VMware appears to be pushing hard into the utility compute space. It is easy to understand – there seems to be lot of peer pressure, both from Amazon and from OpenStack / CloudStack communities.
I don’t doubt they can make it work, but the question in my mind is “is that the best way of doing it?”.
Amazon has struck gold when they tapped, by intent or by accident, into the massive demand for low end, basic utility compute driven by startups and established but progressive, developer-heavy companies.
VMware at the time was busy virtualising and consolidating servers running legacy applications and being good at it; in fact very much likely the best, as evidenced by their market share. As AWS picked up pace, however, the realisation must have set in – “hey, they’re doing it using virtualisation, we’ve got the best hypervisor right here; really, how hard can it be?”.
The problem is, VMware is now caught smack in the middle of the situation that prof. Clay Christensen called “The Innovator’s Dilemma”: they are faced with a low-end disruptor, well, now a group of disruptors, who are aggressively pushing upward into their space, by adding functionality to their “good enough” offering, while enjoying the benefits of low cost of service delivery. Remember, they have designed their business for scale and low cost, rather than feature-completeness. They never had and still don’t have any pressure whatsoever to support infrastructure-side resiliency features that VMware is laden with.
And at this time, no way VMware can lose focus on these features – there’s still tons of demand from Enterprises for what they do well. But the utility compute train has left the station and rapidly picking up pace; so what to do?
My outsider’s view says that the approach that Apple took with iOS looks like a winner: take your core technology, and create a separate line optimised for the realities of the market you’re trying to expand to. Create a vSphere Lite or whatever (ESX by itself is fine) – a separate product, optimised from conception for the utility compute service delivery and surround it with the necessary automation and service management systems. Stop strapping rocket boosters to your good old truck – develop a racing car instead.
P.S. I have heard arguments that there are service providers out there offering services based on VMware for cheaper than Amazon does. I believe that, no problem. I also know of quite a few instances of companies selling their goods at below cost, and firing their engineering talent to boost their profit and EPS numbers. In other words, I’m struggling with buying this argument. Wait. No, I’m not. I’m simply not buying it, period.
P.P.S. I deliberately refrained from detailing the areas where VMware’s offering are struggling – after all, as I said, they can totally make it work; but as it was mentioned on a number of occasions and even recorded in an RFC: “With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine”.
P.P.P.S. This is not an attack on VMware. I simply want them to succeed and help us do the same.