Another week, another sign of VMware adapting to a multicloud world

VMware made waves last week by partnering with Amazon, but another big-name public cloud integration that flew under the radar this week also highlights where the company is headed as enterprises move to a multicloud strategy.

VMware rolled out a number of updates at VMworld Europe around vSphere, vSAN and vRealize that expand on its strategy of providing a common operating environment across public and private clouds. Among those updates is improved management of Microsoft Azure – a platform built by VMware’s biggest competitor in the virtualization space – providing out-of-the-box support with simplified service blueprints for multi-tier applications running on Azure.

VMware rightly recognizes that it’s a multi-cloud world among enterprise customers and Azure is one of the major players.

“We see many enterprises including Azure as one of several clouds in their catalog,” said Mary Johnston Turner, research vice president at IDC. “To be a credible enterprise multi-cloud management player today, support for Azure is just as important as support for AWS.”

VRealize, meanwhile, continues to be an important element of VMware’s broader multicloud management strategy and the focal point of its cloud management for private cloud and virtualized infrastructure automation, operations monitoring and log analytics. IDC ranks it as the top cloud systems management software on the market, based on revenue.

The new vRealize capabilities build on VMware’s Cross-Cloud Architecture for running, managing and connecting applications across environments, including Azure and AWS.

Both those efforts, though, fall short of what VMware is working on with AWS.

VMware’s planned integration with Amazon will provide bare metal servers within AWS that VMware will manage and sell services on top of for customers to migrate workloads via a software-defined data center. (VMware announced a similar deal with IBM earlier this year.) In many ways, this represents the culmination of a two-year shift from trying to keep everything within its own ecosystem to trying to get its software-defined data center (SDDC) on as many different platforms as possible.

The added Azure support on vRealize is a positive step, but even better would be something similar to the capabilities being worked on with AWS, said Cory De Arkland, senior cloud engineer at San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E).

PG&E, which uses vRealize, already has to manage dev-test workloads set up in AWS, thanks to shadow IT. Extending VMware environments to Azure would be beneficial in case the utility wants to provide its developers with public cloud resources in the future, either because of special feature sets or just to pit vendors against each other on price, De Arkland said.

“It just encourages competitiveness,” he said.

Microsoft says a third of all Azure VMs use Linux. And while there isn’t a lot of crossover between vSphere and Hyper-V users, there is growing demand among customers to integrate with Azure, according to VMware.

Still, there are competitive issues that could limit the depth of any hypothetical partnership between the two companies, said Gary Chen, research manager at IDC. VMware is still treating Azure as another cloud resource it can manage, and while the company should be pursuing deeper partnerships with other cloud providers, each deal will likely be different and may not look exactly like the AWS partnership.

“It would be a stretch to see Azure running VMware software anytime soon for deeper infrastructure integration, which is what the AWS deal, IBM and the rest of VCAN [the vCloud Air Network] has required,” Chen said.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget’s data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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Cloud computing employment trends shift from generalists to specialists

Cloud computing has created a plethora of new jobs in the IT industry and shows no signs of slowing down. But what are companies looking for in a potential cloud employee? Job hunters face the difficult choice of zeroing in on a certain cloud service or vendor, or becoming a jack of all trades.

We asked the SearchCloudComputing Advisory Board what they consider to be the biggest cloud computing employment trends — and what employers are looking for. Here’s a look at their answers.

Alex Witherspoon

[In] the older enterprise IT model, there was a drive toward specialists [who] have a deep understanding of complex systems, like modern storage, servers and networking, to operate software. The strength in this is that one can be complexly involved with all elements of the platform. Many of those systems are still there, but in a modern cloud, those infrastructure problems and specialties are obfuscated to the end user, so a modern company can focus much more heavily on the software, the customer and the business.

This trend has led to an Agile-focused mindset — one that is much more concerned with technology as an operating cost and series of capabilities. This could be called DevOps, but it’s effectively removing the complexity of infrastructure [from] development and operation teams and turns the focus much more heavily into the software and design of software platforms, rather than infrastructure itself. Jobs will still be diverse between centralized architects and decentralized, general jack-of-all- trades, such as found in site reliability engineering teams, but they will be commonly focused on software architecture, rather than infrastructure architecture.

Gaurav “GP” Pal

Given the breadth and scope of the cloud computing marketplace and offerings, we are starting to see specializations by certain lines of services and expertise. For example, until a couple of years ago, we used to have Amazon Web Services (AWS) Solution Architects, but given the scope of services, a Solution Architect can’t cover every topic and must specialize.

We are starting to see specializations or competencies as they are referred to more commonly around DevOps, security, big data and managed services. A further sub-set of specialization is developing around specific regulated markets, specifically healthcare (HIPAA), U.S. public sector (FedRAMP), commercial (PCI) or financial services (FFIEC).

Bill Wilder

I expect specialization in cloud computing roles to evolve along with the cloud platforms. The big public cloud platform vendors are supporting common industry approaches, such as use of containers, through vendors such as Docker, and VM configuration tools, such as Chef and Puppet. While valuable in the cloud, these skills are infrastructure as a service (IaaS) focused. You can put some VMs in the cloud so that infrastructure looks and acts like our on-premises world, except with incredible convenience around scale, pay-as-you-go, great automation support and other aspects. Many of these skills are not significantly tied to any platform, cloud or not, but they are certainly important for the IaaS style of cloud usage since a high degree of automation is the norm.

But the trend is that the big public cloud platform players are driving services for easy access to databases, messaging, security, scaling, key management, backup management and on and on. The catch is that even though the services are covering a lot of the same ground, they aren’t used in the same ways, and sophisticated use of these services begins to require specialization. For example, AWS Lambda and Azure Functions both support serverless compute models, but they are part of different ecosystems and there is a learning curve for becoming an expert in that particular feature and the broader set of functionality it sits within. I expect skills for cloud platform expertise will increasingly diverge because there is so much active investment and innovation across Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

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Can Virtustream succeed as a niche public cloud?

Virtustream – not VMware – is the lead public cloud infrastructure provider for the new Dell Technologies, but is its narrow focus enough to sway IT pros?

The company, which officially became part of Dell this week with the close of the protracted EMC acquisition, is taking a markedly different approach to a public cloud market where much of the focus and buzz is around the net-new. Instead Virtustream  is focusing exclusively on the less sexy legacy systems that still make up the vast majority of enterprise IT.

Virtustream tailors its public cloud to mission-critical and highly regulated applications, such as SAP and other ERP systems. The majority of its workloads are brownfield, lift-and-shift applications, and there’s often little re-architecting needed for this transition, said Kevin Reid, president and CTO of Virtustream, who spoke to TechTarget  at VMworld in advance of the completion of the Dell deal.

It may be a niche in terms of the services offered by the typical public cloud provider, but it’s a massive one for potential conversions — industry observers estimate it to be a multi-billion dollar market that’s just starting to ramp up.

Going solely after the enterprise market seems to be a good model for Virtustream, said Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research, in New York.

“They have some specialties but mostly they give a highly defined level of service for managed services around the infrastructure,” he said. “Virtustream does it better than any of their customers do and usually by a pretty wide margin.”

Of course, Virtustream, with its circumscribed approach, isn’t alone going after this market segment. Amazon has pushed hard to get customers to offload some of their more burdensome IT assets on to Amazon Web Services (AWS), while IBM and Microsoft already have relationships with customers in this space. Even Oracle is seen by some as a dark horse that could push its way into the market.

Pitch to IT  pros: We’re better at this than you

Part of the argument for the public cloud is the ability to build redundancy into the application and scale as needed, and proponents argue that the lift-and-shift model never provides the full benefits of cloud computing. Virtustream freely admits it’s probably not the best place for new applications.

“When doing a greenfield app let me look at public cloud model and go cloud-native, built resiliency and scale, but if I’m going to work with something I’ve invested tens of hundreds of millions of dollars into there’s no justifiable ROI to rewriting that,” Reid said.

What often happens is enterprises make edge applications cloud-native while continuing to run the nucleus systems as stateful applications because of the investments on-premises and the lack of internal skills to rewrite applications to the cloud, Reid said.

Putting complex systems in standard public clouds involves extra integration engineering to make them run properly, Virtustream argues, because most of that infrastructure is standardized and commoditized to provide the lowest cost of entry. Virtustream is increasingly coming up against AWS and other large-scale public clouds, and its pricing is comparable when total cost of ownership is taken into account, Reid said.

So the question becomes, why move your on-premises workloads at all if they aren’t going to be rewritten? Virtustream’s response is that it’s better at running infrastructure than you. That entails better infrastructure utilization, improved application management via provisioning and automation, and built-in integration for security and compliance.

Virtustream and its place inside Dell

Virtustream  has evolved into the primary cloud services arm of Dell Technologies, but that strategy didn’t come about smoothly. Last fall Virtustream’s and VMware’s cloud assets were to be combined and reshuffled, with the infrastructure components handled by Virtustream and the software pieces overseen by VMware. That plan was ultimately scuttled amid investor concerns and the two remain separate companies, though Virtustream does plan to add NSX support later this year to better connect to VMware environments.

As a result of the failed merger, Virtustream’s strategy remains largely unchanged, while VMware has tweaked its roadmap to focus on software delivery and connectivity to other cloud providers. Lump that with the private cloud offering from Dell and platform-as-a-service provider Pivotal, also brought over through the EMC Federation, and Dell Technologies has an amalgam of cloud services targeted at enterprises with a hefty share of legacy systems. It’s a model that runs contrary to how larger providers such as AWS are extending beyond infrastructure to a variety of higher-level services all accessible through one umbrella.

“If they can leverage the SAP workload play and somehow do something [with VMware] that is less tightly coupled that doesn’t raise question around CapEx and opening more data centers, there’s a potential synergy there,” said Sid Nag, research director at Gartner.

Recombining all the sensibly related pieces of the federation would have provided a more materially significant offering as opposed to what is now essentially a service catalogue, Brooks said.

But EMC has served as a good pipeline for Virtustream business, and ideally the various business units under Dell will be able to have some level of connectivity to the other assets, which have such a huge footprint within IT, Brooks said.

“Overall I don’t know if that gives them anything flat-out remarkable,” Brooks said. “There’s not any world-beaters here but you can definitely say that to the extent that they can reduce that friction, it never hurts if it’s easier to get gear and customers.”

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget’s data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at tjones@techtarget.com

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Google’s SQL Server support is latest bid to win enterprise love

In its latest attempt to shake perceptions that it’s not an enterprise-grade IaaS option, Google is cozying up again to Windows workloads in the cloud.

Starting this month, Google users can launch Google Compute Engine VM images preinstalled with Microsoft SQL Server. Google now offers beta support for three versions of the SQL Server relational database management system: SQL Server Express 2016; SQL Server Standard 2012, 2014 and 2016; and SQL Server Web 2016. The cloud provider said support for SQL Server Enterprise Edition 2012, 2014 and 2016 is “coming soon.”

Organizations could technically run SQL Server workloads on Google Compute Engine before by spinning up a VM, and then installing and managing SQL Server themselves, explained Simon Margolis, director, cloud platform at SADA Systems, a cloud and IT consulting shop, and Google partner, based in North Hollywood, Calif.

With this expanded support from Google, however, those SQL Server images can now come preinstalled, and with a broader range of baked-in administrative capabilities. That shifts much of the SQL Server deployment, management and support responsibilities away from users and onto Google.

“It brings a good deal of peace of mind that otherwise didn’t exist,” Margolis said.

The move also expands the licensing options for running SQL Server on Google cloud. Since 2014, organizations with license mobility, through the Microsoft Software Assurance program, could move existing SQL Server licenses to a Windows Server instance running on Google, and then manage those licenses themselves.

Now, users can also choose to spin up new SQL Server databases on Google and pay as they go, based on Google’s per-minute billing cycles, just as they would for other Google cloud resources.

“If I run my instance for 90 minutes, I’m not paying the same as I would if I just bought a license from Microsoft for a server I have physically,” Margolis said.

Google eyes the enterprise

Google’s expanded SQL Server support isn’t a major surprise. Over the past year, the cloud provider has made a series of moves intended to grow its enterprise appeal. For example, it rolled out a number of new cloud security features, including identity and access management (IAM) and the ability for users to bring their own encryption keys, as well as new database and big data services.

The expanded SQL Server support is another “paving stone” for Google to more seamlessly bridge corporate data centers to its cloud, said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester Research, an analyst firm in Cambridge, Mass.

“[This] removes the friction for companies who just want to get their database workloads into the cloud, often before they are ready to modernize them,” Bartoletti said.

But Google’s attempts to win enterprise mindshare haven’t exactly gone off with a hitch (or two). The provider has grappled with a series of service outages and disruptions this year that renewed questions about its reliability, and the platform still trails rivals Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in the public cloud market.

While the vendor’s cloud portfolio has evolved significantly this year, gaining ground in the enterprise is not so much about Google’s cloud products, anymore, but its performance, support and partner base.

“There are no major gaps in Google’s offerings in terms of developer and infrastructure services,” Bartoletti said. “It’s now about execution with enterprise customers and building out its partner ecosystem.”

For Google, only time will tell if that’s easier said than done.

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