Amazon Web Services recently sent shock waves through the industry by unveiling VMware integration in the form of the AWS Management Portal for vCenter. This will allow enterprises already using VMware's open-source vCenter to use that same platform in the AWS environment (and migrate virtual machine images thereto) without learning or having to train employees on new tools. Plus, service providers will reportedly be able to offer their VMware clients self-service access to the Amazon cloud.
The AWS move surprised many industry observers, because VMware released its own private IaaS solution, designed to be compatible with VMware products, less than a year ago. Whereas it was once thought that this would allow VMware to -- in the words of Silicon Angle staff writer Maria Deutscher -- "pull the rug from under established public cloud providers such as Amazon and Rackspace," Amazon's recent announcement pulls the entire hardwood floor out from beneath VMware.
Amazon's vCenter Portal has been called everything from a Trojan Horse to a stealth bomb by the tech punditry.
And, to be fair, Amazon's move is an aggressive one, presenting a huge threat to the bottom line for VMware's private cloud. It has been estimated that 60% of virtualized enterprises use VMware-based products, representing a major market that VMware no longer has cornered when it comes to the cloud. Just as the Holy Roman Empire assimilated pagans centuries ago through interpretatio christiana, the cloud conqueror AWS is telling enterprises that they can keep the idols of its competition, but integrated and rebranded under the Church of Amazon.
What's more, the AWS vCenter Portal plugs a key hole for Amazon. Offering no on-premises solutions itself, AWS can use the portal to "piggyback" on to VMware's on-premises infrastructure.
Naturally, VMware is putting up a fight. In a blog post three days after the Amazon announcement, VMware's Americas CTO, Chris Wolf, bit back, heavily hinting that anyone who goes with Amazon's vCenter Portal will have difficulties exporting their data or managing multi-cloud environments.
Of course, this kind of anti-lock-in rhetoric is all too common among cloud competitors. (VMware itself once faced similar lock-in fear mongering about its ESX hypervisor.) This history, combined with Amazon's announcement that its companion VM Import/Export tool allows customers to download instances and run them on the premises, and that the tool is compatible with multiple major hypervisors (including ESX, Hyper-V, and Xen), makes Wolf's postulations seem disingenuous.
The irony of all of this is that vendor lock-in is the whole point of Amazon's strategy here, but not lock-in to Amazon. Clouds, being clouds, are ethereal; they can be migrated to and fro. On-premises solutions last -- and thereby contribute to the sunk cost fallacy.
Or, as Mirantis co-founder and executive vice president Boris Rensk wrote in a Network Computing blog post six months ago, "One thing is for sure: enterprises will not do away with their existing VMware investment overnight."
That's exactly what Amazon is counting on.