Key Takeaways from VMworld Europe 2016
Last week I attended VMworld Europe 2016. VMware is an important strategic partner for us and we work together closely to help clients leverage the cloud for scale and innovation and also for business continuity strategies, replicating virtual machines on our managed cloud and self-service cloud infrastructures. We also make extensive use of VMware’s technology in our own tools: the Proximity client portal, for example, offers the complete functionality of VMware’s hypervisor among its other features.
VMworld is the company’s dedicated annual conference and trade show. It’s where it is most likely to announce the latest updates to its product portfolio and other company news. This year VMware had some big news: both announcing a host of product updates and also a strategic alliance with Amazon Web Services to create VMware on AWS.
Both the product updates and the deal with AWS promote a similar kind of functionality. The new versions of vSphere, Virtual SAN and vRealize advance what the company calls Cross-Cloud Architecture; the ability to run and manage applications, wherever they may be – in data centres, hybrid cloud hosting or on devices – through a common operating system. VMware on AWS is intended to offer a unified way to run applications and manage storage on Amazon servers as well as on vSphere private clouds.
What these two moves point to is an emerging understanding and accommodation of the fact that organisations do not keep all their data in the same place. They keep it in several different pots – an observation of the industry trend that echoes our own earlier thoughts. As our Group VP and General Manager, Sumeet Sabharwal, noted earlier this year ‘It’s a multi-cloud world we’re living in.’ The Microsoft/451 Research survey he cited found that 79 per cent of businesses work with more than one cloud/hosting provider; nearly 30 per cent work with four or more.
At first glance, these figures may look like organisations are creating multiple rods for their own backs. Surely, one might think, it would be so much simpler to consolidate their infrastructure? Quite possibly. But there are some solid advantages to multi-cloud architectures. Sometimes complexity can offer a lot more than simplicity – particularly if the user’s management remains simple in contrast to a complex backend.
Different cloud providers services providers have different strengths for the demands of different clients and different applications. For some applications, obtaining the lowest possible latency might be a reason to pick a provider on the grounds of the physical proximity of their nearest data centre. Another might offer considerably lower costs. A third may have a unique technical capability that isn’t available elsewhere such as scalability or security/compliance needs. Then there are data governance regulations that require hosting to be physically situated in a specific country and this could lead to the choice of a fourth provider. It becomes apparent in these instances that strong partnerships between different types of providers is what may best meet the specific needs of an organisation.
Add to this that the cloud industry is still young and has developed very quickly, with different cloud services providers evolving their offerings at very different rates. The best choice of provider when an organisation made its decision two years ago may well not be the best choice now. But moving applications between different cloud hosting providers isn’t a trivial business and the provision offered by each isn’t vanilla in terms of their technical compatibility. Put all these reasons together and it becomes clear that multi-cloud is a reality and it’s not likely to go away in the foreseeable future.
A multi-cloud world does, however, offer some managerial and administrative challenges – choosing to deal with multiple providers tends to do that. Reducing the number of portals required or the number of software services connecting to different providers is one way to alleviate this. That’s something that VMware is attempting to address with its Cross-Cloud and AWS advances. It’s something Navisite was already addressing when we created our Proximity Portal and when we introduced Managed Azure with Microsoft in July. It’s valuable expertise to be continuing to build and helps deliver a tailored solution that fits and from a user perspective, being able to manage multiple service providers in one place can potentially halve the managerial overhead.
It’s unlikely, as I’ve said, that the number of managed cloud hosting providers used by most organisations will be significantly consolidated, but we have and will continue to mitigate against the overhead this creates by consolidating the management of these services.