At VMworld US 2016, VMware announced Cross-Cloud. Cross-Cloud is touted as a common operating system for your hybrid cloud. With one interface, you can stand up workloads in your own data center. Or, you can stand up workloads in the public cloud. Cross-Cloud takes care of the rest.
By “the rest,” we mean running, managing, connecting, and securing the workloads without the operator having to do a lot of chicken sacrifices. The nitty-gritty is abstracted away by an tidy spackle of GUI that leaves most of the details up to complex software running in the background.
Do you need this product?
Do you run workloads in the public cloud? Perhaps you also use several different public clouds? VMware has you in mind with Cross-Cloud. Further, if you are already a VMware customer who is building out a hybrid cloud environment, this product should seem interesting.
While VMware products themselves are often reassuringly expensive, part of the Cross-Cloud value proposition is public cloud economics. You’ll be able to make some workload positioning decisions based on just how much it’s going to cost you to host a workload in a particular public cloud.
The view from the hot aisle.
For current VMware customers, Cross-Cloud was interesting, but perhaps not an exciting announcement. Cross-Cloud solves a problem that most VMware customers don’t have today. That said, VMware prefaced the Cross-Cloud announcement at VMworld US 2016 day one keynote with much discussion about their survey of VMware customers. VMware customers are, slowly, building out private and hybrid clouds. Workloads are, slowly, moving to these environments. I guess you could say that Cross-Cloud is ahead of its time.
You could also say that VMware is trying to find its future home in the new IT stack. One can only make so much money managing hypervisors, and new, open-source based data center management systems are obviating the need for VMware. VMware might have a massive install base in the enterprises and cloud providers, but displacing VMware technology is increasingly easy.
What’s VMware to do? Make it easy to consume disparate cloud services, just like they make it easy to consume disparate hardware. Add to that VMware’s networking & security capabilities with NSX, and the story of running any workload anywhere with unified functionality and a consistent interface sounds believable.
However, VMware’s creation of Cross-Cloud is not based on exclusive partnerships. VMware is using public API’s to do their public cloud magic, something anyone else of a mind could do. VMware is therefore not uniquely positioned as a public cloud manager, and the strong likelihood is that there will be more entrants into this space. Probably a lot of them, considering the current IT trend for fragmentation.
What’s more, stating the value proposition of Cross-Cloud as “abstracting public cloud” is really oversimplifying the matter. Not all public clouds are equal. They don’t all have the same functionality. Not all workloads or application architectures that work in one will necessarily work in another. That makes Cross-Cloud’s job difficult, perhaps more so as time goes on. Despite that, VMware is armed with a development team that could make this product the best executed of its kind if they so choose.
The ultimate question then is a different one. Is Cross-Cloud compelling enough of a product to keep existing VMware customers in the fold as they build their hybrid clouds over the next 5+ years? That’s a much harder question to answer. Time will tell.