So what's different? According to Fathers, VMware has recognized that for the hybrid dream to become reality -- where enterprises can easily move workloads among clouds and manage resources as more or less a single fabric -- VMware must develop a standardized public cloud solution for its partners. Fathers said that VMware has been working on this for a while, and although it doesn't have a name yet, more details will be forthcoming at VMworld.
This hybrid approach has always made sense in theory, but the standardization Fathers is talking about is essential for a unified pubic/private platform, unless you find the idea of ironclad lock-in to a single provider appealing. Similar hybrid goodness is part of the promise of OpenStack -- which envisions an ecosystem of public and private OpenStack clouds across which workloads matriculate easily -- but the OpenStack consortium is years away from making this a reality.
Interestingly, one of the companies furthest along in this vein this is Microsoft, which with Windows Server and System Center 2012 has begun offering hybrid-style integration with Windows Azure. That coincides nicely with dramatic improvements in Hyper-V, plus Microsoft's decision a year ago to loosen up and offer IaaS rather than pushing PaaS only. In addition, Microsoft has its own partner program, where independent service providers can buy a turnkey version of the Azure platform and offer it to customers.
By contrast, VMware has yet to spin up its own offering, so it's unclear whether VMware's IaaS or those of partners will launch first. While Fathers stopped short of suggesting there will be a certification program, he said VMware plans to "choose its partners very carefully at first" to ensure they deliver on the value proposition -- an enterprise-class, VMware-driven cloud. That seems essential for the strategy to succeed.
Fulfilling the hybrid promise
In one sense, it's obvious there's a market for a truly hybrid VMware cloud that can extend the capabilities of enterprises as needed -- and that high-end customers would be willing to pay a premium for that over the "commodity" offerings of, say, Amazon or Rackspace.
But this vision is not new and it's taken a while for VMware to settle on a strategy. The balance between maintaining enterprise quality of service and catching up in the cloud game is going to be tricky. Much will depend on the details of the new public cloud technology package to be offered to partners -- and which partners commit to offering the new service.
I've often wondered: By the time we get all these standardized IaaS offerings ironed out, will enterprises have already turned to SaaS for all but their legacy enterprise applications? By their nature, those legacy apps don't need to scale like, say, public-facing Web apps do. I think there will be a place for VMware hybrid clouds, but they may be the solution of choice for a bygone era.
This article, "VMware takes another whack at the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.