With VM world a month away, software license revenues declining 20% year over year and the online cloud computing market growing at double digits VMware needs to catch hold of the cloud trend in a big way—that’s my angle.
VMware marketing has been up to the task, branding a suite of product, services and partners vCloud, but as a daily listener to the cloud blog and Twittersphere I’d say VMware has been a quiet giant. Some cloud computing start-ups such as Eucalyptus have even used enterprise virtualization as the counterpoint to what a cloud really is. VMware has two important beta release projects cooking to help its cloud mojo.
Beta #1 vCloud API
Several cloud players have released public APIs for their offerings—Amazon, Joyent, and recently Rackspace. VMware announced a closed beta for their API at their last major conference in February. Since February public cloud APIs have gone from an interesting vision to a must have integration layer with a growing ecosystem of libraries and bindings . Interest has been so high in Rackspace’s APIs that communities built the basis for language bindings to its compute cloud in the week between its release of the API and its further release of its official, canonical, binding source.
VMware’s key weapon in the fight for cloud centricity is their ownership of the data-center virtualization market, and all of the associated staff developers for those internal deployments. Depending on the granularity of their API it may also allow for third party management software companies to compete in managing VMware clouds. Both of these however are assets in the fight for developer and marketplace API attention. I expect a full launch just before VMworld late in August.
Beta #2 Cloud based application marketplace
Their second, seemingly more nascent, but public beta is the transformation of their virtual application marketplace from a download based system, to an immediate public cloud-hosted one. This is pretty interesting—as far back as I can remember in my virtualization strategy days there was always big talk about the transformation of software packaging (iTunes for enterprise apps). With over 1k application variations in their marketplace they have begun to demonstrate the potential of shipping pre-configured application/OS packages—for now very few are ready in the cloud, but more should follow as the beta rolls on.
Is there a huge market waiting for what is essentially sorta-SaaS? It reminds me of a kit homes—they still needs configured an operated. For now there is one clear target customer—enterprise software sales teams eager to speed POCs. Check out IT Structures, the company built around this value proposition, and an on stage demonstrator for the vCloud API.
More importantly perhaps this step begins to couple vCloud technologies with cloud hosting providers. While VMware touts several mid-tier hosting partners they certainly could be more visible in the public cloud market aimed at rapid deployments, often measured in hours or days.
So what? (Growth?)
VMware has shown itself to be the enterprise standard technology for virtualization and server consolidation. The success of these two beta programs, along with the growth rate of their public cloud ecosystem and credibility, will go a long way in determining if they were a bridge technology to the cloud computing era, or a durable and central figure in it.
One of the major trends of the last year has been a deceleration of enterprise application provider growth rates (Oracle, VMware, SAP, Microsoft) as public, convenient compute commodities have seen rapid growth. The Cloud Collision is all about a demand for speed, scale and convenience outweighing the traditional long design and deployment cycles of enterprise IT bureaucracies. With cloud computing, applications such as Google and Facebook have taken the trend leadership mantle from enterprise software architects—VMware is clearly allied with big IT, but I suspect it needs some of the cloud trend to return to double digit growth.