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The two biggest public cloud providers have set their sights on VMware workloads, though they're taking different approaches to accommodate the hypervisor heavyweight and its customers.
A little over a year after Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware pledged to build a joint offering to bridge customers' public and private environments, Microsoft this week introduced a similar service for its Azure public cloud. There's one important distinction, however: VMware is out of the equation, a hostile move met with equal hostility from VMware, which said it would not support the service.
Azure Migrate offers multiple ways to get on-premises VMware workloads to Microsoft's public cloud. Customers now can move VMware-based applications to Azure with a free tool to assess their environments, map out dependencies and migrate using Azure Site Recovery. Once there, customers can optimize workloads for Azure via cost management tools Microsoft acquired from Cloudyn.
This approach eschews the VMware virtualization and adapts these applications into a more cloud-friendly architecture that can use a range of other Azure services. A multitude of third-party vendors offer similar capabilities. It's the other part of the Azure migration service that has drawn the ire of VMware.
VMware virtualization on Azure is a bare-metal subset of Azure Migrate that can run a full VMware stack on Azure hardware. It's expected to be generally available sometime next year. This offering is a partnership with unnamed VMware-certified partners and VMware-certified hardware, but it notably cuts VMware out of the process, and out of the revenue stream.
In response, VMware criticized Microsoft characterization of the Azure migration service as part of a transition to public cloud. In a blog post, Ajay Patel, VMware senior vice president, cited the lack of joint engineering between VMware and Microsoft and said the company won't recommend or support the product.
This isn't the first time these two companies have butted heads. Microsoft launched Hyper-V almost a decade ago with similar aggressive tactics to pull companies off VMware's hypervisor, said Steve Herrod, who was CTO at VMware at the time. Herrod is currently managing director at venture capital firm General Catalyst.
Part of the motivation here could be Microsoft posturing either to negotiate a future deal with VMware or to ensure it doesn't lose out on these types of migration, Herrod said. And of course, if VMware had its way, its software stack would be on all the major clouds, he added.
VMware on AWS, which became generally available in late August, is operated by VMware, and through the company's Cloud Foundation program ports its software-defined data centers to CenturyLink, Fujitsu, IBM Cloud, NTT Communications, OVH and Rackspace. The two glaring holes in that swath of partnerships are Azure and Google Cloud, widely considered to be the second and third most popular public clouds behind AWS.
Companies have a mix of applications, some of which are well-suited to transition to the cloud, and others must stay inside a private data center or can't be re-architected for the cloud. Hence, a hybrid cloud strategy has become an attractive option, and VMware's recent partnerships have made companies feel more comfortable with the public cloud and curb the management of their own data centers.
"I talk to a lot of CIOs and they love the fact that they can buy VMware and now feel VMware has given them the all-clear to being in the cloud," Herrod said. "It's purely promise that they're not locked into running VMware in their own data center that has caused them to double down on VMware."
Jeff Katoanalyst, Taneja Group
VMware virtualization on Azure is also an acknowledgement that some applications are not good candidates for the cloud-native approach, said Jeff Kato, an analyst at Taneja Group in Hopkinton, Mass.
"The fact that they have to offer VMware bare metal to accelerate things tells you there are workloads people are reluctant to move to the public cloud, whether that's on Hyper-V or even AWS," he said.
Some customers will prefer VMware on AWS, but it won't be a thundering majority, said Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research. There's also no downside for Microsoft to support what customers already do, and the technical aspect of this move is relatively trivial, he added.
"It's a buyer's market, and none of the major vendors are going to benefit from trying to narrow user options -- quite the opposite," Brooks said.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that Microsoft debuted the Azure migration service in the days leading up to AWS' major user conference, re:Invent, where there is expected to be more talk about the partnership between Amazon and VMware. It's also notable that AWS is only a public cloud provider, so it doesn't have the same level of competitive friction as there has been historically between Microsoft and VMware, Kato said.
"Microsoft [is] trying to ride this Azure momentum to take more than their fair share of [the on-premises space], and in order to do that, they're going to have to come up with a counter attack to VMware on AWS," he said.
Despite VMware's lack of support for the Azure migration service, it's unlikely it can do anything to stop it, especially if it's on certified hardware, Kato said. Perhaps VMware could somehow interfere with how well the VMware stack integrates with native Azure services, but big enterprises could prevent that, at least for their own environments.
"If the customer is big enough, they'll force them to work together," Kato said.
Trevor Jones is a senior news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.