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VMware on Google Cloud deal gives users another choice

VMware's deal with Google is the latest among top-tier players supporting each other's cloud. The question now is: How will Microsoft and IBM-Red Hat respond?

VMware customers will soon have the ability to run workloads natively on Google Cloud, a development that provides another public cloud deployment option and speaks to VMware's changed role in the market.

For customers, the option to run VMware on Google Cloud means more choice. It also raises big-picture questions to investigate, such as the relative costs of running VMware on each cloud, and whether a multi-cloud approach makes sense or not.

Users will also have to determine whether they are comfortable with the way in which VMware on Google Cloud is delivered.

CloudSimple, a three-year old startup with 85 employees, will administer the platform that runs VMware on Google Cloud, while Google provides first-line support, according to a blog post. CloudSimple is also involved with the recently launched VMware on Azure service. Microsoft has largely white-labeled CloudSimple's software and handles sales and support.

The VMware-Google partnership follows the general availability of Google Anthos, a Kubernetes-based container management platform that Google hopes will find traction among companies in search of a neutral partner for multi-cloud deployments that use containers.

While containers offer some advantages over VMs -- as well as tradeoffs -- for Google, VMware workloads are key to its ambition for more large enterprise customers. Many SAP ERP customers, for example, use VMware inside their data centers to support SAP deployments.

Moving such workloads to AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud may not necessarily save customers money, but it does help them avoid factors like expensive hardware refresh cycles for on-premises deployments.

"It makes sense for Google to make this deal," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions, LLC. "They recognize the massive installed base of VMware hypervisors along with [VMware's] private cloud stack. They want to be friendlier toward the enterprise, but they also have to compete with Amazon and Microsoft. Some might question why this didn't happen sooner," he said.

One reason it is happening now, Gardner suggests, is the recent appointment of Thomas Kurian as CEO of Google Cloud, who formerly served as Oracle's president of product development. Through the VMware deal, as with Anthos, Kurian appears to be taking Google Cloud into a more "ecumenical" direction as a way of attracting a new base of hybrid cloud accounts, Gardner said.

One analyst sounded a cautionary note: moving VMware workloads onto Google Cloud can be a complex process, particularly when it involves multiple cloud regions, said Gary Chen, research director of software defined compute at IDC. CloudSimple is fairly small and that could be an obstacle to adoption, Chen added.

"The familiarity and trust with CloudSimple will be something [customers] have to think about," Chen said. Partnerships with Google and Microsoft does help tamp down those concerns, he added.

Microsoft, you're next

VMware, AWS and now Google being more open to supporting each other's hybrid cloud initiatives could put more pressure on Microsoft to respond in kind by opening up Azure Stack to support competitive platforms.

"It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can stand pat with its own private cloud stack, or whether the model both Amazon and Google Cloud are taking will be more successful," Gardner said.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft stands pat with its own private cloud stack, or whether the model both Amazon and Google Cloud are taking will be more successful.
Dana GardnerPrincipal analyst, Interarbor Solutions

With Microsoft's Azure public cloud and its Azure Stack private cloud, corporate users could have an all-Microsoft multi-cloud strategy. However, as Gardner notes, corporate IT shops increasingly choose to send data across clouds from multiple providers.

"The question is not whether Google will support other private cloud stacks (with Anthos), but more importantly, whether Microsoft will be as open with Azure Stack," Gardner said.

Even with the deal to run VMware on Google Cloud, VMware's most important cloud relationship remains with AWS. Google and Microsoft may have their entries for VMware on the public cloud now, but AWS remains the flagship cloud partner for VMware, and has an advantage, according to Chen.

"The amount of work that VMware does with AWS is fairly extensive and it's going to be a constantly moving target," he said. "As Microsoft and Google add new features, that's all going to have to be integrated."

What could also benefit Google as part of this deal is the macro trend of users moving from a virtual machine-based cloud deployment model to a container cloud model. Kubernetes will play a central role in that transition -- a technology Google created.

"We don't know who will be the leader in this transition, but Kubernetes will dominate it," Gardner said. "And Google knows more about Kubernetes than anyone."

Another option is to move disaster recovery capabilities for VMware workloads to a public cloud, much like early Azure on VMware customer Dot Foods plans to do. The large foodservice redistributor in Mount Sterling, Ill. plans to shut down one of its data centers as it moves disaster recovery to Azure.

This is not the first point of integration between VMware and Google Cloud. Previous launches include tie-ins to VMware NSX Service Mesh and SD-WAN. VMware vSphere is also involved with the on-premises version of Anthos, Google's multi-cloud container deployment platform, serving as a host.

Google has also offered a plug-in for VMware vRealize, which allows customers to manage Google Cloud resources from within the hybrid cloud management product.

VMware navigates multi-cloud, hybrid landscape

In 2016, VMware made waves with its plans for a native Cloud on AWS. It has since gained significant traction in the market, with more than 1,000 customers and dozens of partners that offer related services. It is also available in 13 AWS regions around the world, which gives AWS a big leg up on rival offerings -- at least for now.

IBM has also partnered with VMware for years, but with more of a focus on hybrid and private cloud scenarios.

The VMware on Google Cloud deal raises yet another interesting competitive prospect relative to the recent IBM-Red Hat merger and the bearing it might have on IBM's cloud deal with VMware.

"Another competitive pressure for VMware is they recognize that Red Hat now has IBM's entire global sales force behind it," Gardner said. "Will IBM's approach be as open as VMware's?"

Later this week, IBM and Red Hat are scheduled to lay out more details about how they will pursue cloud opportunities going forward, separately and jointly.

Like Cisco and HPE, VMware made an unsuccessful stab at the public cloud market, selling its vCloud Air division to the European cloud provider OVH in 2017 after it became clear that hyperscalers like AWS, Microsoft and Google had taken command.

VMware moved further into multi-cloud deployment management as well, with moves such as the acquisition of Bitnami in May.

Despite the hype around cloud computing, most enterprise IT workloads remain on-premises, which means a long runway of opportunity for public cloud migrations and hybrid deployments. VMware and the biggest public cloud providers have thus found themselves in a position where both sides can gain from that shift.

The new VMware on Google Cloud service, dubbed Google Cloud VMware Solution, will be available later this year. Pricing was not disclosed.

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