Much has already been written about the VMware and Amazon AWS Partnership that was announced October 13th, 2016 and the potential opportunities for enterprises. Unfortunately, many of the core issues for enterprises are either being glossed over or simply not addressed.
FUNDAMENTALS OF THE PARTNERSHIP
In a nutshell, the partnership provides clients with the ability to run VMware based VMs on Amazon’s AWS infrastructure. On the surface, this is a good thing for a number of reasons. Namely, it provides enterprises with the ability to move VMs from their internal corporate data centers (and infrastructure) to another provider. In essence, this moves the organization from CapEx to OpEx and gets the enterprise out of the data center business.
But if it were that simple, why isn’t everyone already doing it? Amazon’s offering is not the first of its kind. There are many other options for enterprises looking to get out of the data center business by moving their infrastructure and services to another provider. In addition to colocation options, companies like IBM and smaller, private firms have offered the ability to host VMware based VMs for years now. So, is the AWS/ VMware partnership different? And what is holding back progress?
UNDERSTANDING THE CHALLENGES
To answer that question, one needs to first understand the enterprise perspective. While the moving of a VM from one infrastructure to another may seem relatively simple on the surface, there are indeed many challenges in doing so. Many often gloss over these issues, but to the vast majority of enterprises, they are their reality. It is not a reality that one can simply will away.
The fundamental issues not addressed center into several categories:
- Pricing Model: One of the core issues enterprises have with VMware is their pricing. VMware is a fabulous solution that is mature and solid. But it is also very expensive. What is unclear is if the move to AWS will reduce costs, keep them the same or increase costs. Yes, all three of those are possible without fully understanding the ramifications.
- Ancillary Services: Most enterprise applications do not live in a silo. They interconnect with many other applications or services. Making those connections outside the confines of the corporate data center is not a trivial feat.
- 3rd Party Connections: One of the benefits of running your own corporate data center is that you can do things your own way. Moving to a shared infrastructure presents a number of new challenges for enterprise applications and processes.
- VM Management: Management of VMs is a core function within a VMware based infrastructure. This will change when you consider multiple locations (corporate data center vs AWS infrastructure). It is also unclear how much control the enterprise will maintain.
- Performance/ Bandwidth: Moving an enterprise application (VM or otherwise) to cloud is not trivial. In addition to the items listed above, bandwidth performance and cost will come into play. The performance of the infrastructure that VMs reside will also come into play. Within the corporate data center, an enterprise has far more control and visibility to issues for their infrastructure. Moving that to a AWS-based model will invoke many other variables.
- Security Constraints: Many enterprise applications are not built to live outside of the corporate data center nor protection of the security perimeter. Shifting that Amazon brings into play a number of questions yet to be answered.
- AWS Halo Effect: By having access to public cloud infrastructure (AWS) in the same facility as your VM-based infrastructure offers a number of advantages to those applications that integrate between the two worlds. The issue is in how many enterprise applications will take advantage of this.
HOW DOES THIS BENEFIT VMWARE?
In many ways, the partnership provides little benefit to VMware and its customers. There are still many questions that enterprises must answer before making the change. In addition, there are alternative approaches and offerings that may provide an advantage over the AWS offering for VM-based workloads.
HOW DOES THIS BENEFIT AMAZON?
The partnership benefits Amazon in several ways. At the most fundamental level, they now provide a solution to ingest the massive footprint of VMware based workloads onto their infrastructure. That becomes valuable, not because of the ties to AWS, but rather the fundamental weight that the data brings. The switching costs to move from one infrastructure to another are huge. As we go through time and data sets grow, the problem will only get worse over time.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
On the sum, is this a good or bad deal for enterprises? To answer that question, one has to do a bit of homework and understand their situation clearly. The devil is in the details. It is not as simple to wave a wand and say that the partnership is a sure thing and good for most enterprises. The world is not that simple. And neither are the enterprises that we’re talking about.
However, based on what we know today, the partnership appears to be okay on the surface. It is not something new and offers little to the vast majority of enterprises and their workloads. Compare that against the risks and outstanding questions…and the pendulum likely swings negative. As more details come out and issues addressed, we may see the opportunity shift yet again.
In the meantime, I would expect that current VMware based enterprise workloads will continue to reside within the corporate data center. You can read more about how CIOs are getting out of the data center business in other posts I’ve written on this site.