In Barcelona, VMware clouds loom large

The sheer scale of the new Dell will make the companies in its line impossible to avoid

The new Dell is only a month-and-a-half old but it is already ubiquitous. While the company was kicking off its Dell World conference in Austin, Texas on Wednesday with a stream of announcements relating to Dell and EMC, the VMware VMworld conference in Barcelona, Spain was just ending. At VMworld you could also visit the stand of Virtustream, another property in the large Dell family, and if that weren’t enough, my email inbox added opportunities to talk to Dell-owned cloud integration firm Boomi.

We could easily also throw in news from Quest (which is about to move to private-equity ownership), Pivotal, RSA, SonicWall, Wyse and other brands that sit under the vast umbrella Dell’s acquisition of EMC has created. The flight I took from London Heathrow to Barcelona was probably 90 percent Dell-owned companies and ecosystem partners. The wider Dell group stands to become omnipresent in ways that even giants like IBM, Microsoft and HP have never managed to become. For CIOs who favour the convenience of a one-stop shop but fear lock in, the unique Dell federated approach might well appeal.

VMworld turned out to be something of an anti-climax if only because the event had been trailed by the very big news that the 800-pound gorilla of the private cloud will work in tandem with Amazon Web Services, the 800-pound gorilla of the public cloud, thus making it easier to run and manage VMware workloads on the AWS cloud. ‘Why has it taken so long?’ was the obvious question to ask, so I asked it at a press conference during the event.

Two things have changed, said VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger. First, the public cloud platform sector has grown up so there was lots of pull from IT buyers, and, second, it is not a trivial task to pull off, requiring close collaboration between the respective engineering teams of VMware and AWS.

“Two years ago we didn’t have the capacity to bring that together,” he added. “Those teams have iterated and yelled at each other … it’s been an iterative process.”

At VMworld VMware executives were at pains to stress that Dell wants to run VMware as a quasi-independent organisation but Gelsinger was commendably frank when I asked if Michael Dell had had any input on the AWS talks. Michael had “nudged forward the relationship”, he said, and had also been supportive of VMware’s relationship with Dell’s old sparring partner IBM.

Gelsinger also made an interesting argument when asked if we should expect more price wars between the leaders in public cloud such as Microsoft, IBM SoftLayer, Google and AWS. “A lot of the use of clouds has not been driven by price, it has been driven by ease,” he said.

Gelsinger stressed that it is still “very early” in the cloud era. He is surely right there and all sensible people will be betting on a hybrid future for years (and more likely for decades) to come so VMware’s cross-cloud strategy makes sound sense. VMware’s mantra at the event surrounded its promise of delivering a “second act” after changing the datacentre through x86 virtualisation: that act will very likely see it being one of the defining forces in the future of IT infrastructure.


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VMware writes itself a second act