For real this time? Oracle, VMware talk up the cloud

Sure, AWS has a huge lead, but how many enterprise workloads does it run? Oracle and VMware tout hybrid schemes to capture them

For real this time? Oracle, VMware talk up the cloud

In an ideal world, would anyone want to run their own IT?

It’s a huge hassle. As soon as you invest in technology, the countdown to obsolescence begins, and challenges like scalability and security turn mild-mannered people into raving lunatics. Sure, you need developers and designers and engineers for your core processes, customer experience, and market differentiation. But the platform? Please, let someone else take care of it.

Such is the lure of the public cloud. But alas, our world falls short of ideal, and existing workloads do not matriculate easily. Some enterprise workloads operate on data bound by regulation to stay on premises. Others would need to be refactored so radically to move elsewhere that it’s simply not worth it.

That’s why the industry keeps coming up with hybrid cloud schemes -- similar private/public cloud environments that, theoretically at least, make workload migration and cross-cloud management much easier. Last week I interviewed Oracle about its evolving hybrid PaaS effort. I also spoke with VMware about the hybrid announcements rolling out at this week’s VMworld conference.

Oracle cranks up the cloud machine

Amit Zavery, Oracle senior vice president for cloud platform and integration products, describes Oracle’s public cloud PaaS as offering nearly everything imaginable, from business analytics to data integration to a Java app dev platform using good old WebLogic, with (of course) cloud-native versions of the Oracle database underlying everything. Oracle has also provisioned open source technologies as Hadoop, Spark, and Kafka as a service -- and even provides Docker as a service, says Zavery.

Hey, guess what? You can duplicate this entire Oracle public cloud stack on a private cloud known as Oracle Cloud Machine, which is aptly named because Oracle delivers it to you on a truck, pre-installed on a bunch of Oracle servers. Oracle manages Cloud Machine remotely for its customers to ensure everything functions properly and stays concurrent with its public cloud. That’s some big-ticket hybrid foo, similar in spirit to Microsoft’s Azure Stack bundles due next year.

So what are customers doing with Oracle’s PaaS? Not surprisingly, dev and test is No. 1, says Zavery, followed by integration, such as linking Oracle enterprise SaaS applications to on-prem systems. But a lack of concrete information about customers, not to mention the controversy earlier this year around inflation of Oracle cloud revenue, makes you wonder how much adoption has really occurred.

In the end, the most interesting assertion from Zavery was that an increasing number of customers are moving legacy applications to Oracle’s public cloud.

After all, how many other public clouds feature fully managed WebLogic as a service? To me, providing a home for legacy enterprise workloads that depend on Oracle technology seems like Oracle’s big cloud niche. Regardless, all signs point to Oracle kicking its cloud marketing machine into high gear at September’s Oracle OpenWorld. Perhaps we’ll even find out what’s been happening with Nimbula, the IaaS startup founded by ex-Amazonians that Oracle acquired in 2013.

VMware floats its hybrid play

VMware still runs the lion’s share of enterprise virtualization workloads. Plus, VMware’s long roster of vCloud and vRealize products together provide the infrastructure for the vast majority of private clouds, though whether you can call them “clouds” rather than virtual server farms varies from case to case.

Given all those enterprise VMware workloads, it seems natural that the company would try to extend its virtual infrastructure to the public cloud, providing a hybrid solution for customers -- not only including server virtualization, but network (NSX) and storage virtualization (VSAN) as well. Yet the company’s attempt to build out its own public cloud, vCloud Air, has been widely regarded as unsuccessful.

Now, as InfoWorld’s Serdar Yegulalp reports today, VMware is spreading its public cloud bets to include two new offerings: VMware Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services. Cloud Foundation rolls together the VMware cloud suite, adding a new SDDC Manager to automate deployment and lifecycle management. Cross-Cloud Services, still in development, promises to enable VMware admins to manage VMware stacks across private and public clouds, including those hosted on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, or IBM Cloud.

IBM is the leading partner here. A deal in which IBM said it would run VMware workloads on its SoftLayer cloud was announced last February, and according to VMware, Cross-Cloud Services will debut sometime this year on IBM’s cloud.

Wooing enterprise workloads

The truth is, the public cloud is not a panacea. Yes, pre-provisioned services can make life easier, but infrastructure still needs to be managed -- even if it’s software-defined and runs on someone else’s servers. Enterprise customers who jump into the public cloud quickly discover they need to learn a whole new set of management and monitoring tools.

The idea of extending on-prem Oracle and VMware environments to the public cloud has appeal. The same people who have been managing on-prem infrastructure will need little retraining and workloads can be moved easily. That's also the idea behind Microsoft’s Azure Stack hybrid play.

Such hybrid schemes should make it easier to move enterprise workloads to the cloud. But the hybrid idea is not new, and so far these schemes seem to be having trouble achieving liftoff. At a certain point, rather than seeking new ways to extend legacy applications and infrastructure to the cloud, replacing them with better stuff built in new, service-rich cloud environments is going to make more sense.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.