VMware has removed one of the final hurdles to enterprise adoption of cloud computing by co-branding an introductory service with five global service providers.
The vCloud Express initiative, announced today, saw Melbourne IT and four US and European service providers launch co-branded cloud computing services to compete with Amazon.com.
Analysts said that the initiative smoothes the path to enterprise adoption of cloud computing by providing a simple web-based, pay-as-you-go cloud computing service that requires little more than a credit card for enterprise users to test.
In his keynote address to the VMWorld 2009 conference, VMware CEO Maritz said one of the biggest impediments to enterprise adoption of cloud computing is the risk associated with porting mission-critical applications to a third party.
"The cloud could become the ultimate 'Hotel California' - you can check apps into the cloud, but can't check them back out again," Maritz said. "One of the biggest concerns is not how to get in but get out."
Maritz said VMware is working to ensure that the "internal clouds" organisations are building within their own data centres using the vSphere data centre operating system are - both from an architecture and management tool level - compatible with the external cloud environments being built by service providers.
"We have 150,000 customers who are basing their infrastructure on the vSphere suite," Maritz said. "They are more ready than before to be migrated somewhere."
VMware's vCloud program attempts to align the cloud computing services offered by hosting providers and telcos with the vSphere environment so that organisations can migrate or better yet "burst" between internal and external clouds.
"You'll be able to pick up the virtual data centre you have deployed within your organisation and slide it into an external cloud," Maritz said. "But you also have choice - if necessary we can move them back into their data centre or to an alternative cloud.
"We also want to make sure that the management piece looks the same - inside and out, you get a single pane of glass to manage your infrastructure."
VMware claims to have signed up over 1000 service providers to offer enterprise cloud computing services via its enterprise-level vCloud program - which included telcos such as Verizon and AT&T.
The vCloud Express program is essentially a stripped down version - a VMware-branded service set up as direct competition to Amazon.com, which analysts said will primarily be used to ease the transition to cloud computing for enterprise users.
"We are working with a group of service provider partners to use a common label to denote the kind of service people have been getting from Amazon.com," said Maritz. "We think we can offer more choice in that market and a range of price points.
"When you see the words vCloud Express - you'll know it means fast and cheap," he said.
A 'nickel bag of heroin' for the cloud
IBRS analyst Dr Kevin McIsaac said the vCloud Express strategy was sound.
"A lot of organisations are concerned about cloud computing. This vCloud Express program allows organisations to get a toe in the door, to use an external cloud provider for systems like test and dev and get familiar with it."
Dr McIsaac said the vCloud Express offer is an example of what he likes to term 'nickel bag of heroin' marketing.
"It allows organisations to take a little hit, in the hope you'll get them hooked to move into an enterprise cloud world."
McIsaac predicted vCloud Express would be a success for two reasons.
"First, it is self-service based around credit card," he said. "You can rack up a service, no contract required, and within two minutes have infrastructure ready to go. Plus you have complete admin control," he said.
"Second, being co-branded with VMware is a smart move. It allows VMware to have a little more control about what is being done, to make sure the service being delivered is a quality service.
"The service is endorsed by VMware, and hosted by Melbourne IT. Most enterprises work on a relationship of trust. With this initiative, there is a strong transference of brand trust from VMware to the service provider."
Dr McIsaac will shortly release a paper on VMware's program at IBRS.