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VMware's vCloud Air makes renewed cloud push

VMware's vCloud Air moves could push more conservative enterprise IT shops to transition away from the traditional data center.

A year after VMware entered the public cloud infrastructure services market there are signs the virtualization...

king may finally be headed in the right direction in the cloud.

VMware kicked off its annual VMworld conference last month by discussing a string of new products and partnerships tied to vCloud Air -- previously known as vCloud Hybrid Service. And while industry analysts had criticized the pace at which the company moved to the cloud, some are now seeing potential for VMware to take a leading role in nudging more enterprises out of the traditional data center.

The expanded vCloud Air services include beta versions of on-demand virtual private cloud and object storage, though the company has not said when these services will be generally available or provided pricing. There were also a series of moves around mobility and improving the developer experience, as well as new partnerships with AT&T, Docker, OpenStack and others.

VMware didn't introduce anything new, technology-wise, but the symbolic transition and overall news around vCloud Air was invigorating, according to Carl Brooks, an analyst with New York-based 451 Research, LLC.

"Probably the most important part of the show," Brooks said, "was VMware saying, 'Yes, this cloud thing is real. We're really doing it and we're seeing enough traction that we're going to commit a lot of our brand and messaging resources to the cloud.'"

VMware's vCloud umbrella

The breadth of services VMware introduced in the past six months or now offer in beta has impressed one VMware customer, especially since many of those features -- on-demand pricing, object storage, desktop virtualization and mobile device management -- are in line with his company's needs in the highly regulated healthcare industry.

Creative Solutions in Healthcare, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is a vCloud Air customer that also implements desktop virtualization and is part of a pilot program around mobile security, according to CIO Shawn Wiora, who also sees value in having all these services under VMware's umbrella.

"What I've seen is an aggressive and committed move by the company to make vCloud Air a fully robust, redundant, capable solution in the market," Wiora said.

Still, VMware has some challenges, analysts said. It must walk a fine line to meet future needs while maintaining relationships with channel partners, while Gartner, Inc. ranked VMware as a "niche player" in its Magic Quadrant report on infrastructure as a service. And even though on-demand pricing could be forthcoming, VMware still requires a minimum purchase and costs significantly more than market leader Amazon.

IT hand-holding

VMware has a presence in an overwhelming majority of IT shops and many of its customers are more risk-averse, so analysts see opportunity for the virtualization player in the cloud market.

Migration remains a big hurdle for cloud adoption, so VMware has put a greater emphasis on its trusted advisor role for moving to the cloud, all while continuing to stress the role of IT administrators in this changing landscape, according to Krista Macomber, an analyst with Hampton, N.H.-based Technology Business Research, Inc.

"They see this disruption in the industry that's happening and I think they've built a strategy in terms of leveraging what they're already doing well and they're evolving that to have an important position in the cloud environment," Macomber said.

They're not too late to the market because their market moves very slowly and is very large.
Carl Brooksanalyst with 451 Research, LLC, based in New York

VMware's main revenue source for the foreseeable future is vSphere, while vCloud Air only makes up a fraction of total revenues. And while some of the moves around vCloud Air and the collaborations on OpenStack and containers can be seen as protective, it also represents a step forward in accommodating more multi-cloud environments, Macomber said.

IT operators are the closest thing to anti-cloud, since they are typically more conservative, heavily invested in existing technology and face enormous budget constraints, Brooks said. And while these are the same people that generally aren't the first to seek out what Amazon has to offer, they might be more open if it came from longtime partner VMware.

"VMware users basically wouldn't [move to the cloud] if VMware did not come in with this product," Brooks said.

VMware could have done more sooner to put itself on pace with some of the major cloud vendors, but with 451 Research survey data from this year showing enterprises are just now getting over the hump on virtualization, the window for VMware to claim its share of the cloud market isn't closing just yet.

"[VMware is] not too late to the market because their market moves very slowly and is very large," Brooks said. "But if they had started when Microsoft started Azure … think of where they'd be right now."

About the author:
Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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