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VMware’s Chapter 3 outline hinges on a more comprehensive portfolio and multicloud partnerships

TBR perspective

With the looming separation from Dell Technologies (NYSE: DELL) and departure of long-trusted CEO Pat Gelsinger, 2021 has undoubtedly been a turbulent year for VMware (NYSE: VMW). Since effectively taking over as CEO on June 1, Raghu Raghuram has been tasked with executing on Gelsinger’s vision of bringing the same virtualization products trusted by enterprises for decades into the cloud era. As many legacy software companies can attest, capturing net-new business in a market crowding with ‘born-in-the-cloud’ startups is no easy feat; yet, as the company that brought virtualization technology into the mainstream and remains pervasive throughout enterprises today, VMware faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities.

Since starting with stand-alone vSphere license agreements then progressing into full Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) stack sales, VMware is now entering what Raghuram deems the company’s Chapter 3, the era of hybrid multicloud. Like the first two chapters, Chapter 3 will be defined by product innovation, but it will require a more nuanced partner strategy, leaning on value-added resellers and hyperscalers that will help bring VMware into the cloud. This is an area TBR expects VMware to execute on especially as it enters 2022 as a stand-alone company.

VMware unveils Cross-Cloud Services to drive multiproduct adoption and position as a SaaS company

At VMworld 2020 VMware was coming off a series of tuck-in acquisitions that provided the company additional value in areas like networking, security and modern applications. Evidenced by historic acquisitions, such as VeloCloud, and more recent purchases, including Pivotal, VMware has proven its ability to use acquired IP to quickly pivot and meet demand from customers’ IT operations and development teams. While Gelsinger’s departure and the company’s spinout could be playing a role in slowing acquisition activity, VMware also appears to be at a point where it has all the workings of a competitive portfolio and must now determine how to integrate and scale it. Marking a key step in this direction was the announcement of Cross-Cloud Services at VMworld 2021.

Cross-Cloud Services is a manifestation of the company’s five-pillar framework and brings application, cloud infrastructure, cloud management, security & networking and anywhere workspace & edge services into a single, unified platform that can be deployed in any IT environment. In addition to established offerings such as VMware Cloud solutions and vRealize for cloud management, VMware released new products, such as Tanzu Application Platform (TAP) and Project Arctic, which are also offered as part of the Cross-Cloud Services product family. More services are expected to be offered under the Cross-Cloud Services umbrella in the future to provide existing customers with more choices and the flexibility to deploy VMware services anywhere.

Like many market players defined as SaaS companies, such as ServiceNow and Salesforce, VMware recently has been emphasizing product bundles. For example, in 2Q21 VMware launched Anywhere Workspace, which brings endpoint management, security and networking capabilities into a single subscription through Workspace One, VMware Carbon Black Cloud and VMware Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), respectively. However, as a company born on premises, VMware is more closely aligned with vendors such as IBM and Microsoft, which are similarly looking to support customers’ hybrid cloud journeys but face pressure to appeal to customers outside their own install bases.

While VMware faces similar challenges, the pervasiveness of VMware — evidenced by roughly 80 million vSphere-based workloads currently in production — arguably puts the company under less pressure to look outside its customer base, at least in the near term, and focus on upselling cloud and application services to its loyal base of traditional virtualization customers. The release of Cross-Cloud Services indicates VMware will take a land-and-expand approach to increase annual contract value (ACV) and become perceived as a SaaS company.  

VMworld 2021: As the coronavirus delta variant continues to take its toll, VMware held its annual event virtually for the second consecutive year. While VMworld 2021 was unique largely because it was the first VMworld in nearly a decade without Pat Gelsinger as CEO, the feel of the event remained the same, offering various breakout sessions and independent talks from customers speaking to each of the five pillars that define VMware’s DT-enabling strategy. VMware also welcomed the CEOs of all major hyperscalers, further highlighting not only its commitment to partners but also to hybrid multicloud as the model that will shape enterprise IT throughout the next 20 years.

VMware leans on partners IBM and AWS to go increasingly all-in on cloud

What’s new from VMworld on the cloud front?

VMworld 2018 in Las Vegas came to a close just a few short weeks ago, but the impact from the slew of cloud-related announcements from VMware and its partners continues to reverberate. After multiple changes in course over the past 10 years as VMware reacted to the shift toward cloud computing, the company has found a strategy that works. VMworld 2018 showed the company doubling down on its partnerships with leading cloud providers and addressing customers’ cloud management pain points.

To extend VMware’s relevance in the cloud management space, the company announced both an acquisition and a host of organic portfolio updates during the conference. Notably, the company announced its intent to acquire CloudHealth Technologies to further its multicloud management and operations capabilities with CloudHealth’s platform and expertise in Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) clouds.

Portfolio updates were announced across the vendor’s Workspace ONE, VMware Edge, vRealize, vSAN, vSphere, VMware Cloud Foundation and vCloud Director portfolios. Additionally, partner program enhancements through the VMware Cloud Provider Program and announcements with key partners AWS and IBM in regard to partner-based cloud solutions were made as well. While the portfolio updates are notable, much of VMware’s relevance in the cloud space as of late is coming from its alliances and partnerships. It took the shutdown of VMware’s own vCloud Air service, but the vendor’s partner-led cloud strategy reinforces the value of VMware in cloud and hybrid environments.

VMware’s alliance with IBM is a decades-long, increasingly strategic partnership that now spans customers’ and cloud data centers as the two companies work together to help enterprises modernize their traditional and virtual environments into truly hybrid environments. VMware and IBM look to optimize customers’ existing IT assets with strategic cloud workloads and functions as well as the help of thousands of VMware specialists within IBM Services. Additionally, their tenured relationship turned even more strategic in 2016 as IBM helped VMware re-enter the public cloud market with IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions. At the conference, the two announced vCloud Availability for vCloud Director on IBM Cloud, a disaster recovery solution for multitenant environments that enables IBM Cloud to serve as a failover for workloads on VMware environments. After the successful migration of a few key legacy applications to VMware HCX on IBM Cloud for American Airlines in recent months, IBM and VMware also unveiled JumpStart enhancements, announced at VMworld, to help customers migrate their existing on-premises VMware workloads to IBM Cloud.

VMware’s partnership with AWS is very well known, in large part due to the number of customers using technologies from each of the two vendors and because of both companies’ former reluctance to address new delivery methods. VMware was very much on-premises focused while AWS was solely public-cloud focused, making the partnership and VMware Cloud on AWS a notable shift for both vendors. At VMworld 2018, the two companies announced the expansion of their relationship, including the global extension of VMware Cloud on AWS into Australia, a Cloud Provider Hub that allows partners to offer VMware Cloud on AWS as a managed service, AWS Relational Database Service on VMware, NSX integrations, price reductions, Log Intelligence for VMware Cloud on AWS, Instant Data Center Evacuation and more.

Let’s dig a little deeper into these two partnerships and solution sets

While much of the focus as of late in terms of VMware Cloud partner developments has been on AWS, VMware’s partnership with IBM has existed for a longer period of time and encompasses more than IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions, thus the bulk of the integrations are well established and the two announce new features, integrations and functionality as their portfolios evolve. To note, back in August 2016, VMware announced that IBM would provide the first service offering for VMware Cloud Foundation and also train more than 4,000 services professionals with expertise around VMware solutions.

In line with market trends, VMware is partnering with as many leading vendors in their respective technology markets as possible, ultimately to meet and exceed the demands from its customers for multivendor environments, integrations and interoperability across environments. Each of the aforementioned partnerships fits its own customer set, albeit with slight overlap, and addresses specific customer pain points. VMware and AWS are poised to capitalize on midmarket and small enterprise opportunities, with an emphasis on cloud specifically, while VMware and IBM are poised to capitalize on opportunities in the midsize and large enterprise sectors, with a hybrid IT emphasis, optimizing customers’ blends of cloud and legacy IT assets.

While VMware’s partnerships with IBM and AWS may seem like six of one and half a dozen of the other, the differences themselves when looking at hybrid IT as a whole rather than cloud only, where IBM and VMware naturally have a longer, more strategic relationship that encompasses virtual and cloud environments spanning customer and vendor data centers.

To make this a little easier to digest, we’ve developed a table that includes some key solutions recently announced by VMware and AWS and compares them to existing and new IBM and VMware solutions in regard to how customer pain points can be addressed. While the technical functions available from both VMware partners are aligned, many of the target customers will be different.

Information on IBM Cloud for VMware solutions and VMware Cloud on AWS for several customer pain points

It is our perception that the VMware and AWS partnership better suits organizations that embrace public cloud, whether for budgetary reasons, risk sharing or lack of IT staff. Alternatively, IBM is the partner of choice for IBM and VMware large enterprise customers. Joint IBM and VMware solutions are tailor-made for organizations with large on-premises data centers that remain fully functional and thus are not yet ready to be shut down in favor of public cloud only, serving instead as a blend between the old and new.

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