VMware and IBM recently announced a broad new partnership that will allow VMware customers to extend their virtualized workloads into IBM’s public SoftLayer cloud. For the public cloud market, the move is seen as somewhat of a reckoning on VMware’s public cloud strategy. VMware has had fits and starts building up its own IaaS public cloud. In the past year VMware has opted to not invest billions of dollars to construct data centers and build a public cloud IaaS platform to compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Instead VMware is partnering with public cloud providers, with IBM being the latest example. Last year VMware announced a partnership with Google’s Cloud Platform to provide scale-out IaaS capacity for VMware customers.
For IBM the move could be an adrenaline boost for its cloud. The company is attempting to compete in the market with the “big three” strongholds, AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google. IBM is focusing on a three-pronged cloud strategy: building up an application development platform named BlueMix, which is based on the open source platform as a service Cloud Foundry; focusing on cognitive analytics with its Watson product line; and offering a bare-metal as a service based on technology it bought from SoftLayer. The IBM-VMware partnership will be mutually beneficial, analysts who track this market say. “VMware is not set up to compete with public cloud vendors,” says RedMonk co-founder James Governor. “It was always a service provider play, so the IBM announcement makes sense.” Virtualization management vendor and VMware competitor Red Hat is taking a similar strategy, having gone on a blitz of partnerships with public cloud providers such as Google, Microsoft and Rackspace in recent weeks.
VMware’s cloud plans have been dwindling in the past year. In late January VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said that the company would be narrowing its focus for its vCloud Air IaaS public cloud to focus on core competencies. Gelsinger also said it would level off its investments in vCA. This came months after VMware’s parent company EMC bought cloud provider Virtustream and attempted to merge VMware’s cloud products into that offering. Gelsinger resisted that move and has instead focused on partnering with IaaS vendors to provide customers with public cloud capability. The IBM partnership is the latest partnership for VMware, but Damion Heredia, vice president of cloud platform services and Bluemix at IBM, says it is the deepest partnership VMware has had with a cloud provider thus far. Customers will be able to run the “full stack” of VMware management tools on IBM’s cloud, including VMware’s NSX virtual networking software. “You can spin up an environment that looks just like what you use behind your firewall,” he says.