What the VMware-Google Partnership Could Mean for the Cloud Market

VMware recently announced the integration of vCloud Air with Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Services to be integrated include: Google Cloud Storage (object), Google BigQuery (analytics), Google Cloud Datastore (NoSQL), and Google Cloud DNS. Notably absent is compute, which will remain on the vSphere Air infrastructure.

A marriage of convenience, this unexpected hybrid cloud model epitomizes the dynamic cloud market. Here is a brief recap:

  • vCloud Air credentials will provide secure access to GCP.
  • vCloud Air Customers can choose GCP services seamlessly on a pay-per-use basis with no additional contract.
  • A dedicated private line connects the vCloud Air and GCP platforms.
  • VMware Global Support Services (GSS) will provide support and billing.
  • Certain GCP services will be covered by VMware’s Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for U.S. customers requiring HIPAA-compliant cloud services.
  • Future integration includes vCloud Realize Cloud Management Suite to manage GCP services.

According to Matthew Lodge, VP of Cloud Services at VMware, the partnership stemmed from VMware’s use of Google BigQuery to analyze telemetry data generated by vCloud Air. Murali Sitaram, Managing Director of Google for Work, acknowledged VMware’s leadership in data center virtualization while highlighting the benefits of the alliance.

The Gigaom Research Perspective

VMware and Google are struggling to get the core building blocks in place, but both lack marquee Fortune 500 customers on their public clouds. Through this partnership, the two companies are hoping to achieve the following objectives:

  • VMware fills the product gaps in vCloud Air to deliver affordable object storage, networking, database, and hyperscale analytics to customers.
  • Google gains access to enterprise customers by leveraging VMware’s strong relationships for on-premises private cloud.
  • The ability to effectively compete with Microsoft and AWS.

This partnership attempts to check Microsoft’s dominance in enterprise. In the private cloud market, Microsoft System Center and Cloud Platform System (CPS) directly compete with VMware vCloud and EVO:Rail family of products. Through massive investments in its public cloud, Microsoft is expanding the footprint of Azure. It is the only public cloud with over 15 regions across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Though VMware is a pioneer in virtualization and developing tools, it lacks the experience of managing massive data centers. Through this partnership, VMware will be able to tap into Google’s expertise of managing scalable infrastructure. vCloud Air, still in its infancy is present in limited geographies when compared to AWS and Microsoft.

GCE launched in 2012—seemingly late to market. But in terms of technology, GCE now has many superior features over its rivals. Live migration, transparent maintenance, SDN powered by Andromeda, sustained usage discounts, faster VM boot times, and other technology enhancements make GCE a solid IaaS platform. Despite all the right elements, Google lags in customer adoption. While Microsoft has a clear advantage in the enterprise market, AWS has made steady progress with its credibility and track record. Faced with the difficulty of persuading enterprises to run mission critical workloads like ERP and CRM on GCP, Google is resigned to concede a virtual wholesale model to VMware. vCloud running on-premises and GCP as the public cloud tells a compelling hybrid story to the customers.

One of the key building blocks missing in this announcement is compute. Excluding GCE compute, VMware believes it already has a strong compute platform with vSphere. But compute alone is not enough to run enterprise workloads. As Amazon demonstrated, complex workloads rely on object storage, NoSQL databases, distributed DNS, and real time analytics. VMware doesn’t have the experience and time to invest in each of these areas. Google has already built those services. By retaining customers on its core compute platform, VMware wholesales the other building blocks from Google to complete its stack. It will be interesting to see if VMware will retain or dump its object storage service (powered by EMC ViPR) announced last year. Google Cloud Storage exposes the object store directly and is more mature than EMC ViPR. In the future, VMware may replace services like GCE object storage and analytics with its own offerings or a third-party service.

Though it seems to be a serious attempt, we are skeptical about the partnership. This is not the first time VMware tried partnering with an industry giant to complement its offerings and services. VMforce, an initiative that VMware announced in 2010 miserably failed. It was a partnership between VMware and Salesforce to bring Spring and Cloud Foundry to and Heroku. Within six months of the announcement, the partnership was dissolved.