Canadian channel, customers, positioned to profit from VMware reorientation around cloud

Both VMworld 2017 events ramped up cloud offerings, infrastructure and designations, as VMware rebrands its image to customers around the cloud.

Cloud was front and centre at this week’s VMworld 2017 Europe event in Barcelona. VMware made multiple cloud-focused announcements, including the VMware Cloud Provider Platform, the availability of VMware HCX technologies cloud migration service and a new VMware Cloud Verified Trust Mark. More important than the individual announcements was the sum total of the theme behind them, and their likely impact on customers and partners.

“Throughout this event, as well as at the earlier VMworld event in August in Las Vegas, there has been a subtle undertone in VMware’s branding, where we define what we do,” said Peter Near, Director of Systems Engineering at VMware Canada. “We now refer to what we do as the VMware Cloud.”

Near said that shift is of significance to VMware channel partners.

“It’s important to the channel because it shows VMware moving to a baseline of the new importance of cloud is to our customers and partners,” he indicated. “A year ago, we tended to talk about specific products like NSX and VSAN. We still have those, but now it’s more about the VMware Cloud – and how it gets you to a hybrid or public cloud very quickly.”

Near indicated that VMware’s positioning here is well-timed for Canada.

“I think Canadian business is at an interesting place right now,” he said. “They held off on moving to the public cloud because there hadn’t been a lot of native cloud providers on Canadian soil. Now that the major players have established this presence, a lot of movement has happened this year. We are seeing significant movement to the IBM cloud in Canada, and also a lot of traction on Azure and AWS.”

Canadian customers, not having been early adopters in the public cloud, are well-placed to benefit from the experiences of those who were.

“We have learned a lot of lessons from the mistakes of the early adopters,” Near said. “We also have a much greater toolkit to help customers into the cloud. Canadian business has an advantage right now, in that they are migrating at a more optimal time.”

Near also stressed that VMware’s channel has a critical role to play here.

“VMware Canada is putting a renewed focus on channel partners in Canada,” he said. “We are looking how we can best leverage our partners for strategy around the cloud. We are looking to our partner community to take a leadership role and drive our customers into the hybrid cloud age, which is upon us now in Canada.”

To assist them in this, VMware has announced a new core infrastructure, the VMware Cloud Provider Platform.

“This is one common platform that lets partners create the same platform as they do on-prem, but in a public cloud model, so that the customer can move seamlessly between them,” Near said. “It’s a bundle of software to create a combination of virtual network, virtual compute and virtual storage, that will help our partners get to VMware Cloud Provider status very quickly. It includes VMware Cloud Foundation, as well as the management pieces to build a multi-tenanted cloud on top of that.”

Previous to this, partners would have been using the vCloud Air Network Program for this. It had limitations, however.

“A lot of partners were building unique offerings on top of it, such as a new managed service offering for their customers,” Near said. “That was good. What this didn’t do, however, was provide an ideal hybrid cloud platform. Hybrid cloud assumes you have common standards between what you do on premise and off premise. The Cloud Provider Platform provides that certainty.”

The Cloud Provider Platform provides validated Certified Reference Designs, which establish performance benchmarks and tenant SLAs, and provide hardware and software sizing guidelines for defined scale profiles. VMware Cloud Providers can currently purchase platform components to deploy against the Certified Reference Design through the existing Cloud Provider bundles.

Another major announcement was the availability of VMware HCX technologies, a service which enables multi-cloud and multi-site application migration and portability.

“This is a VMware offering that partners can implement as a service on their Cloud Provider Platform,” Near indicated. “The initial providers are IBM and OVH, but it will be available to other partners as well.”

Near said that while HCX enables cloud to cloud migration, including private clouds, it will be used in Canada mainly as migration or disaster recovery tool. Its ideal use case will be facilitating cloud migrations by customers who have older software.

“Customers say this fills a need that they have,” he said. “If they have an older version of VMware cloud – or even an older hypervisor – there’s a gap in going into the cloud. There’s a major hurdle if your private data centre isn’t current.  HCX lets you move that with no downtime. That’s new, and it’s unique. We have been looking forward to this for customers who need it.”

Near also said that migrations don’t have to be huge for HCX to be a viable proposition.

“You can take a single application and migrate that into the cloud,” he said. “I expect some customers will do this. There are also many scenarios where only some things will be moved because some customers don’t want to put some things in the cloud.”

Finally, VMware is announcing a new class of VMware Cloud Verified partners, signified by a VMware Cloud Verified trust mark, to provide badging for impressing potential customers. The new trust mark identifies partners who have made deep investments in VMware Cloud Infrastructure technologies. Out of the gate, five VMware Cloud Verified partners were named: CenturyLink, Fujitsu, IBM Cloud, OVH and Rackspace.

“From the perspective of someone trying to help partners get to a hybrid cloud, I think the designation is important.” Near said. “There are 400 Cloud Provider partners in Canada, all of whom have their own geo or tech niche that they support. But when they look for someone who can design a hybrid cloud model, customers need to know VMware has the most trust in. This provides a way to whittle down that group from 400 to those who have invested significantly in the hybrid cloud model.”

Near expects to see that number of Cloud Verified partners rise.

“I do expect that will increase as partners determine who wants to be part of the VMware cloud hybrid strategy in Canada,” he said.