Cloud Insights from Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Windows Server & System Center
Earlier this week I examined what we at Microsoft mean when we use the term “Hybrid Cloud.” If ever there were a time to get really specific about our vocabulary, this was it!
Now that our definition is clear, I want to go one step further and discuss how this strategy is different from what other cloud providers are offering and why other cloud providers can’t or won’t offer it. I’ll also outline a couple of the direct benefits of Hybrid Cloud deployment (which is a point I’ll return to often throughout this series).
A few months ago I noted that the reason Microsoft focuses so much on consistency across clouds is pretty straightforward: If you have consistency across clouds you can have VM and service mobility, and with a consistent cloud experience you can make decisions about where you want to host your services based on business needs rather than technology limitations.
This perspective is shared increasingly often within the industry, and this forward-thinking approach has significantly impacted the market share of other cloud providers, such as VMware.
Microsoft has focused on creating a hybrid model that is dramatically different and more functional than any other cloud approach in the industry. This hybrid functionality comes in-box, at enterprise scale, within the Windows software you already know and love – and this simplified and streamlined setup is very good news for enterprises that need to simplify and streamline their IT infrastructure.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not downplaying the technical elements at work here. Making a Hybrid Cloud interoperable, enabling friction free data movement, and delivering a seamless end-user experience is an extraordinarily technical process under the hood – but the Hybrid Cloud model shifts much of the burden of these complexities to Microsoft.
Our cloud-first approach to building the products that enable a Hybrid Cloud means that we have already addressed the enormous technical complexities required to make heterogeneous platforms work together, build upon one another, and deliver a unified end-user experience.
The way we apply this cloud-first principle into our public cloud (Azure) and private cloud (Windows Server and System Center) products is a serious point of differentiation between Microsoft and our competitors. The products currently marketed by AWS and VMware are two noteworthy examples.
Amazon’s approach asks organizations to use a cloud that is entirely public (unless you happen to be the CIA) and they insist that private clouds are “ill-advised” and “archaic.” This extreme point of view puts a business in the position of needing to empty its on-prem datacenter into a vast external space. Then, if it wants hybrid functionality, Amazon’s support for VM mobility between the public cloud and on-prem relies on a patchwork of partner solutions that falls well short of the enterprise-grade user experience that’s readily available with System Center and the Windows Azure Pack. If you want to maintain some ownership and control over your data while using the cloud for scale on-demand, AWS is simply not an option.
This point is something that hasn’t been overlooked by the industry. In an earlier post I noted how the strengths of our Hybrid Cloud approach were exposing the gaps in our competitors’ offerings. In particular, I noted that TechCrunch among others have seen that Microsoft’s new services are challenging Amazon. The Hybrid Cloud model is a move away from one-size-fits-all cloud offerings, and it instead provides enterprises with options. These options are a fundamentally different thing from AWS’s current approach; Microsoft’s Hybrid Cloud flexibility is a superior solution for today’s IT challenges.
VMware takes a different approach. As the name suggests, the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) offers a more explicit focus on helping customers with Hybrid solutions. Once you get past a good brand name, however, things get murky.
To begin, VMware simply does not have the experience of running massive, global public cloud services like Microsoft does. I’ve spoken repeatedly on this blog about what we have learned from running the 200+ cloud services we operate in datacenters all over the globe for organizations in every conceivable industry, and the importance of this cannot be overstated. If you are an organization with workloads or data that need to be secure, always available, and high performance – then Microsoft’s Hybrid Cloud approach is second to none. VMware’s weakness in this area is underscored by both a lack of experience and the lack of a truly global datacenter footprint.
If you’re an organization that needs to scale on-demand, rapidly respond to your customers, and maintain total control over your data at all times, the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud model is a pragmatic choice.
The question of “Why build a Microsoft Hybrid Cloud?” is a matter of asking what your organization needs today and five years from today. A Hybrid Cloud enables an organization to optimize IT resources by keeping critical data on-prem, while providing limitless scale, compute, storage, and networking for the countless day-to-day needs of your operation and your workforce. The Hybrid Cloud model creates a self-service, made-to-order cloud service that can be quickly and easily tailored to the needs of your organization.
Here’s another way to look at it: Other cloud providers will never suggest that every enterprise has the same cloud computing needs, but they persist in offering a single, one-size-fits-all cloud solution. Only Microsoft offers the variety of cloud resources capable of supporting the multi-faceted, rapidly changing needs of today’s businesses.
“Why Microsoft’s Hybrid Cloud?” is also a simple matter of money. The Microsoft Hybrid Cloud model gives you the ability to fine tune your cloud for exactly what your organization needs. This means that instead of a one-size-fits-all cloud platform, you can actively upgrade the features you need and eliminate the ones you don’t. This kind of customization means your efficiency can spike while your costs drop. These adjustments and costs savings can be the determining factor when you start to look at your capex and opex budgets.
The Hybrid Cloud also impacts the nature of the information in your datacenter. If you have data that is sensitive, if your industry requires data to stay within your building or your geographic area, if the risk of data loss/failure is pervasive, or if there are civil compliance issues regulating that information – you need total control over where the data goes, how it is accessed, and how it is used. This kind of accessibility, control, and security are hallmarks of the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud model.
These elements and these outcomes will get covered in greater depth in the next post – a detailed look at the specific technology and tools (automation, self-service, templates, etc.) at work within a Hybrid Cloud.
I respectfully disagree with Brad about VMware's experience with public clouds. VMware has worked with its partner community to build public clouds using their virtualization and management stack. Terramark, CSC, and Bluelock, are a few examples of where this has occurred. VMware also has extensive experience helping Enterprises implement private clouds. So although VMware didn't direct experience managing a public cloud of their own before launching vCHS, you can argue their service is a culmination of their experiences in the partner and enterprise arenas. I also have an issue with Brad's criticism of VMware's global footprint. There are probably 2-3 providers on the planet that can launch a service across the globe all at once. Even Azure, when it was first launched, wasn't available in all geographies.
Thanks for your comment, Jim.
I agree with you regarding VMware’s work with partners.
As you correctly call out, the partners are building and operating the datacenters – not VMware. These partners are also assuming on all the costs and risk – not VMware. These partners are also the ones managing the supply chain – not VMware. On top of all this, the partners are tracking the COGS and they are the ones incentivized to drive the COGS down – not VMware. Ultimately this means that all of the costs and risks are dropped entirely on these partners – not VMware.
This lack of ownership from VMware should really scare their ecosystem and stakeholders.
This is simply not a part of the industry where you can head-fake your way through these important issues, and it’s definitely not a place where there is any substitute for actually DOING.
VMWare simply cannot match Microsoft's expertise in this area, and Microsoft remains the only global service provider to apply this firsthand experience and knowledge directly to our customers and partners in the form of our products.
Thanks for the reply Brad. I agree with everything you said about VMware's VSPP partner ecosystem, however, vCHS is owned and operated by VMware, not its partners. And yes, VMware doesn't have as much experience as Microsoft at managing a large data center footprint, but it's rapidly accumulating the talent and knowledge to compete effectively.
Microsoft and VMware both have their unique strengths [and weaknesses]. As IT matures, I really see it becoming a broker of IT services where it presents different options to application owners about where they can run their workloads. Owners might choose the lowest cost option, best performing, fastest time to market, ability to meet different regulatory requirements, and so on depending on their priorities. As much as I like Azure, I think the future will be a multi-cloud world.