VMworld 2017: The Year of the Cloud

clouds.jpgIf you missed VMworld this year, let me attempt to summarize the key themes; Cloud, Cloud, and more Cloud. Officially, VMworld delivered a message of “any app, on any cloud, to any device,” and included themes of mobility and data security. After the moment in the keynote when VMware’s Pat Gelsinger hugged Andy Jassy of Amazon Web Services, however, the only thing that the on-premises infrastructure providers in the audience heard was the word, cloud.

The newly announced capability, VMware Cloud on AWS, is an on-demand service that enables applications to run across vSphere-based cloud environments with access to AWS infrastructure along with some of its services. At a higher level though, the announcement delivers the perfect statement that the hybrid cloud is here and it is here to stay. These two companies that just a short time ago were seen as competitors have now joined forces. The bulk of the questions that will emerge from this announcement, however, will not have to be answered by the public cloud, though. It will be the on-premises infrastructure providers that will have to respond.

VMworld has long presented an ideal venue to stop and reflect on the state of the storage industry. This year’s event only makes that type of reflection even more pertinent. Even with all the excitement around the cloud, we have seen incredible innovation in on-premises infrastructure, all-flash, SDS, hyperconverged, with more on the way with the emergence of NVMe and composable infrastructure. The challenge, however, is not technological. The challenge is at a higher level--the way organizations look at IT is transforming.

You have probably noticed this, or maybe you haven’t, but the world has started to buy storage technology differently. The traditional method of buying hardware where different storage systems are evaluated against each other and the best one is selected, is starting to give way to another approach. Faced with an onslaught of rising IT demands, some businesses simply have come to the realization that architecting IT infrastructure is not their core competency. They want someone else to do it. The default reaction to this is to consider the public cloud, but the off-premises infrastructure isn’t ideal for everyone. It is this desire to have someone else take care of this responsibility that is driving the demand for private cloud, hybrid cloud, or “data center in a box” converged solutions.

It is here that the challenge lies for on-premises storage infrastructure providers. In these solutions, the storage technology is only one component of the solution. It is an important one, but just one of many. Ultimately, this desire to have someone else take care of the IT architecture is creating competition on both sides. On one side is the rise of public cloud, and on the other is the rise of private cloud and converged. In both, storage is important, but only a part of the larger solution. And the purchase decision is often made across all the components in the solution, not just the storage component.

One company that understands this, maybe more than most, is Dell EMC. I assume that this shift in buyer behavior played a major role in the decision of both companies to join forces, and offer a broader IT infrastructure portfolio. For a more recent, and tactical example, however, just look at the list of Dell EMC announcements for VMworld this year.

  • Enhancements to Dell EMC VxRail Appliances
  • Enhancements to Dell EMC VxRack SDDC 
  • Enhancement to Dell EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud
  • Early access availability of Dell EMC Native Hybrid Cloud built on VxRack SDDC
  • Enhancements to VMware Ready Systems from Dell EMC 
  • Enhancements to Dell EMC Data Protection Suite with backup and recovery for VMware Cloud workloads running on Amazon Web Services
  • Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes on Dell EMC’s 14th generation of PowerEdge
  • Availability of XtremIO X2

There is a lot of exciting stuff there, but the important part for me is the heavy dose of converged and hybrid cloud solutions on that list. The IT industry is a conservative one, so it certainly doesn’t change overnight. But it is changing. With the IT infrastructure market landscape evolving, VMware has decided to embrace both on-premises and public cloud infrastructure. And major players in on-premises infrastructure, such as Dell and EMC, are shifting to competing more and more in these higher-level conversations, where storage is only a component of the solution. Dell EMC is not the only infrastructure player undergoing this transformation; other storage infrastructure vendors are devising their own responses to this changing competitive landscape. The vendors that are best able to deliver to both storage buyer types (the ones that want to just buy the best storage system and the ones that want to buy the best infrastructure ecosystem where storage is a component), however, will likely be the infrastructure market winners over the next five to ten years.

Topics: Storage Cloud Services & Orchestration