these requirements.

The average corporate vSphere environment – even if the enterprise I&O team has chosen to deploy vCloud Director -- isn't self-service. It doesn't provide fast access to fully configured environments. It wouldn't know what to do with a Chef script and it certainly couldn't be had for $5 on a Visa card. For VMware and for enterprise vSphere administrators to capture the new enterprise applications they need to rethink their approach and make the radical and culturally difficult shift from infrastructure management to service delivery.

You need to learn from the clouds, not demonize them.

Taking an approach that paints the public clouds as the enemy serves only to reinforce the way of the vSphere administrator and if you are trying to appeal to your front-line developers, this approach is wrong. A cloudwashed vSphere environment that takes two days to deploy new workloads, fulfilling requests through the help desk and having no cost transparency will lose every day to a public cloud.

And don't even try the security or reliability card. Really? You honestly think your static VMware environment hiding behind outdated firewall-based security hosted out of a 1990's era data center on servers bought in 2011 is going to trump a public cloud with 6 availability zones, across 3 data centers and 4 geographic regions being protected by a team of top security professionals?

And by pitting the public cloud as the enemy you forgo any opportunity to partner with developers around helping manage and monitor these public cloud environments – which is where I&O should really be concentrating its energies.

What you should be doing instead is teaching your vSphere admin community how to evolve into a true cloud. Help them understand why the front-line developers value self-service so much and how it doesn't breed chaos in the data center – but just the opposite. Help them understand that a career path towards service definition and cost transparency is better than the path of vSphere 6 certification and continued manual deployment and management of VM images.

What you should be doing is admitting you screwed up with vCloud Director 1.0 and 1.5 and kicking ass in engineering to get a true cloud to market ASAP.

Your real threat? CloudStack and OpenStack atop Xen or KVM sold to a new cloud administrator inside the enterprise who starts with the service elements of a cloud the DevOps crowd values and worries less about the underlying abstraction layers and infrastructure. This is your real threat.

VMware executives wisely stated at the Partner Summit that they haven't invested appropriately in cloud technologies but then patted themselves on the back for their growing success with service providers. Don't rest on your laurels, gentlemen. You may be picking up share in traditional hosting (and most of your claimed “cloud wins” are just that) but you're losing the true IaaS game. You need to step up your game both in product and customer evolution. The vSphere administrator crowd can't linearly evolve up from vSphere to a cloud and get to the end game in time. Understanding cloud delivery is a hard culture change for enterprise I&O and if the VMware buyer doesn't make this change, he and VMware itself will be disrupted.

And you won't have AWS to thank for your new share price. You'll only have yourselves.

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