The VMware-AWS deal could drive more companies into the cloud

The new service lets companies run VMware on AWS and manage their deployments with vCenter

The cloud partnership AWS and VMware announced Thursday makes Amazon's public cloud even more attractive for enterprises by letting them take the popular virtualization platform with them.

The appropriately named VMware Cloud on AWS, announced at a press conference in San Francisco, will bring cloud-optimized versions of vSphere, VSAN and NSX software to the cloud platform. When users spin up a VMware environment on AWS, they'll get a cluster running the entire Software-Defined Data Center stack in the public cloud.

The service, which is currently in technical preview, will be operated and supported by VMware, running on purpose-built hardware in AWS's data centers.

It's a move that makes AWS more appealing for VMware customers looking to run applications on a hybrid cloud. Users will be able to manage the public cloud deployments, like their on-premises VMware deployments, using VMware's vCenter software.

In addition, VMware instances running in the AWS cloud will have access to AWS services like Redshift and S3. To use the hybrid management, customers won't need to have VMware's entire Software-Defined Data Center suite running in their own data centers, just vSphere.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger appeared on stage together to announce the partnership. Both men said that the partnership was driven by a desire by the companies' joint customers to use VMware's tools with Amazon's cloud.

At first, the services will be available from a limited number of AWS regions, but Jassy said that he expects it to reach all of them in the future. Customers will be able to migrate their workloads to and from AWS using vSphere.

Users will be able to buy the services using a credit card or an existing VMware account. Combined VMware and AWS clusters will be available through with either on-demand or subscription pricing.

AWS's and VMware's engineering teams started working on the new offering earlier this year, Gelsinger said. As part of the deal, VMware will be AWS's preferred private cloud partner and Amazon will be VMware's preferred partner in the public cloud.

That may be a bitter pill to swallow for the partners in VMware's vCloud Air ecosystem, including IBM. One of the key differences between this deal and the one VMware announced with IBM in February is that this service is being offered and managed by VMware. That said, Gelsinger still contended that IBM is a "huge and important partner" for VMware going forward.

The news clearly struck a nerve at IBM. When asked about the announcement, company representative Lori Bosio shot back with an aggressive statement.

"IBM Cloud was first to market with VMware, and with 1,000 clients already using this partnership, it is clear whom they prefer," she said in an email.

The deal makes Amazon a stronger challenger to Microsoft, which has been pushing its hybrid cloud capabilities as a key benefit of its server software.

"This should cause some challenges for Microsoft, since it can no longer use this lack of a robust, multi-geography VMware public cloud alternative as a wedge to move customers off of VMware ESX over to Hyper-V and Azure," IDC Group Vice President Al Gillen said in an email.

Jassy took a potshot at Microsoft's Azure Stack private cloud software during a question-and-answer session following the announcement. He said the customers he talked to don't want to buy new hardware, especially new custom hardware like Azure Stack will require.

Instead, they want to use the same vCenter software that they're used to, which this partnership lets them do, he said.

Interested customers can request access to the service's private beta starting Thursday, but VMware doesn't expect the service to be live until early next year. General availability of VMware cloud on AWS will have to wait until even later in 2017.

The news comes about a month in advance of AWS's big re:Invent show in Las Vegas at the end of November. That show's likely bring a new set of services to AWS.

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