Analysis: AWS-VMware Partnership a 'Win-Win'

The newly minted hybrid cloud partnership between VMware Inc. and Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) promises to be a boon for the two companies' mutual customers.

Under the terms of the deal unveiled Thursday, the two companies will deliver a vSphere-based cloud service running on AWS called "VMware Cloud on AWS." The service will bring VMware's enterprise-class software-defined datacenter (SDDC) software to the AWS cloud and an integrated hybrid cloud environment.

Other VMware products, including VSAN and NSX, will run on the AWS cloud, the companies said, and the service will be optimized to run on dedicated, bare-metal AWS infrastructure built specifically for the service.

"This is the best of both worlds," said VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger. "The best of public cloud coming together with the best of private cloud for a seamless hybrid service."

Going forward, AWS will be VMware's primary public cloud infrastructure partner and VMware will be AWS's primary private cloud partner, explained AWS CEO Andy Jassy, which will relieve both company's customers from the need to choose between the two.

"Our customers faced a binary decision," Jassy said. "Either I use the VMware software and it's hard to actually use AWS for public cloud, or I use AWS and public cloud and I have to leave behind VMware software. Understandably, they didn't like that choice."

Jassy and Gelsinger spoke to reporters during a press conference in San Francisco on Thursday announcing the partnership. This integration was jointly architected and marks the start of a long strategic relationship between the one-time rivals, they said.

"This is the beginning of a rich cycle of innovation that we believe will last for many, many capabilities that are yet to be innovated by our teams," Jassy said.

VMware Cloud on AWS will be delivered, sold and supported by VMware as an on-demand, elastically scalable service running on purpose-built hardware in AWS's datacenters. The service will be powered by VMware Cloud Foundation, a unified SDDC platform that integrates vSphere, VSAN and NSX, and which is designed to run on next-generation, elastic, bare-metal AWS infrastructure.

Components of "VMware Cloud on AWS." (Source: Jeff Barr blog post/AWS)

VMware plans to sell the service, which is currently in beta, through its customers' existing commercial agreements, and will announce additional loyalty discounts, the company said in a statement. It will also be available through the Amazon Marketplace. VMware Cloud on AWS is scheduled for general available in mid-2017.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa sees the partnership as a "win-win" for both companies' customers. "It enables customers to run their existing applications using the two companies' products and services," he said. "I think that's what a lot of VMware customers are asking for, in terms of moving workloads in the cloud, but making as few changes as possible to their applications."

Earlier this year, VMware also partnered with IBM, a company with its own cloud ambitions. Since that partnership was announced, those two organizations jointly developed the VMware Cloud Foundation and "fueled a new ecosystem" of partners that support IBM and VMware solutions, including Intel, HyTrust, Veeam Software and Zerto, said an IBM spokesperson via e-mail.

"IBM is a huge and important partner for us ... and we are very committed to continuing to deliver on that relationship," Gelsinger said when asked about the other partnership. "Today's announcement is about responding to our customers, who are asking us for this particular capability. They asked us to come together, and we're excited about this announcement."

Hilwa noted that IBM has been a leading provider of bare-metal capabilities that are essential for hosting low-level hypervisor technologies. "I find it interesting that AWS has come around to offering bare-metal capabilities, albeit in a tight partnership approach," he said.

"When we say 'bare metal,' obviously Amazon has done things to enable us to have a true ESX-hosted environment at the bottom," Gelsinger said. "It is the full SDDC stack: vSphere, ESX, NSX, VSAN, plus automated lifecycle management."

Launching a VMware environment on AWS provides a cluster running the entire SDDC stack in the public cloud, but customers won't need the entire stack to use the hybrid management, Gelsinger said; all they need is vSphere.

"Our customers were very clear with us," Jassy added. "They do not want a solution that will force them to buy more hardware. They want to use the same software they have been using for many years to run their infrastructure on premises."

VMware instances running in the AWS cloud will also have access to some other services, including the Amazon Redshift data warehouse solution and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

"We see this hybrid world as decades ahead for us," Gelsinger said. "There's a whole variety of reasons that people will continue to operate their private cloud and on-premises environments. Some are regulatory; some are geographic. [Thursday's] announcement is about bringing them together in a powerful way, enabling customers to have that enterprise-grade VMware experience with scalable, dynamic capabilities."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at


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