by Kyle Hilgendorf | January 29, 2015
Today VMware and Google announced that they have entered into an agreement to integrate select Google Cloud Platform services into the vCloud Air Platform. The specific Google services that vCloud Air customers will eventually be able to consume through vCloud Air include Google Cloud Storage, Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Datastore and Google Cloud DNS.
In my opinion, this is a perfect marriage for these two providers right now. In the cloud IaaS or cloud platform feature war, vCloud Air has been noticeably behind, missing foundational cloud-native features such as a scalable object storage service or “pay as you go” (Important Note: vCloud Air Launched OnDemand Access recently). Therefore, vCloud Air has been relegated to customers interested in VM migration/protection from their corporate data centers or for a somewhat narrow DRaaS market. But the vCloud Air leadership team knows that they have to both stay true to their roots (have a compelling story for existing VMware customers) but also offer more cloud-native features for those customers that want an AWS-like competitor or for those VMware customers that migrate in and want to do something more cloud-like. Partnering up with Google in this case allows VMware to dramatically escalate the delivery of object storage, cloud data analytics, NoSQL DBaaS and global DNS.
From the Google standpoint, few would question Google’s technical abilities and innovations. In fact, in Gartner’s recent In-Depth Assessment ofGoogle Cloud Platform, Google scores really well in the core technical categories (Compute, Storage, Network, Security & Access) but it struggled in the non-technical categories that enterprises also really need (Support & Service Levels, Management & DevOps and Price & Billing). Google’s problem is and has been relevance and trust among enterprise buyers. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently displayed that interest in Google Cloud Platform among enterprise CIOs may even be shrinking. So Google needs a trusted enterprise-relevant partner to make in roads with enterprise buyers. Who better at this than VMware?
Today is simply an announcement and its unclear exactly when this integration will go live or what the interface will look like. But, assuming customers maintain a single agreement with VMware for vCloud Air and have seamless access from the vCloud Air interfaces into these services at Google, it very well could be a boon for both providers. VMware gains immediate technical relevancy in more services and Google increases a potentially large customer base with hopefully more revenue streams than what they are receiving on their own.
But I wonder more about the future and the following questions:
Will this marriage last? – Google and VMware have very different cultures. For now they seem to have found common ground. Will they grow closer together or further apart?
Will this be enough for enterprises to trust Google? – It is yet to be seen whether an agreement like this will put enterprise minds at ease about consuming Google Cloud. I suspect VMware may have many tough questions coming their way from enterprise customers about the integration with Google and whether that integration can be trusted. The transparency and evangelism here will be key.
Which provider takes on liability and guarantees service levels? – Cloud legalities are already messy but they could be even more confusing with a single agreement but multiple providers in the value chain. If the agreement is with VMware, then VMware should front all of this for the customer and make it simple. I would expect VMware to do this and that would be another big benefit to customers that are interested in Google technology but need better enterprise relationships from a company like VMware.
Is the agreement exclusive? – Can Google enter into other similar agreements with other providers? Can VMware build and compete with these Google services? It was announced at VMworld 2014 that VMware was building an object storage service. What happens if/when VMware delivers that? Will they rip Google Cloud Storage out? Can VMware build or offer another NoSQL DBaaS and rip out Google Cloud Datastore? Will that leave customers high and dry? I can’t see that happening but these are questions that customers should be asking of vCloud Air as they consider taking advantage of this partnership. I’ve had some industry experience with these types of agreements and I would bet it is NOT exclusive for either VMware or Google.
Will vCloud Air customers using Google have a simple migration out? – What happens if a vCloud Air customer starts using Google Cloud and then decides they’d rather use Google Cloud natively? I can’t see any way in which the agreement would block this, but will the technical migration be a non-issue, seamless or easy? Will both providers happily support or assist with this?
Will the relationship expand? – I am most intrigued by the following statement in the press release. “The two companies also announced they are exploring extended management support for Google Cloud Platform as part of VMware’s award-winning vRealize Cloud Management Suite.” Perhaps this is just the beginning. Imagine a world with the technically advanced Google Cloud Platform fronted by the enterprise friendliness and comprehensive management solutions from VMware. Time will tell, but this could be the beginning of even more. I’ve never had the sense that either Amazon nor Microsoft have felt overly threatened by either vCloud Air or GCP yet, but if this marriage goes well, and expands, AWS and Azure might find very fierce competition in the form of an unexpected partnership.