VMware's newest chief technology officer Chris Wolf has a lot of ground to cover, and perhaps chief among his priorities is executing on VMware's hybrid cloud strategy.
This undertaking includes the further integration of private cloud management software, strengthening its vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) and eventually competing with public cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).
SearchCloudComputing interviewed Wolf on all these topics and more.
VMware will fold Application Director, Data Director and vCloud Director into vCAC [vCloud Automation Center]. Are there any other software titles that will follow on this integration path?
Chris Wolf: At the end of the day we want our entire vCloud Suite to be tightly integrated.
You can look at tools such as vCOps [vCenter Operations Manager]. Understanding, say, a storage I/O performance problem, where the remediation capabilities just exposed through VMware's DRS [Distributed Resource Scheduler] service would say, 'OK, CPU and memory look good, but since vCOps just discovered a storage I/O problem, let me feed that as a workflow to vCAC to now rebalance the VMs appropriately across the cluster.' That's one example of a performance issue triggering a particular automated remediation task.
You can use your imagination there -- that can extend across all the products. The entire vCloud Suite has to work very well as an integrated set of tools. You're going to continue to see a lot of innovation and investment from us on pushing that integration, because it's something our customers want. This is hard work. For an R&D organization, it's not the thing that's always that newsworthy -- it's easier to go out and make a big acquisition and pick up another checkbox. And there are a lot of vendors in the cloud management space that have done those things. The real value to customers is taking the real time from an engineering perspective and making everything work as an integrated set, with a simple API [application programming interface] set and a simple metadata set, and that's something that VMware's very committed to.
There has been a lot of noise lately about VMware's public and hybrid cloud ambitions with vCHS, but what about private cloud? What's the vision and strategy for that, and how should customers think about private cloud alongside VMware's other offerings?
Are we trying to stand up next to AWS and pitch our solution to the software developer? No, not yet, but we are positioning ourselves directly against AWS at the senior-level IT executives.
VMware CTO, Americas
Wolf: There are a few ways you can do it. A lot of organizations have realized that public cloud Infrastructure as a Service's chief benefit is agility and being able to get workloads spun up very quickly, being able to offset data center capacity for temporary projects and things like that. But a lot of organizations have also found that, at least today, they can run their workloads in their own data center just as well, and [it's] even less costly than what it would cost to run that same workload in the public cloud.
It's not just the per-VM cost, it's when you tie in all the management, compliance tasks and other things that have to go on -- disaster recovery is another example -- that [it] becomes a more costly endeavor. So we do see a lot of organizations that say, 'OK, for some of my early stage development work, I'm going to use the public cloud, and for these other workloads I'm going to use my private cloud resources.' I think that's a real strong part of the VMware value proposition, that I can seamlessly move between cloud environments with the same set of management tools and the same set of APIs that I'm using from an integration perspective.
We're not putting wrappers around application APIs, so you can manage your apps in vCloud Hybrid Service the same way you would in your own data center. There's just no difference in terms of how it's exposed. And VMware's competitors, they're not following that model because it improves lock-in, but again, we're trying to go at this from a customer-friendly [angle]. There's still huge demand for private cloud, and also for workloads that have compliance mandates, and at the end of the day, the application still needs to be physically close to where the data resides. If I have sensitive data that needs to stay in my data center, I'm going to continue to run applications in close proximity to it, and that's going to further the need for private cloud environments.
As far as vCHS goes, what's beyond Disaster Recovery as a Service in terms of new services?
Wolf: There's a lot of attention being paid to Disaster Recovery as a Service, and something I've said for years, even as an analyst, is that it only reaches a small percentage of the market. Sometimes I don't think providers understand the problem there.
The real issue with DR is that when you get into the SMB [small and medium-sized businesses] sector, most medium-sized enterprises don't have a budget for disaster recovery. They have a budget for backup, but not necessarily for DR as well. Where I see that whole DR as a Service market moving eventually is where providers will offer Backup as a Service but provide disaster recovery as a feature. Just about every organization understands that they need backup and that they need to recover files, so that's fine, just make it a feature of a Backup as a Service.
So why is VMware starting with DR?
Wolf: Same reason everybody is: It's easier to get off the ground, and there's immediate customer demand for it. We've seen that with other providers as well, which is fine, but there's an even larger market out there for Backup as a Service and disruptive ways to do integrated backup and disaster recovery solutions.
VMware's avoiding direct competition with AWS at this point, or at least that's something VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger has said on the earnings call, but will that change? What's the inflection point for that kind of thing to happen?
Wolf: It really depends on what you mean by direct competition. Are we trying to stand up next to AWS and pitch our solution to the software developer? No, not yet. But we are positioning ourselves directly against AWS at the senior-level IT executives, such as the CIO level, simply because we are a hybrid platform that has the greatest amount of customer choice today. … There are 9,000 vCloud service providers globally. There are multiple vCHS choices now as well, most within the U.S., at least within 25 milliseconds of a customer site.
More Q&A with
How does Wolf see VMware VDI competing with Citrix?
What will VMware's software-defined data center look like?
If you look at the larger picture, the VMware proposition is to say, 'Look, you may not always know where you want your applications to go, and you may not want to be locked in to a single provider.' This is Outsourcing 101 here. So why not hedge your bet a little bit? With VMware, if you want to start with an application in the cloud, great; if you want to start with an application in your data center, that's fine too. If you want to move it to another service provider, you can do that as well.
The APIs that you've been using to manage these workloads are exactly the same. Many of the management tools you'd be using from one environment to another would be exactly the same. When I go to non-VMware clouds today, that's just not the case. They might give you a tool to do VM import, but that's it. They're not helping you address the rest of the operational stack, whether it be performance management or capacity management or backup or security. That makes leaving one of those environments incredibly difficult to the point where most organizations just don't.
[Editor's note: Many services are not transferrable today between cloud providers, but some other cloud providers do offer performance management, capacity management and security tools.]
What does that mean for VMware's business if users of other clouds are so locked in, and it's offering a more versatile approach? What's to stop customers from leaving VMware?
Wolf: If they wanted to leave VMware entirely, then sure, they can do that. Some of the complexities of that would be similar to leaving AWS, as an example. And again, that's a choice they can make, but VMware is OK in our model because if the customer's running VMware in their data center, they can go there; if they're going to another vCloud partner, it's good for the ecosystem.
With the VMware approach, the customer has a choice of service providers they can employ, and it just gives them a little more flexibility when they're working with a variety of outsourcers. They can say, 'I want this standardized VMware approach,' and if they do not like their relationship with their current outsourcer or provider, then they have some leverage to go somewhere else. With a fully proprietary cloud stack from a single-provider model, you don't have any leverage. You just don't.