Recent times have seen Amazon Web Services soften up the marketplace to the idea of a more nuanced take on the cloud, one which embraces traditional on-premises models and may even go as far as to offer a high-fidelity hybrid option. Rumors about that this might be closer than we all think.

Only four years ago at its global worldwide partner conference, VMware’s chief executive, Pat Gelsinger, did some intense fist waving in the direction of Amazon Web Services (AWS) stating that:

If a workload goes to Amazon, you lose, and we have lost forever. We want to own corporate workload. … we all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds. We want to extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both. Own the corporate workload now and forever.

That seems to be a pretty cut and dried stake-in-the-ground from which there is little potential deviation. But this is the technology industry and things change. Fast forwards to the end of last year where, at its annual customer conference, AWS’ CEO Andy Jassy was bullish about the potential synergies alongside VMware and proceeded to wax poetic about the newly announced partnership with the virtualization company – a partnership which pragmatically allows organizations to move to the cloud but within the context of their current reality which is often a VMware virtualized one.

And so, given this thawing in relationships, and apparently more pragmatic view about the realities that enterprises face, it was interesting to read an article in The Information which, citing anonymous sources, suggested that the two vendors, once bitter enemies, are in talks about developing a specific data center product. Yes, AWS, the organization that for a decade or more has been articulating exactly why enterprise data centers are no longer needed, teaming up with one of the industry’s biggest data center vendors to do a joint product.

As with all of these rumor-based articles, there is nothing really concrete for us to get our teeth into, but the suggestion is made that, much like Microsoft’s newly available Azure Stack offering, and OpenStack’s open source cloud operating system, this would be a stack-like product that could be run on customers-own infrastructure. The Information is reporting that the new service was originally scheduled for launch in mid-2017, but may now be delayed until 2018.

It would seem that such a deal, if it exists, is a capitulation by AWS and a tacit acknowledgement of what pretty much every moderate-thinking commentator has been saying for years, that enterprises need choice, that they will still have applications running on-premises, and that vendors need to give them a progression between their current state and a future one. In addition, while it varies between organizations, that progression is likely to be a long-term one and won’t see everyone go cloud overnight.

So with these rumors swirling, it is worth seeing how this introduction, should it happen, might impact on other players.

OpenStack

OpenStack is the best known, and most widely adopted private cloud platform. It is being used by a wide variety of organizations – most notable CERN is powering the Large Hadron Collider on top of OpenStack, but other users – from telcos such as AT&T to vendors such as eBay, from GE Digital to the UK Civil Service. OpenStack has broad adoption but is generally seen as a solution that is best used by organizations with the resource and engineering base to do some serious lifting themselves. While managed OpenStack offerings do exist, these are nascent, and the OpenStack project can fairly be typified today as a set of components that are valuable for those who want to tinker and build their own web scale cloud infrastructure setup.

For OpenStack, an AWS/VMware private cloud is no huge deal. As stated before, many OpenStack users are driven by economic reasons to embrace the platform. They either work at such a scale that traditional public cloud economics simply don’t work for them, or alternatively they already have an engineering base to implement their own solution and don’t need a big, expensive and highly packaged commercial offering.

Bottom line is that AWS finally accepting the private cloud as a real thing would further justify OpenStack’s position.

Microsoft

Microsoft recently announced the general availability of Azure Stack, a private version of its Azure public cloud. While there is arguably still a fair amount of confusion about what Azure Stack really is (is it a solution for service providers trying to build their own special-purpose cloud or is it simply a tool to allow enterprise hybrid-cloud?), I’ve long said that Azure Stack should be Microsoft’s key point of differentiation from AWS.

Microsoft has existing relationships with enterprise customers and a strong existing footprint within organizations’ data centers. It is ideally positioned to leverage that role to bring customers into a truly hybrid world – one in which their on-premises infrastructure, powered by Azure Stack, is highly consistent with their public cloud forays.

So for Microsoft, an AWS private cloud could be seen as negative (it can take market share from them) or positive (a rising tide lifts all boats and this move would strongly validate the Azure Stack story). Personally, I see it as a validation, and broadly positive for Microsoft, but only if they can accelerate the build out of Azure Stack, and be far clearer about what it is, its use cases and how it sits in a hybrid cloud world.

Google

Perhaps the one of the big three public cloud vendors that is least au fait with on-premises models. While Google has had its own appliance products in the past and has partnered with hyperconverged vendor Nutanix to deliver some on-premises solutions, it is fair to say that a deep commitment to the on-premises story is anathema to Google – it lives and works in a hyperscale world and, to put it frankly, doesn’t seem to have the attitude to spend time thinking about what it considers to be outlier use cases.

Of course, that may change as Diane Greene, founder of VMware and now head of all things cloud at Google, continues to assert her influence, but it will take a huge culture shift within Google, as well as a significant refocusing of technology priorities, for them to deliver a truly consistent hybrid cloud story.

An AWS hybrid cloud would, therefore, see Google take a step backward in relative terms as to how it is perceived as an “enterprise-ready” vendor. And that is something that Greene won’t be at all happy about.

MyPOV

Of course, this is all conjecture until we have some concrete detail from AWS/VMware about what they’re cooking up. In the meantime, however, you can guarantee that all the vendors above are spending a lot of time thinking about their hybrid cloud strategy – where AWS goes, everyone, by necessity, will soon follow.

 

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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