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Continuation of Any Cloud, Any Device & Any App strategy – An update from VMworld 2018 Europe

The beginning

As an avid technologist, I’ve always had a thing for disruptive technologies, especially those that are not just cool tech but also provide genuine business benefits. Some of these benefits are obvious at first, but some are often not even anticipated until after a technology innovation has been achieved.

VMware’s inception: Through the emulation of X86 computing components within software was one of these moments where the power of software driven computing started a whole new shift in the IT industry. In an age of Hardware centric IT, this software defined computing technology paved way to achieve genuine cost savings through consolidation of multiple servers in to a handful of servers instead. For me back then as a lowly server engineer, introduction to this technology was one of those “goose bump” moments, especially when I thought about the possibilities of where this technology innovation could take us going forward, especially when that’s extended beyond just computing.

Fast forward about 12 more years, the software defined capabilities extended beyond compute in to storage and networking too, paving the way for brand new possibilities such as cloud computing. Recognising the commoditisation of this software defined approach by various other vendors, VMware strategically changed their direction to focus on building tools and solutions that provide customers the choice to run any application, on any cloud platform, accessible by any end user device (PC & Mobile). This strategy was launched back in 2015 and I’ve blogged about it here.

Continuation of a solid strategy

Following on from vSphere, vSAN and NSX as pillars of core software defined data center (SDDC), last couple of years showed how this vision from VMware was coming in to reality through the launch of various new solutions as well as modernisation of exiting solutions. IBM cloud (based on SDDC) & VMware Cloud on AWS (based on SDDC) were launched to harness cloud computing capabilities for customers without having to re-platform their workloads saving transformation costs. Along with over 2000 VMware Cloud Provider partner platforms (built on SDDC) all of whom that runs these very same technologies underneath their cloud platforms, this common architecture enabled customers to easily move their workload from on premises to any of these platforms relatively easily. Introduction of technologies such as VMware HCX last year made it even easier through one click migration of these workloads as well as the ability to move a running workload on to a cloud platform with zero downtime (Cloud motion).

In addition to the core infrastructure components, the existing infrastructure management and monitoring toolset deployed on-premises (vRealize suite) was also revamped over the last few years such that they can manage and monitor these environments across all these cloud platforms. vRealize suite was now one of the best Cloud Management Platforms that could provision workloads on to on-prem & on native cloud platforms such as AWS and Azure providing a single pane of glass.

NSX capabilities were also extended to cloud platforms to effectively bring cloud platforms closer to on-premises data centers via network adjacency providing customers easy migration and fall back choices while maintaining networking integrity across both platforms. With these updates, the vision of “Any Cloud” became more of a reality, though most of the use cases were limited to IaaS capabilities across the cloud platforms.

During last year, VMware also launched a number of fully managed, born in the cloud SaaS applications under the category of VMware Cloud Services (v1.0) aimed at extending this “Any Cloud” capabilities to cover none IaaS platforms. These SaaS offerings enabled ability to provision, manage and run cloud native workloads on none vSphere based cloud platforms such as Azure and native AWS platforms. These extended the “Any cloud” capabilities right in to various PaaS platforms too enabling better value to customers. A list of these new solutions and updates were listed on my previous post here.

Last few years also showed us how VMware intended on achieving the “Any Device” vision through the Workspace One platform & Air Watch. Incremental feature upgrades ensured that support for a wide array of end user computing and mobile devices to consume various enterprise IT services in a consistent, secure manner, regardless of where the applications & the data are hosted (on-premises or cloud). These updates include support for key none vSphere based cloud platforms and even competitive technologies such as Citrix providing customers plenty of choice to use any device of their choice to access applications hosted via all major avenues such as Mobile / PC / VDI / Citrix / Microsoft RDS.

“Any App” vision of enabling customers deploy and run any application was all about providing support for traditional (VM) based apps, micro-services based apps (containers) and SaaS apps. The partnership with Google for the implementation formed and new products such as PKE were also launched to provision, manage and run container workloads via an enterprise grade Kubernetes platform, both on premises as well as on cloud platforms, making the Any App strategy also a reality.

Update in 2018!

2018’s VMworld (Europe) messaging was very much an incremental continuation of this same multi-platform, multi app and multi device strategy, adding additional capabilities for core use cases. Some of the new updates also showed how VMware are also adding new use cases such as Edge computing and IoT solutions in to the mix.

Some of the key updates to note from VMworld 2018 include,

  • Heptio acquisition:    To strengthen the VMware’s Kubernetes platform offerings (Complements on-premises focused PKS as well as a SaaS offering for managed Kubernetes in VKE)
  • VMware Cloud PKS:    PKS as a Service (managed by VMware) on AWS with support coming for VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure, GCP and vSphere
  • Project Dimension:    Fully managed VMware Cloud Foundation solution for on-premises with Hybrid Cloud control plane. Beta announced!
  • Launch of VCF 3.5:    Latest version of Cloud Foundation with incremental updates and cloud integration via HCX.
  • CloudHealth in VCS:    Integration of recently acquired CloudHealth in to the VMware cloud services (SaaS offering) portfolio which now extends the cloud platform cost monitoring and resource management as a SaaS offering with better cloud scalability than vROPs
  • Pulse IoT center aaS:    IoT Infrastructure management solution previously available as an on-premises solution now available as a service. Beta announced!
  • New SaaS solutions:    Additional solutions are announced such as Cloud Assembly (vRA aaS), Service broker & Code stream to enhance DevOps app delivery & management.
  • VMware Blockchain:    Enterprise blockchain service inherently more secure than public blockchain that is integrated to underlying VMware tools and technologies for enterprises to consume.

Amongst these, there were also other minor incremental updates to existing tools and solutions such as vRealize suite 2018, Log Intelligence, Wavefront updates to provide application telemetry data (similar to App Dynamics) from container based deployments, vSphere & vSAN incremental updates, availability of vSphere platinum edition (with bundled in AppDefense) that learn (Good app behaviour), lock (the state in) and adapts security (based on changes to the application), Adaptive micro-segmentation via integrating NSX & AppDefense, Increased geo availability of VMware Cloud on AWS (Ireland, Tokyo, N California, Ohio, Gov clud west), availability of AWS RDS on vSphere on premises to name few.

In addition to the above based on the previously established Any Cloud, Any Device & Any App strategy, VMware are also embracing different target markets such as Telco clouds by offering industry specific solutions through the use of their VeloCloud technologies, in preparation for the 5G revolution that is imminent in the industry and large telco Vodafone are helping VMWare co-engineer and test these solutions to ensure their business relevance.

So all in all, there weren’t any attention grabbing headline announcements in this year’s VMworld event, but the focus was rather on providing evidence of the execution of that strategy set back in 2015/2016. VMware’s increasing pivoting to Cloud based solutions is becoming more and more obvious as almost all the net new products and solutions announced within 2017 and 2018 VMworlds are all SaaS offerings managed by VMware. This is a powerful message and customers seem to take note too, if the record breaking 12,000 attendees of VMworld 2018 Europe is anything to go by.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, as these technology updates and new innovation is continuing, no doubt there will be additional use cases being realised, and the associated business requirements previously not envisioned being established. In an age of rapid advancements of technology that often driving new business requirements retrospectively, I like how VMware are pushing ahead with a coherent technology strategy focused on providing customer the choice to benefit from innovations across these technology platforms.

VMworld 2017 US – VMware Strategy & My Thoughts

This is a quick post to summerise all the key announcements from VMworld 2017 US event and share my thoughts and insights of the strategy and the direction of VMware, the way I see it.

Key Announcements

A number of announcements were made during the week on products and solutions and below is a high level list of those to recap.

  • Announced the launch of the VMware Cloud Services which consists of 2 main components
    • VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC)
      • Consist of VMware vSphere + vSAN + NSX
      • Running on AWS data centers (bare metal)
      • A complete Public Cloud platform consisting of VMware Software Defined Data Center components
      • Available as a
    • A complete Hybrid-Cloud infrastructure security, management & monitoring & Automation solution made available through a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform
      • Work natively with VMware Cloud on AWS
      • Also work with legacy, on-premises VMware data center
      • Also work with native AWS, Azure and Google public cloud platforms
  • Next generation of network virtualisation solution based NSX-T (aka NSX Multi hypervisor)
    • Version 2.0 announced
    • Supports vSphere & KVM
    • Likely going to be strategically more important to VMware than the NSX-v (vSphere specific NSX that is commongly used today by vSphere customers). Think What ESXi was for VMware when ESX was still around, during early days!

 

 

  • Next version of vRealize Network Insight (version 3.5) released
    • Various cloud platform integrations
    • Additional on-premises 3rd party integrations (Check Point FW, HP OneView, Brocade MLX)
    • Support for additional NSX component integration (IPFIX, Edge dashboard, NSX-v DFW PCI dashboard)

 

  • VMware AppDefense
    • A brand new application security solution that is available via VMware Cloud Services subscription

 

  • VMware Pivotal Container Services (PKS) as a joint collaboration between VMware, Pivotal & Google (Kubernetes)
    • Kubernetes support across the full VMware stack including NSX & vSAN
    • Support for Sever-Less solution capabilities using Functions as a Service (Similar to AWS Lambda or Azure Functions)
    • Enabling persistent storage for stateful applications via the vSphere Cloud Provider, which provides access to vSphere storage powered by vSAN or traditional SAN and NAS storage,
    • Automation and governance via vRealize Automation and provisioning of service provider clouds with vCloud Director,
    • Monitoring and troubleshooting of virtual infrastructure via VMware vRealize Operations
    • Metrics monitoring of containerized applications via Wavefront.

 

  • Workspace One enhancements and updates
    • Single UEM platform for Windows, MacOS, Chrome OS, IOS and Android
    • Integration with unique 3rd party endpoint platform API’s
    • Offer cloud based peer-to-peer SW distribution to deploy large apps at scale
    • Support for managing Chrome devices
    • Provides customers the ability to enforce & manage O365 security policies and DLP alongside all of their applications and devices
    • Workspace One intelligence to provide Insights and automation to enhance user experience (GA Q4 FY18)
  • VMware Integrated OpenStack 4.0 announced
    • OpenStack Ocata integration
    • Additional features include
      • Containerized apps alongside traditional apps in production on OpenStack
      • vRealize Automation integration to enable OpenStack users to use vRealize Automation-based policies and to consume OpenStack components within vRealize Automation blueprints
      • Increased scale and isolation for OpenStack clouds enabled through new multi-VMware vCenter support
    • New pricing & Packaging tier (not free anymore)
  • VMware Skyline
    • A new proactive support offering aligned to global support services
    • Available to Premier support customers (North America initially)
    • Requires an appliance deployment on premise
    • Quicker time to incident resolution

Cross Cloud Architecture Strategy & My Thoughts

VMware announced the Cross Cloud Architecture (CCA) back in VMworld 2016 where they set the vision for VMware to provide the capability to customers to run & manage any application, on any cloud using any device. This was ambitious and was seen as the first step towards VMware recognising that running vSphere on premise should no longer be VMware’s main focus and they want to provide customers with choice.

This choice of platform options were to be,

  • Continue to run vSphere on premise if that is what you want to do
  • OR, let customers run the same vSphere based SDDC stack on the cloud which can be spun up in minutes in a fully automated way (IaaS)
  • OR, run the same workload that used to run on a VMware SDDC platform on a native public cloud platform such as AWS or Azure or Google cloud or IBM Cloud

During that VMworld, VMware also demoed the capability of NSX to bridge all these various private and public cloud platforms through the clever use of NSX to extend networks across all of those platforms. Well, VMworld 2017 has shown additional steps VMware have taken to make this cross cloud architecture even more of a reality. VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC) now lets you spin up a complete VMware based Software Defined Data Center running vSphere on vSAN connected by NSX through a simple web page, much similar to how Azure and AWS native infrastructure platforms allows you to provision VM based infrastructure on demand. Based on some initial articles, this could even be cheaper than running vSphere on-premise which is great news for customers. In addition to this price advantage, when you factor in the rest of Total Cost of Ownership factors such as maintaining on premise skill to set up and manage the infrastructure platforms that are no longer needed, the VMC platform is likely going to be extremely interesting to most customers. And most importantly, most customers will NOT need to go through costly re-architecting of their monolithic application estate to fit a native cloud IaaS platform which simplifies cloud migration of their monolithic application stack. And if that is not enough, you also can carry on managing & securing that workload using the same VMware management and security toolset, even on the cloud too.

When you then consider the announcement of VMware Cloud Services (VCS) offering as a SaaS solution, it now enables integrating a complete VMware hybrid cloud management toolset in to various platforms and workloads, irrespective of where they reside. VCS enables the discovery, monitoring, management and securing of those workloads across different platforms, all through a single pane of glass which is a pretty powerful message that no other public cloud provider can claim to provide in such a heterogeneous manner. This holistic management and security platform allows customers to provision, manage and secure any workload (Monolithic or Microservices based) on any platform (vSphere on premise, VMC on AWS, native AWS, native Azure, Native Google cloud) to be accessed on any device (workstation, laptop, Pad or a mobile). That to me is a true Cross Cloud vision becoming a reality and my guess is once the platform matures and capabilities increase, this is going to be very popular amongst almost all customers.

In addition to this CCA capabilities, VMware obviously appear to be shifting their focus from the infrastructure layer (read “virtual machine”) to the actual application layer, focusing more on enabling application transformation and application security which is great to see. As many have already, VMware too are embracing the concept of containers, not only as a better application architecture but also as the best way to decouple the application from the underlying infrastructure and using containers as a shipping mechanism to enable moving applications across to public cloud (& back). The announcement of various integrations within their infrastructure stack to Docker ecosystem such as Kubernetes testifies to this and would likely be welcomed by customers. I’d expect such integration to continue to improve across all of VMware’s SDDC infrastructure stack. With VMware solutions, you can now deploy container based applications on on-premise vSphere using VIC or Photon or even VMC or a native public cloud platform, store them on vSAN with volume plugins on premise or on cloud, extend the network to the container instance via NSX (on premise or on cloud), extend visibility in to container instance via vRNI and vROPS (on premise or cloud) and also automate provisioning or most importantly, migration of these container apps across on-premise or public cloud platforms as you see fit.

NSX cloud for example will let you extend all the unique capabilities of software defined networking such as micro-segmentation, security groups and overlay network extensions to not just within private data centers but also to native public cloud platforms such as AWS & Azure (roadmap) which enriches the capabilities of a public cloud platform and increases the security available within the network.

My Thoughts

All in all, it was a great VMworld where VMware have genuinely showcased their Hybrid Cloud and Cross Cloud Architecture strategy. As a technologist that have been working with VMware for a while, it was pretty obvious that a software centric organisation like VMware, similar to the likes of Microsoft was always gonna embrace changes, especially changes driven by software such as the public cloud. However most people, especially sales people in the industry I work in as well as some of the customers were starting to worry about the future of VMware and their relevance in the increasingly Cloudy world ahead. This VMworld has showcased to all of those how VMware has got a very good working strategy to embrace that software defined cloud adoption and empower customers by giving them the choice to do the same, without any tie in to a specific cloud platform. The soaring, all time high VMware share price is a testament that analysts and industry experts agree with this too.

If I was a customer, I would want nothing more!

Keen to get your thoughts, please submit via comments below

Other Minor VMworld 2017 (Vegas) Announcements

  • New VMware & HPe partnership for DaaS
    • Include Workspace ONE to HPe DaaS
    • Include Unified Endpoint Management through Airwatch
  • Dell EMC to offer data protection to VMC (VMware Cloud on AWS)
    • Include Data Domain & Data protection app suite
    • Self-service capability
  • VCF related announcements
    • CenturyLink, Fujitsu & Rackspace to offer VCF + Services
    • New HCI and CI platforms (VxRack SDDC, HDS UCP-RS, Fujitsu PRIMEFLEX, QCT QxStack
    • New VCF HW partners
      • Cisco
      • HDS
      • Fujitsu
      • Lenovo
  • vCloud Director v9 announced
    • GA Q3 FY18
  • New vSphere scale-out edition
    • Aimed at Big data and HPC workloads
    • Attractive price point
    • Big data specific features and resource optimisation within vSphere
    • Includes vDS
  • VMware Validated Design (VVD) 4.1 released
    • Include a new optional consolidated DC architecture for small deployments
  • New VMware and Fujitsu partnerships
    • Fujitsu Cloud Services to delivery VMware Cloud Services
  • DXC Technology partnership
    • Managed Cloud service with VMC
    • Workload portability between VMC, DXC DCs and customer’s own DCs
  • Re-announced VMware Pulse IoT Center  with further integration to VMware solutions stack to manage IoT components

 

Cheers

Chan