It's hard not to see why VMware Cloud on AWS, the new partnership between VMware and Amazon, is a big deal. Put together the single biggest name in cloud and the most recognizable name in virtualization, and you have an on-ramp to the cloud that enterprises will have a hard time refusing.
That's the most obvious consequence of this partnership. But look closer, and many other implications rear their heads. Here are the four biggest that spring to mind.
1. Amazon had no real hybrid strategy; now it does
Google and Microsoft both have discernible plans for creating hybrid cloud infrastructures with their respective public clouds. Amazon never did, and for a long time that seemed to reflect its overall strategy. After all, Amazon's strength lay in its widely used, well-understood public cloud offerings. But with this deal, in one swoop Amazon can work with another widely used, well-understood product to make possible a hybrid offering.
2. It was either VMware or OpenStack -- and VMware was the more obvious choice
If Amazon was going to set up a hybrid cloud, it had two choices: Go with an existing solution or create one that uses open source standards. The second route would most likely involve a mix of OpenStack and AWS systems.
Companies have already been taking that second path (such as social software provider Lithium Technologies). But VMware is a far more entrenched solution, with tools like vSphere in wide use to help such moves. As Matt Asay put it, OpenStack needs the likes of AWS far more than AWS needs OpenStack.
3. This is still a long way off, but that won't help competitors like Microsoft
Don't expect VMware Cloud on AWS to be available publicly until well into next year. That makes it sound like Microsoft and other hybrid cloud hopefuls still have a chance to get a leg up on Amazon, but don't bank on it.
For one thing, Microsoft's big hybrid play, Azure Stack, won't come out until at least that time frame. It will also initially be made available on only certified hardware delivered through industry partners, not as software you can add to an existing Windows Server environment.
Granted, VMware has wrung big bucks out of such partnerships in the past and shows every sign of continuing to do so. (Dell/EMC, anyone?) But the current plan implies that existing VMware setups will be able to make use of VMware Cloud on AWS. That's one fewer item to buy and configure -- and one more detail many potential customers are already intimately familiar with.
4. An open source hybrid cloud is still possible for Amazon, but don't bet on it
None of this precludes the possibility that Amazon will eventually unveil plans that make it the public component of a hybrid cloud built entirely on open source. Again, it's possible to cobble together such an item yourself, but that's an unappealing option when other providers -- mainly Google -- are building a hybrid cloud on top of open source and open standards
What's more, Amazon has never really been in the business of supplying such solutions directly to its customers. Turning to a third party is more in line with its overall strategy -- especially if that third party is a household name with a proven track record and tons of outside support.
Finally, hybrid clouds carry with them the assumption that workloads are inherently portable. Almost every step Amazon has made toward moving workloads into the cloud has been a one-way street, such as the recently announced Application Discovery Service. A true hybrid cloud built on open standards is a two-way street, but Amazon's long game is to become the be-all and end-all of enterprise IT. The last thing it wants is to give customers an excuse to rethink their fierce loyalty to AWS.