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VMware attempts to win vCloud customers with paid eval service

VMware tries to jump-start its public cloud with a simple test-drive service, but it’s unclear if it will make the vCloud engine roar to life.

IT pros interested in cloud computing have long been sold a value proposition for public cloud as an elastic, pay-per-use resource that’s as simple to spin up as entering a credit card number on a website.

As it turns out, evaluating the services of VMware’s vCloud partners isn’t quite that simple, prompting the company to disclose this week that it will soon launch its own test-drive service for public cloud.

The beta version of VMware’s new Service Evaluation will be launched in the next couple of weeks. It will allow customers to spin up publicly hosted instances of vCloud Director through the portal, and run them at a rate of four cents an hour per 1 GB RAM VM.

Some existing VMware customers balked at the fact that VMware is charging for a beta of an evaluation service, however small the price may be.

“This will not persuade me to try VMware's offering,” said Rod Gabriel, IT infrastructure engineer at UFS, a Wisconsin financial services company. 

Gabriel’s company isn’t planning to use public cloud, so the cost to test VMware’s cloud wouldn’t be approved. “However, seeing what Amazon has to offer for free, if I get some time I may just try out their offering,” he said.

This will not persuade me to try VMware's offering.

Rod Gabriel, IT infrastructure engineer at UFS

Why not make the evaluation service free, especially a beta form? After all, it’s possible to get a year’s worth of a bevy of products on competitor Amazon Web Services (AWS) Free Usage Tier.

“There’s a nominal charge associated with it to cover the cost and to ensure that there’s somewhat of a bar for customers, so that there are serious evaluators,” said Joe Andrews, director of product marketing for the vCloud service provider program.

Some VMware customers don’t mind the cost.

“While the Amazon free service is cool, if I am looking into vCloud, it is for the advanced vCloud and vSphere functionality that Amazon does not offer,” said Bill Hill, a senior engineer working in the public sector.  

Dodging service provider test-drive runaround

In contrast to the new vCloud Service Evaluation, many of VMware’s vCloud platform partners require a sales engagement or a minimum trial period for a test drive.

At vCloud partner AT&T, to test out the vCloud service, users must first establish a billing point of contact. From there, this contact must obtain and enter a Company Permission Code before the user can get started.

At BlueLock, users must apply for an evaluation program. BitBrains’ website offers access to a test environment for two weeks free of charge only after contact with a sales representative.

It’s the same at Carrenza and Earthlink.

iLand requires a minimum 30 day trial; NetPlan has the shortest trial period available among vCloud partners at 7 days. ZX Elements comes in second in that category at two weeks.

There may be exceptions, as there are 145 vCloud services representing 28 countries around the world, but no vCloud partner that is listed in the “Take a Test Drive” section of the vCloud portal discloses an upfront price per hour or allows access using just a credit card.

“Many of these providers have been used to selling in the enterprise sales fashion where it’s an outbound sales call, [and] you’re talking about having to take weeks in some cases to actually get the customer to try out your service and start to realize benefits,” said VMware’s Andrews.

Customers “want to go online, with credit card authorization, start to use a service and be up and running with it, and do their proof-of-concept and demo of it that way,” Andrews said.

Onerous signs for vCloud adoption

Meanwhile, industry observers say VMware’s vCloud products, and especially its public vCloud program, have not seen the kind of adoption the company expected.

VMware’s core audience has long been IT pros in large enterprise shops, such as Ed Czerwin, a systems engineer for a large medical devices company near Zurich, Switzerland. He cites compliance and performance reasons for staying away from clouds -- both public and private for the time being.

Then there’s also the potential expense of remaining a VMware loyalist in the cloud.

There hasn’t been a significant pull by enterprises saying 'give me a vCloud!'

James Staten, analyst for Forrester Research

"VMware still is currently geared toward the enterprise, and the prices of [its] software to host low-tier types of applications that would go into a cloud maybe aren't just spot on yet," Czerwin said.

Analysts say vCloud has had a number of hurdles to negotiate. One being the challenge of getting service providers to offer vCloud with the full vCloud API exposed, said James Staten, analyst for Forrester Research.

Of the providers who have exposed the full API to make workloads more portable across clouds, most have hedged their bets by offering some other cloud option, such as Dell’s version of OpenStack or Verizon’s proprietary offering, Staten said.

"The other problem [VMware’s] been having has been getting enterprises to actually set up a vCloud,” Staten added. “There hasn’t been a significant pull by enterprises saying ‘give me a vCloud! I want to set up a private cloud based around this.'"

[VMware] ended up having vCloud sort of bundled in to a lot of enterprise license agreement renewals, and so it’s sitting on a shelf, and no one’s opening it," he added.

No Zephyrs on the horizon yet

Despite rumors that VMware plans to offer its own Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and confirmation from sources that VMware is indeed building something large in a colocation facility in Las Vegas, it doesn't appear that the vCloud Director evaluation is a trial balloon for such a project.

VMware’s Andrews insisted that the vCloud Service Evaluation is not being hosted on any VMware-owned infrastructure. Offering IaaS "is not the intent here," he said.

VMware declined to comment on Project Zephyr rumors.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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