The enterprise data center is going to be with us for a long time, despite the growth in off-premises cloud computing, according to VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger.
He didn't make this assertion in his keynote address at VMworld Monday or in his press conference on Tuesday. Gelsinger's prediction of legacy data center longevity happened after Marc Andreessen, former Netscape developer and now a venture capitalist, stated in an executive roundtable on the first day of VMworld that Silicon Valley startups shun building their own data centers.
"It's extremely rare to see a capital expense budget in a Silicon Valley startup anymore. It consists of four laptops [and cloud computing]," Andreessen said.
Gelsinger responded, "We disagree. People who say put everything into the cloud have never met a highly regulated customer. A lot of people like Graeme [Graeme Hay, head of infrastructure architecture at Credit Swisse] have real service-level agreements, real governance, real compliance needs that can't be easily met in the cloud."
In this response, Gelsinger gave a nod to Hay as a fellow participant on a roundtable panel titled "The Data Center Is Dead. Long Live the Data Center."
[ Want to learn more about how the VMware cloud first appeared different from Amazon's? See VMware's Hybrid Cloud Not Amazon's Model. ]
When it comes to everything moving into the cloud, "We couldn't agree less," Gelsinger threw in for good measure. The data center is going to be a fixture of the enterprise for several decades to come, he assured the crowd, acknowledging that VMware has proudly virtualized a lot of legacy systems and would continue to play a role in the data center for many years to come.
Gelsinger's response contained a spark that had been missing in his other appearances at VMworld. VMware's position on the future of IT is a conservative one. The company sometimes seems loathe to voice it. In fact, VMware's own nervousness over the growing role of cloud computing would seem to belie Gelsinger's words. At its partner conference in Las Vegas last April, VMware president Carl Eschenbach urged third-party companies to "own the whole enterprise workload" and not lose out to a "bookseller" who also happens to be the market leader in public cloud services.
Asked about that statement, Eschenbach responded Tuesday, "I said it with tongue in cheek." In fact, he acknowledged, VMware and Amazon Web Services tend to go after different types of customers. The notion that VMware is entering the cloud market to compete with Amazon is somewhat overblown.
At the same time, VMware executives realize cloud computing is growing fast, and some of their customers are participating in it before VMware has staked a claim. It announced its vCloud Hybrid Service on May 21, ten years after Amazon got into the infrastructure-as-a-service business. At that time, VMware said it would establish four of its own public cloud data centers. Two are up and running, in Las Vegas and Santa Clara, Calif. The company will add data center space in Sterling, Va. in September and in Dallas, Texas in October.
Bill Fathers, the former Savvis executive recruited to lead the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service, declined in an interview to specify how many square feet of space or how many servers are located in each site. He said the centers are positioned in wholesale data center space built by third parties in the business of renting it.
But Fathers also picked up Gelsinger's point that operators of enterprise data centers need somewhere to go when it comes to cloud computing. VMware is in a strong position to supply that outlet because its public cloud services will be compatible with the data center operations it's already virtualized.
Arne Josefsberg, CTO of ServiceNow, a SaaS company that offers IT service management applications, pointed out in an interview that some VMware customers will migrate work to Amazon rather than buy more products from VMware. The advantage of this approach is a highly automated infrastructure at a competitive price. But once Amazon gets the workload it will convert it into an Amazon Machine Image, the virtual machine format unique to Amazon. That means that once it's inside Amazon, original VMware-based applications will lose the ability to communicate back to enterprise software with which it might have been closely associated.
VMware promises the opposite approach. Gelsinger explained that customers using vCloud Automation, VMware's cloud provisioning tool, on premises will be able to use the tool to prepare workloads for its public cloud. The tool can be used to monitor the workload through vSphere 5.5 and change or move it around using the vCenter management console. That approach is in line with VMware's name for its public cloud offering: the vCloud Hybrid Service functions as an extension of a private cloud operation on premises; it extends -- but does not replace -- the enterprise data center.