VMware’s Top Executives Attack Amazon, But The Cries Are Hollow At Best

I sensed a bit of desperation from VMware this past week about Amazon Web Services as it continues its push into the enterprise market.

According to CRN, CEO Pat Gelsinger said at a partner event this week that every time a customer moves a workload to Amazon, the partner loses and VMware has lost the business forever:

“We want to own corporate workload,” said Gelsinger. “We all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds. We want to extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both. Own the corporate workload now and forever.”

VMware’s President and COO Carl Eschenbach was even more blunt:

I look at this audience, and I look at VMware and the brand reputation we have in the enterprise, and I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books.

I find these remarks and the general tone a bit desperate, designed to strike fear in the heart more than confidence in the product. And oddly, it just seems so unnecessary and quite unsophisticated.

Gelsinger derides AWS and its commodity hardware. But the viewpoint is as wrong as Eschenbach’s rhetoric about Amazon being a bookseller.

AWS has commodity hardware and so does Google, Rackspace, Facebook, etc. Why? It’s cheap and it is easy to use for running software. And software is made by developers. And developers are creating all the apps that show up on a worker’s Galaxy smartphone or iPad. Further, there are groups such as OpenCompute attracting all sorts of attention for the open sourcing of hardware. What that means: hardware will get even cheaper and innovation will follow. Actually, the innovation is clearly already happening.

There will be those who argue that this commodity hardware is most suitable to consumer apps. Hogwash. Apps are in our work, in our home — the lines are blurring. The adoption is clear.

Eschenbach’s remarks are disingenuous at best. Amazon is a data company that certainly does sell books. But it also markets computing power, storage and services for high-performance computing, Hadoop jobs and data warehouse capabilities.

I talked to a VMware spokesperson who said this kind of rhetoric is common at partner events. But the fact that VMware is talking smack about AWS does merit a closer look. I keep asking myself: “What is it about VMware that doesn’t jive?”

If nothing else, I think it’s a matter of cost. VMware has high licensing costs. It has no multi-tenant infrastructure of its own to drive down the costs for end customers. That’s opposed to AWS, which makes its money by doing business at scale, which gives it the ability to lower its pricing and correlate margins.

Further, this is about choice. VMware does not have the depth of services that AWS offers. So then how can VMware justify its high prices?

And while Gelsinger and his executive team trash AWS, their real threat comes from a new generation of cloud infrastructures ideally suited for both the cloud and the data center. OpenStack and Cloudstack have the energy and vibe of the new cloud, which appeals to the new way of working. Forrester Analyst James Staten sums it up well:

The average corporate vSphere environment — even if the enterprise I&O team has chosen to deploy vCloud Director — isn’t self-service. It doesn’t provide fast access to fully configured environments. It wouldn’t know what to do with a Chef script and it certainly couldn’t be had for $5 on a Visa card. For VMware and for enterprise vSphere administrators to capture the new enterprise applications, they need to rethink their approach and make the radical and culturally difficult shift from infrastructure management to service delivery. You need to learn from the clouds, not demonize them.

Taking an approach that paints the public clouds as the enemy serves only to reinforce the way of the vSphere administrator, and if you are trying to appeal to your front-line developers, this approach is wrong. A cloudwashed vSphere environment that takes two days to deploy new workloads, fulfilling requests through the help desk and having no cost transparency will lose every day to a public cloud.

VMware has a focus on the software-defined data center, a strategic effort to differentiate itself from competitors. VMware’s top execs should be thinking more about how to present that focus instead of exposing its anxiety about AWS and its further push into the enterprise market.

But more so, VMware has to get in tune with the new ways of the cloud. Empty battle cries only signal a deep weakness in VMware that its opponents will continue to exploit.