IBM and VMware cuddle up to service the enterprise

While the world gets all excited about new applications and the public cloud, enterprises have more pressing concerns.

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Interesting news from IBM InterConnect today (Disclusure: IBM contributed to my travel and expenses to attend the event). Big blue is teaming up with VMware in order to give enterprises that use VMware (which, it has to be said, is just about everyone) an easy way to move their workloads to the cloud.

The strategic partnership has created an architecture that allows enterprises to extend an on-premises data center into the cloud. A few years ago this would have been called cloudbursting and touted as a magical way to move spike loads from on-premises infrastructure into the cloud when demand peaks. Since then, however, the world has gotten a little more realistic and cloudbursting is seen as very much an edge case (and a problematic one at that). Now this sort of portability play is more about sensitive information, geographic granularity and having a logical progression from the on-premises world to the cloudy one.

According to the companies, with a single click customers will be able to automatically provision pre-configured or custom VMware environments in any model they choose -- on premises, in the IBM Cloud or both. In terms of go-to market, the two companies will jointly market and sell offerings around hybrid cloud deployment, workload migration and data recovery.

This is an area that a plethora of different vendors have been working on in recent years, in particular, Cliqr, AppZero, Ravello, CloudSwitch and CloudVelocity. However, the critical issue here isn't technology per se, but rather it is licensing, go-to market and coherent sales approaches. Something that this IBM and VMware tie up looks likely to resolve.

There are a couple of interesting angles in this. Firstly, it should be noted that VMware has its own cloud product. vCloud Air is the much touted public cloud offering from VMware that offers a consistent operating system for existing enterprise customers. It is fair to say that in the past year or so there has been much doubt from commentators as to the success of (or, indeed, VMware's commitment to) VCloudAir. This announcement would suggest that VMware realizes it doesn't have the scale to be a true cloud provider and has instead deferred to big blue for this part of the offering. No mention of vCloud Air from VMware at all:

"Customers have embraced the software-defined data center approach as they move toward a more efficient and agile IT model," said Pat Gelsinger, chief executive officer, VMware. "Today’s announcement is another example of our focus on helping customers extend their private cloud workloads into the public cloud. Our customers can efficiently and securely deploy their proven software-defined solutions with sophisticated workload automation to take advantage of the flexibility and cost effectiveness of IBM Cloud."

The other interesting angle is one for IBM itself. I've been largely dismissive of IBM's ability to provide a compelling offering for new companies in the cloud. The fact of the matter is that Amazon Web Services (AWS) and, increasingly, Microsoft Azure, are the default for these sort of companies. I note that IBM is using InterConnect to tell the world that, the link management company that is very much one of these new, more nimble companies, has decided to move to IBM's cloud. is, however, an outlier in the scheme of things and it is, in my view, unlikely that IBM will get serious traction with startup companies.

But where the real money is, and where IBM has historically been a strong player, is in the enterprise. The old adage goes that no one has ever gotten fired for buying IBM. Existing companies wanting an answer to the IT transformation problem are more likely to look to IBM for an answer. The fact that many of these companies run on top of VMware means that this tie-up is totally logical.

"We are reaching a tipping point for cloud as the platform on which the vast majority of business will happen," said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president, IBM Cloud. "The strategic partnership between IBM and VMware will enable clients to easily embrace the cloud while preserving their existing investments and creating new business opportunities."

With the partnership, customers will be able to deploy workloads in a hybrid cloud environment without modification due to common security and networking models based on VMware. IBM will utilize its CloudBuilder tools and workload automation capabilities to provision pre-configured or custom workloads to the cloud validated by VMware's design patterns for software-defined data center architectures.

I've been critical of IBM in the past for chasing after the "cool kids" in the public cloud. This partnership looks to be a far more mature, and pragmatic, approach.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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