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Microsoft and VMware Will Square-off in the Hybrid Cloud – Forbes blog by John Webster

In a previous blog, I noted VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger’s view of who he thought was VMware’s biggest competitor. It was (and is) Microsoft. He sees Microsoft “everywhere.” But let’s put “everywhere” aside for the moment. The arena where these two giants of IT are preparing to do battle is the hybrid cloud where both have been previewing their solutions in the form of technical previews. And both will enter the ring and start going head-to-head with real products at about the same time later this year.

In the Microsoft corner is Azure Stack. The Azure Stack hybrid cloud platform aims to recreate the Azure public cloud experience behind the enterprise firewall. Azure’s public cloud services—Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service—will also be delivered from within the enterprise data center. For application users, the Azure Stack enterprise-side portal is the same as the public cloud portal.

Microsoft is also critically aware of the needs of application developers deploying to hybrid clouds as well as IT operations staff tasked with managing hybrid cloud environments. Azure Stack aims to build a strong foundational bridge between development and operational teams. Application developers can use a write-once, deploy-to-Azure Stack application delivery process. Development can occur on either the private or public side and put into production on either side as well because of its consistent application development environment. IT operations can then manage application user support and lifecycles from that point forward.

In the VMware corner, Gelisinger is readying VMware Cloud on AWS which takes the VMware computing environment and optimizes it to run on elastic, bare metal AWS infrastructure without having to use nested virtualization. Familiar VMware environments will co-exist with AWS cloud-based services while at the same time achieving operational consistency by using the same vCenter UIs, APIs and CLIs. Customers can create hybrid cloud computing environments via the integration of VMware’s compute, storage, and network virtualization products (vSphere, vSAN, and NSX), along with vCenter management that runs across on-premises and AWS global regions. VM compatibility across public and private cloud domains promotes workload portability between on-premises and AWS instances. Therefore, applications running on VMware will be supported across vSphere-based private, public and hybrid cloud environments.

VMware Cloud on AWS will be delivered, sold and supported by VMware as an on-demand, elastically scalable turnkey service and all software components will be fully certified and supported by VMware. This is a very different go-to-market model when compared to Microsoft’s approach. Upon general availability, customers will be offered a turnkey appliance-based solution from one of the four current Azure Stack solution partners—Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo.

I believe that the significance of Azure Stack—Microsoft’s strong entry into the hybrid cloud arena—can’t be overstated. Azure is the fastest growing public cloud—faster than Amazon Web Services (AWS). Azure Stack will assure the continuation of that forward momentum by allowing Azure services to emanate from behind the enterprise firewall. Upon GA, Azure Stack will become the hybrid cloud appliance that all others will be compared to.

But here again, Gelsinger has chosen to take an entirely different path to the enterprise hybrid cloud. From the standpoint of a developer, integrating an existing VMware environment with VMware Cloud on AWS does not a native hybrid cloud make. However, it does create a natively extendable VMware cloud environment from the standpoint of a VMware administrator. As proof of this point, an administrator can use vMotion to move an application to an AWS site without modification and without downtime. It will be fascinating to watch the progress of each strategy later this year when both are scheduled to take the ring for the start of round 1.