What is the point of vCloud Air, VMware's public cloud that runs VMware infrastructure just like in customers' data centers? It's a valid question to ask. Here's why.
VMware is the dominant force in enterprise server virtualization — of that there is no doubt. Many companies have adopted VMware's virtualization technology in their data centers, because while it is pricey, it gives administrators a huge amount of control over their infrastructure through vCenter, it's (relatively) easy to use, and it comes with the backing and support of a large company.
So when it comes to running a hybrid cloud that spans the corporate data center and the public cloud, it makes sense that VMware customers would want to make use of vCloud Air. You'd think.
But actually, on second thought, VMware running a public cloud doesn't make all that much sense. Big public cloud providers like Amazon with AWS or Microsoft with Azure run vastly bigger public cloud operations than VMware can possibly hope to. That means they have far more cloud locations, they have more expertise in depth, and, because of their size, they can enjoy vastly greater economies of scale.
That's not to mention the fact that the likes of Azure and AWS offer dozens of cloud services — stuff like managed-database services, storage services, analytics, messaging services, automated load balancing, and auto-scaling — that vCloud Air can't possibly match.
This all goes to explain why vCloud Air has not been the runaway success that at first glance one might have expected it to be. To be fair, it's not exactly been a disaster to date: VMware has signed up some customers and operates a handful of data centers in the UK, Germany, Japan and Australia.
Why Opt for vCloud Air When AWS and Azure Offer More for Less?
But still, what's the point of it all when AWS and Azure are able to offer more for less?
The one thing that AWS and Azure don't offer is VMware infrastructure in their public clouds, which would make it easy to expand into them while still managing everything from vCenter.
Except that that is no longer true. VMware is running a public beta test of VMware in AWS, which in theory offers the best of both worlds: VMware infrastructure running in an efficient AWS cloud, with all the extra cloud services available as side orders. The company is planning something similar for Azure and other public clouds too.
So why would anyone still want to use vCloud Air? "We continue to invest and target specific use cases for vCloud Air like disaster recovery. We are still finding compelling use cases for vCloud Air," says Mark Lohmeyer, a VMware cloud business unit VP.
But he also seems to hint that, in many cases, AWS is better. "Previously, customers were forced to choose between having a private cloud on-premises — but not having the benefits of AWS — or having the amazing things in AWS but then they couldn't take advantage of VMware. They told us they wanted both," he says.
If VMware on AWS really does offer the best of both, then you do have to ask: what is the point of vCloud Air?
Which makes one wonder, will vCloud Air still be around this time next year? Don't bet on it…
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.