Dell swoops in as VMware hybrid cloud management improves

The VMware hybrid cloud strategy took a step forward this week with improved transparency and feature consolidation in vRealize, despite being overshadowed by the Dell-EMC acquisition.

VMware received positive reviews for its refreshed strategy around hybrid cloud management, but those efforts were largely overshadowed this week by the massive buyout plans for its parent company, EMC.

VMware previewed the latest version of its vRealize Suite at VMworld Europe with a more consolidated feature set for managing hybrid environments and improved workflow for automation, blueprinting and control of other cloud environments. It's a set of tools the company spent two years working on, but all the talk this week has centered on Dell's $67 billion acquisition of EMC.

Dell will take control of EMC's stake in VMware and maintain the rest as a publicly traded company. And despite all the uncertainty surrounding the potential fallout from the deal, Dell said it has no plans to interfere with what VMware is doing – a move analysts say would be smart for now.

"That's not the high priority for EMC and Dell," said Al Gillen, program vice president at IDC, in Framingham, Mass. "VMware is functioning well and it's generating profits."

The deal likely won't close until the first half of 2016, so there should really be no immediate impact on VMware's strategy, Gillen said. And while it's too soon to make predictions about the long-term impact, it's also hard to see the deal having a significant effect on VMware's position in the cloud market, simply because Dell doesn't have a particularly strong portfolio to help bolster those efforts.

For now, the deal with Dell is more of an industrialization and consolidation story than an acquisition story, said Carl Brooks, analyst with 451 Research, LLC, in New York. VMware is one of the big software assets of the deal, but it would be "crazy" for Dell to get too involved.

"If they were to stick a finger in the pie, it would be ill-advised," Brooks said.

There is a sizable amount of people who think VMware is its own company, and that has been deliberate because while "EMC is decent at selling large complicated storage devices, it's really bad at selling software," Brooks said.

Consolidation and automation in vRealize

The latest versions of vRealize Automation and vRealize Business will be available later this year. VRealize Automation 7 will be available as a standalone product with a $400 per operating system instance (OSI) advanced edition and a $775 per OSI enterprise edition. VRealize Business 7 Standard will be available in 25 OSI packs at $200 per OSI. The full vRealize Suite also is available in advanced and enterprise editions, at a cost of $6,750 and $9,950 per CPU, respectively.

These releases are part of an updated hybrid cloud management strategy that began with the rollouts of vRealize Operations 6.1 and vRealize Log Insights 3 earlier this year. There has been a big focus on improved integration and usability of the entire suite, which will be a welcome change, particularly with the automation features, said Mary Johnston Turner, research vice president at IDC

"It was a very complex set of operations and required a pretty big footprint in terms of supporting infrastructure to run it all as one," Turner said. "There's only a certain profile of customers that could really take advantage of what they offer, so they put a big push on improving the whole experience."

The updated services include the ability to model infrastructure, networking, security and custom services for an application, as well as tools to gain better insights into cloud costs across platforms. There are also improved management capabilities for vCloud Air, vSphere, Amazon Web Services and OpenStack.

Doing VMware hybrid cloud, Rent-A-Center style

 Rent-A-Center, which has roughly 5,000 servers that primarily act as instances to support specific stores, runs 85% of its infrastructure on VMware. The company was behind the curve in some ways, so this year it started an initiative to deploy vRealize on top of NSX to get the infrastructure decisions out of the way of production deployments, said Mike Conroy, director of TechOps.

It took about 90 days to set up, but now Rent-A-Center can deploy hundreds of stores' instances in minutes, when it used to take 30 hours for a single store. The focus so far has been on the Operations Manager, but eventually they want to utilize more of the automation and workflow tooling. And while more granular reporting and customizable components are welcome additions, the vRealize Suite as it is has been a huge benefit to the company, Conroy said.

"It's been very impressive," he said.

Rent-A-Center has a relatively small AWS implementation and uses vCloud Air for disaster recovery, so another consideration is to extend management with VMware tools to both environments. But there's still some hesitancy because of the unknowns and the history of other vendors not playing nice together.

"If it's possible to get a single pane of glass regardless of where they sit, that is absolutely a desirable goal," Conroy said. "I think any IT manager would tell you that."

What happens when Dell owns EMC, VMware?

 Despite the positive feedback for vRealize and the assurances from all parties involved that it will be business as usual at VMware, the enormity of the Dell deal raises questions about the future.

There is minimal overlap in cloud services from Dell, EMC and VMware, so the key to the long-term success of this deal is to fill in the gaps, said Mindy Cancila, research director at Gartner, Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

While vRealize is a more standard cloud management tool, Dell Cloud Manager is more of a brokerage service. There is also EMC's recent acquisition Virtustream, but that is geared more toward high-end enterprise cloud applications than the pure infrastructure as a service of vCloud Air – a market Dell abandoned in 2013.

Nothing happens overnight in this industry, but this shift is taking place where enterprises are moving applications to the public cloud.
Mindy Cancilaresearch director, Gartner, Inc

VMware has made steady progress with vRealize and continues to build out its core capabilities to make it a more attractive product for its existing customer base, Cancila said. But it will take time to fully integrate its products and its connections to other clouds, and the biggest concern remains integration with its own public cloud as customers who traditionally buy Dell, EMC and VMware products transition to a cloud-first strategy.

"Nothing happens overnight in this industry, but this shift is taking place where enterprises are moving applications to the public cloud," Cancila said. "They need a strong, viable alternative."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at [email protected]

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