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How VMware will try to shake up the cloud market this week

There have been rumors and speculation. There have been whispers and rumblings. But this week VMware is expected to release details about its plans to launch a public cloud offering, the central part of its new hybrid cloud strategy.

In doing so, VMware is attempting to both reignite its own cloud efforts, and set the company up for future growth to compete with behemoths of the industry, like Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and Rackspace.

But VMware, which touts itself as a partner-focused company, is in somewhat of a precarious position with its newest strategy, with one official from the company actually admitting that it could compete with some of its beloved partners, while opening up new opportunities for others.

[ REVIEW:What's going on with VMware?]

VMware is in one of the best positions of major cloud computing players, and at the same time in one of the shakiest. The company holds valuable real estate at the hypervisor level at data centers across the tech world. This dominant, but eroding, position as a compute virtualization software gives it an opportunity to offer customers a common platform between their on-premises VMware management software, like vSphere, and this new public cloud the company is expected to launch during an event on Tuesday.

Still though, some question how big of a draw that argument of a common management platform will be for customers. It's not necessarily unique in the industry. Microsoft, for example, touts its ability for Office apps to live on premises and scale into the Azure cloud. VMware says all those IT pros who are comfortable using VMware tools on their own premises will feel at home in its public cloud though.

Customers already had an opportunity to use VMware-based public clouds though. Companies like Verizon Terremark, Dell and more than 100 others already have public clouds powered by vCloud Director, so customers technically already have this option of a common management platform for their hybrid cloud. The difference with VMware's public cloud, it says, is that it will be offered directly by VMware itself, not a third-party partner.

That then begs the question, what about the partners who already have VMware clouds out there? "We're not looking to compete with all our vCD partners," says Angelos Kottas, group product marketing manager for VMware Cloud Services. Although, he does admit there will be "some overlap in customer use cases," between current vCD providers and VMware's new offering.

Kottas says there's a big enough pie for everyone, though. vCD partners will have an opportunity to have their own sets of services which they can differentiate based on catering to specific vertical industries, for example, or offering service packages. Core infrastructure, he says, is only a building block; all providers have to offer some sort of value-add on top of that. The broader strategy here, Kottas says, is to "validate and expand VMware as a cloud platform to compete against non-VMware clouds" -- a.k.a. Amazon. "Our intention is to join that community of cloud providers, not replace it," he says. "A rising tide floats all boats."

Others in the cloud industry question it though. John Considine, CTO of Verizon Terremark, which bases its public cloud offering on VMware, says it will not be enough to offer customers a common management platform, like VMware's across their public and private clouds; there are multiple third-party tools that already provide that functionality. Considine used to be CEO of CloudSwitch, one company that specializes in the service, which Verizon bought and has now integrated with Terremark. Verizon-Terremark has been "inclusive" with regards to allowing other management platforms, like those from CA, BMC, RightScale, and others to manage Terremark cloud resources. As those technologies mature in functionality, the advantage of having a common management platform between your public and private clouds decreases, he says.

VMware is betting that will still be an advantage though. As the company faces increasing competition on its legacy strength in the hypervisor market, it is turning to public cloud resources and new initiatives like Pivotal and virtual networking as growth areas for the business. We'll find out just what this public cloud news means for customers and partners on Tuesday when VMware provides additional details.

Network World senior writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at [email protected] and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.


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