VMware and AWS announcing a partnership. What could it be? NSX likely!

In the meanwhile details about the partnership came out!

AWS will offer VMware SDDC in AWS datacenters on bare metal servers but managed by VMware. Basically customers can create a vSphere cluster with VSAN and NSX in AWS datacenters. This allows to vMotion virtual machines from on-prem to AWS.

Details in this post 


On Thursday October 13 VMware and Amazon AWS will announce a new partnersnip. Both AWS Chief Executive Andy Jassy and his VMware counterpart, Pat Gelsinger, are said to be announcing the deal on Thursday.

This is an interesting deal as VMware and Amazon AWS have not been the closest friends to say the least. So what could be announced on Thursday?

From the information provided by Fortune who broke the story, we know:

  • The goal is to make it easier for customers to run VMware software both on their own internal servers and on AWS’s public-cloud infrastructure.
  • The deal could be similiar to the deal VMware made with IBM. IBM is offering public cloud services based on VMware technology which simplifies VMware customers to extend to public cloud.
  • Press expects a game changing announcemnent

The opportunity for both companies is hybrid cloud. But to enable hybrid cloud there are two challenges. First is the gravity of data. It is hard to move data so it is close to compute. Secondly networking is a challenge in a hybrid model. All hyper-scale public cloud providers use different network techniques. None of them offer micro-segmentation or zero-tier networking technologies off the shelf.

A partnership has to benefit both partners, so let us have a look at the weakness and threats of both companies. Next we discuss possible solutions in the new partnering.


VMware does not have a public cloud offering for IaaS. They tried and failed with VMware vCloud Air. VMware signed a deal with IBM as a result. IBM runs VMware software in public cloud which enables customers to easily extend to public cloud with the same capabilities as offered on-prem. This deal enables customers to run legacy, pets type of applications on a public cloud platform.

Additionally VMware has agreed to sell its government cloud business to QTS Realty Trust, one of the biggest data center service providers in the US.

As hypervisors have become a commodity, VMware needs a new cashcow. Containers are a danger to hypervisors. VMware paid a lot of money to acquire Nicira (the company which made network virualization software called NSX) so any move to earn money on NSX is obvious.

At VMworld 2016 VMware made clear their strategy is to enable organizations to use multiple cloud platforms and to enable hybrid clouds in particular. NSX was mentioned many times at VMworld in keynotes and breakout sessions.

So what are the challenges for Amazon AWS?

Amazon AWS

Amazon AWS is the market leader in public cloud IaaS. Most of the customers are enterprises and start-ups running cloud born applications. The IaaS platform of Amazon is a so-called best effort cloud. It does not offer redundancy features like redudant power supplies nor does it have features enabling live migrations of workloads. Amazon AWS does not have a private cloud solution. Well, there is Eucalyptus offering AWS-alike services on-prem but that is really a niche solution in use by a very limited number of organizations.

So in a market which really wants hybrid, both VMware and Amazon AWS are not able to deliver this.

How to solve this?

Possible partnering scenario’s

So what solution will benefit to both AWS and VMware and enables a hybrid cloud for customers? There are a few possible solutions for this new partnering.

  • Amazon AWS will support  running  VMware NSX on EC2 enabling customers an automated and secure micro segmented network in a hybrid model.
  • Amazon AWS will be offering  VMware Cloud Foundation in AWS datacenters.
  • Amazon AWS will be offering a public cloud IaaS service based on VMware technology similar to the IBM deal.
  • Offering a tool which enables to run VMware workloads without modification on AWS.

Lets have a look at these scenario’s.

First we start with the most likely scenario; enabling to  run VMware NSX on AWS EC2.

This “if we can’t beat them, join them’ scenario is by far the most likely one for partnering.

A small introduction to NSX. This is a software defined networking solution originally made by Nicira which was acquired by VMware. NSX is untill now installed on-premises. This video has an introduction into NSX.

NSX is typically used by enterprises, service providers which have a lot of dynamics in networking. NSX automates provisioning and configuration of networks in seconds.

Some of the advantages of NSX running in public cloud is:

  • Consistency across clouds
  • Encryption
  • Visibility and incident response

The advantages are explained in this Networkworld.com article. There is also an interview with VMware Networking and Security CTO Guido Appenzeller. He talks about NSX running in public cloud.

Already at VMworld 2015 VMware spoke about running NSX on Amazon EC2. For example in this breakout session titled “NET6639 – Next Horizon for Cloud Networking and Security”.


VMware showed in the keynote at VMworld 2016 that they are working on a solution which is called Cross Cloud Services. This is a SaaS based multi-cloud management tool. One of the capabilities demo-ed was being able to deploy VMware NSX on Amazon EC2. The demo can be seen in the VMworld keynote at day 1.

Running NSX on EC2 enables customers to extend their on-prem networks to Amazon public cloud. Mind this option does not enable to run VMware workloads directly on EC2. EC2 is using a Xen based hypervisor. Customers will need to convert the on-prem VM running on ESXi to a EC2 supported format first.

So the scenario VMware and AWS are aiming at is use cases like cloud bursting. Customers using NSX on Amazon can quickly spin up stateless webservers in EC2 which connect to middleware and database servers running on-prem. NSX enables a quick, automated and secure networking in AWS.

The VMworld 2015 breakout session has a great demo of this scenario. Already in 2013 networkcomputing wrote about VMware  roadmap extending NSX to public cloud.

In Summer 2016 VMware posted this job description for an engineer with NSX and Amazon knowledge.

The benefits for both companies are clear:

  • VMware will be able to sell a lot more NSX licenses and get access to hybrid cloud scenario’s using AWS datacenters
  • AWS gets access into hybrid cloud scenario’s because of the many enterprise customers of VMware


The second option for VMware partnering with Amazon is Amazon offering VMware Cloud Foundation in their datacenters. This introduces a complete new technology stack for Amazon. So far Amazon EC2 was designed for so called cattle workloads running on low-cost hardware and open source hypervisor and cloud management software.

I doubt this option is likely.

The third option is similar to the partnering VMware made with IBM. IBM offers IaaS based on VMware technology in 45 datacenters worldwide. I doubt IBM will be happy if VMware did a similar deal with AWS. I also do not think it makes sense to extend the 45 IBM datacenters to include the AWS datacenters. This also introduces a new technology stack for Amazon AWS. Last but not least it will take a lot of time to get this operational.

The fourth option is that VMware and AWS offer a tool which enables to run VMware VM’s as-is on AWS. The technology would be very similar to Ravello Systems which was acquired by Oracle for the very same reason. This is also not a likely option. First of all I am not aware of any tool offering similar features as Ravello. Secondly workloads have a performance penalty when they run on a nested hypervisor like Ravello offers. Both VMware and AWS focus on enterprises which want high performance workloads.


My 2 cents is on supporting NSX on EC2. There might be another option not mentioned here. Thursday October 13 we will know.


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