For server virtualization and private cloud initiatives, most enterprises use VMware server virtualization technology. However, most public cloud service providers don't. They use server virtualization technology provided by anyone but VMware: Many of them use Xen hypervisor; others use Microsoft's Hyper-V.
This, as you might imagine, leaves VMware with something of a problem. Think about it: Hybrid clouds are predicted to become increasingly common in the coming months and years, but hybrid clouds are most likely to work when enterprises and service providers use the same infrastructure. That means VMware must get as many service providers (and resellers -- we'll come to that) as possible onside with its infrastructure, or else it will miss out on the predicted hybrid cloud bonanza.
The signs from VMware are that it's actually not doing too badly in that regard -- there are now 94 clouds in 19 countries worldwide that qualify for the vCloud Datacenter or vCloud Powered status, according to Matthew Lodge, VMware's senior director, cloud services. vCloud Datacenter is a globally consistent IaaS service that's audited and certified by VMware, while vCloud Powered providers offer a basic level of workload and data compatibility using vCloud Director, the vCloud API and the OVF file format, he said
VMware is keenly aware of the need to push on. To add a bit of oomph to this, on Tuesday it announced a new service provider tool called vCloud Integration Manager. It's an automation tool that provides a simple and standardized way for service providers to provision vCloud Director, vShield and vSphere more quickly. "Integration Manager reduces operational costs by automatically stepping through the configuration process for vCloud Director to set up Virtual Data Centers, virtual networks, administrator accounts and other cloud resources that the customer has ordered. By completing this in a matter of minutes, it decreases time to revenue," Lodge explained.
The tool gives service providers an administrative web GUI through which they can select the building blocks to make a cloud service offering and provision customers. This GUI invokes the Integration Manager API to do the work automatically. The tool can equally be invoked via the service provider's customer portal or CRM system, or by resellers who can provision their own customers. Lodge said that this should appeal to resellers who are looking to add cloud services to their portfolios to be able to sell complete VMware-based hybrid clouds with their own vCloud Powered or vCloud Datacenter packing and pricing.
What this all boils down to is a matter of cost and convenience. Right now, most enterprises use VMware server virtualization, and VMware private cloud solutions are the convenient next step for these enterprises to take. But similar (or similar enough) cloud solutions from Citrix, Microsoft and so on are available for significantly less outlay. That means VMware has to act quickly, ensuring that as many service providers as possible use VMware infrastructure, to make hybrid VMware-based clouds convenient and affordable. vCloud Integration Manager is VMware's attempt to do that.
What it doesn't do is tackle the fundamental Achilles Heel of all of VMware's cloud offerings: They are pricey for enterprises to implement, and are likely to remain pricier than the alternatives for the foreseeable future. But that's not necessarily the end of the world for VMware. After all, low-cost open source alternatives never stopped Microsoft from bagging a healthy chunk of the operating system market.
Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.