An overview of cloud vision and solutions of VMware and Microsoft. Part one: IaaS

In a serie of posts I will provide an overview of cloud vision, strategy plus the implementation of those two in solutions by VMware and Microsoft. It is interesting to analyse what (different) direction both companies are heading to.

In each blogpost I will focus on a specific cloud topic. In this blogpost I will compare Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) for public and private clouds. In future blogs I will discuss hybrid cloud, intercloud, cloud management, Platform as a Service, Containers, Cloud Native apps and all the other hot topics.

You might be wondering why not include Google and Amazon? The reason is both are not offering hybrid cloud solutions which is seen by all vendors and analysts as the most used model in the near future.

Lets get started!

VMware public IaaS

VMware tried to offer public IaaS using  their vCloud Air service. vCloud Air was initially rolled out in the US and later datacenters in the Japan, UK and Germany were opened. However the expansion all of a sudden stalled. Rumours are a datacenter ready for operation in the Netherlands was sold by VMware to another company. The datacenter in Japan does not accept new customers and will close March 2017.

vCloud Air is perfect for a hybrid cloud for vSphere customers. vCloud Air runs on vSphere, vCloud Director and uses NSX.  VM’s running on-premises and on vCloud Air can be managed by a single pane of glass being vCenter Server. VM can be live migrated to vCloud Air using long distance vMotion without adjustments to the network configuration of the VM (like IP-address).

Despite all this cool technology, vCloud Air did not get the amount of customers VMware wanted. As a result VMware decided not to further develop vCloud Air services any longer. Some executives left and vCloud Air will now be a niche solution. The Gartner Maqic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS in 2016 clearly shows the movement of vCloud Air from the visionaires quadrant to the niche players quadrant. Techtarget states vCloud Air new role will be limited to “data center extension via NSX, data center replacement and disaster recovery.”

The image shows the 2016 edition of the Gartner Maqic Quadrant for worldwide cloud IaaS.

MQ-IaaS-2016

Now vCloud Air is not the platform for creating hybrid clouds for VMware customers, VMware had to find an alternative. Mind there are many cloud providers offering public cloud based on VMware solutions not listed in the MQ.

VMware in March 2016 signed a deal with IBM. IBM will basically offer the IaaS services of vCloud Air on IBM’s cloudplatform SoftLayer which is marketed as IBM Cloud.  IBM Cloud offers customers bare metal servers installed with vSphere and NSX. So basically the IBM Cloud is similar to the vCloud Air Dedicated Cloud offering which is is your own private cloud instance in the public cloud.

About 4000 IBM consultants and sales persons (Cloudbuilder Professional Services) were educated on the VMware technology.

More than 500 companies are now running VMware virtual machines on the IBM Cloud, headlined by Marriott International.

With both vCloud Air and IBM SoftLayer moved to the niche players quadrant VMware has a limited role in public IaaS.

Lets have a look at how Microsoft is doing on public IaaS.

Microsoft public IaaS

On public cloud Microsoft is the number two in cloud IaaS according the 2016 Gartner Magic Quandrant. Azure is offering IaaS as well as PaaS services. Services and datacenters are added in an incredible pace. Azure datacenters are located  in US, Canada, Brasil, Europe, Asia and Australia. It is a mature platform featuring many services. Mind contrary to VMware vCloud Air and IBM Cloud, it does not support the legacy, pets type of applications (explained here). This is shown by the lack of a Microsoft SLA for single instance virtual machines. Azure started as a PaaS platform and that still is the main focus for Microsoft.

To offer the same services as the public Azure, Microsoft will make general available in mid 2017 Azure Stack. Azure Stack will be a turn-key private cloud offered by a selected number of hardware vendors. API’s, management portal and many services are exactly similar to those offered on Azure. This allows customers to build applications once and deploy it on multiple platforms. Azure Stack is targeted at enterprises and service providers.

VMware private IaaS

There are many reasons why public IaaS is  not a perfect fit for an organization. Compliancy and avoiding vendor lockin is one of the main reason for organization to operate a private cloud. Implementing a private cloud and a  software defined datacenter (SDDC) is not an easy task. To let all the components do what they are designed for takes effort, knowledge and time.

There are a couple of vendors selling an integrated stack of compute, storage and networking combined with VMware solutions to make a turn-key ready to use private cloud. The leaders in the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems listed VCE, Nutanix, Netapp, HP, Oracle and Cisco.

VMware, Cisco, EMC (VCE) has  Vblocks.  NetApp has FlexPod in partnership with Cisco and VMware. Nutanix offers either Acropolis, vSphere or  Hyper-V.  HPE is using VMware on its HPE Hyper Converged line. The HPE ConvergedSystem 700 runs either VMware or Hyper-V+System Center.

A step further is hyperconverged software defined datacenters (SDDC). In SDDC management of storage and network is automated.

The VMware solution for a SDDC has gone through multiple phases and was rebranded twice. It started with EVO:RACK which was in preview in 2014.
At VMworld 2015 EVO:RACK was re-branded to EVO SDDC. EVO SDDC contained a new component named EVO SDDC Manager. SDDC Manager automates the power-up, provisioning and monitoring of virtual and physical resources.

At VMworld 2016 VMware presented VMware Cloud Foundation.  (short: Cloud Foundation or VCF). VMware Cloud Foundation is basically the same technology as EVO SDDC but now available in a public cloud offering as well. IBM is the first public cloud vendor offering Cloud Foundation.

Right at the launch Cloud Foundation was version 2.0 which shows the solution is an evolution of EVO:RAIL and EVO SDDC.

Every Cloud Foundation deployment includes the following software components:

  • SDDC Manager
  • vCenter Server
  • vSphere (ESXi)
  • VSAN
  • NSX

Cloud Foundation Supports Any Rack-Mounted, vSAN Ready Node from HP, Dell and Quanta Computer Inc.

Lets have a closer look at Microsoft public cloud offering.

Microsoft private IaaS

Microsoft Azure Pack (WAP) is the current software solution enabling customer to operate a private IaaS based cloud. Windows Azure Pack is a collection of Microsoft Azure technologies available to Microsoft customers at no additional cost. It integrates with Windows Server, System Center, and SQL Server to offer a self-service portal and cloud services such as virtual machine hosting (IaaS), database as a services (DBaaS), scalable web app hosting (PaaS), and more.

WAP has not been the succes Microsoft hoped for. The implementation is pretty though and few service providers selected WAP over alternatives. Rackspace with its Private Cloud offering is one of the few major providers which uses WAP.

Similar to VMware, Microsoft  offers via partners turnkey private IaaS solutions although less mature and feature rich that VMware.

A turnkey Microsoft private cloud is based on Cloud Platform System (CPS) which combines Microsoft’s software stack of Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and Windows Azure Pack, with server, storage, and networking hardware from industry leading vendors. At the moment Dell and HPE (Hyper Converged 250) are the only 2 vendors selling CPS. Dell CPS has Dell PowerEdge servers, Dell Storage and Dell Networking. As Dell acquired EMC which is parent company of VMware, it is interesting to watch if Dell will continue to invest in Microsoft solutions for their private cloud offering,

Windows Azure Pack will be replaced around mid 2017 when Azure Stack becomes general available. Azure Stack basically is Azure public cloud services running in a customer or service provider datacenter.

Scott Guthrie, head of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group, said at the WPC 2016 in June: “Our Azure Stack offering enables you to stand up a consistent cloud platform experience with the same management APIs, the same portal, and the same set of developer services available in our full public cloud Azure.”

Contrary to Azure Pack, Azure Stack will be available  as a turn-key integrated system only. Microsoft learned from the difficulties customers had when installing the software themselves. The customer orders a Microsoft cloud with Azure Stack, and he gets a completely installed and tested rack with compute, storage and networking ready to go.

Azure-Stack

This blogpost at Azurepack.eu has some good and actual info on Azure Stack.

The philosophy of Azure Stack as well as VMware Cloud Foundation is that IT should not be busy with managing infrastructure but should add value to the business.

Conclusion

VMware does not show much innovation in the public  IaaS space. vCloud Air stalled with IaaS  now trying in cooperation with IBM using vSphere technology. In private cloud VMware is strong. Many vendors offer integrated systems using vSphere and additional software like NSX and vRealize.

VMware stategy is to help the legacy enterprise which is using vSphere, NSX and private cloud solutions on their journey to public cloud and likely having a hybrid clound as a result. VMware remains to be an intrastructure company in times infrastructure becomes more or less commodity.

Microsoft is very strong in public IaaS with Azure, However in the private IaaS market Redmond does not gain much marketshare. Windows Azure Pack is not widely adopted and Azure Stack will be GA in about one year time.

In the next blogpost I will focus on the hybrid cloud offerings of Microsoft and VMware.

 

 

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