Yesterday, I wrote a post that articulated how VMware’s foray into commercially offering public and private CloudFoundry would be bad for CloudFoundry ecosystem partners that are also offering CloudFoundry based products and services. The gist of the post was that by offering public CloudFoundry in Q4, 2012 and private CloudFoundry in 2013, VMware would be attempting to “be an arms dealer and fighting on one side of the war at the same time”. This will likely disenfranchise partners over time who will find they are competing with VMware in public and private cloud enterprise sales scenarios.
When an enterprise is presented a VMware CloudFoundry PaaS and a CloudFoundry PaaS from an ecosystem partner, they are going to have to pick one (after all, why pick two polyglot PaaS?) and pay for one, meaning the other loses the deal.
Additionally, it will likely confuse customers when it comes time to source public cloud services or private cloud technology since they have to decide between “CloudFoundry proper” from VMware, or the ecosystem offshoots from folks like the CloudFoundry community leads and other partners. At a minimum, most of this will boil into a drastic redesign of the ecosystem (making it MUCH less of an organic construct), or at a maximum, failure of the ecosystem. (Note: this doesn’t mean that companies that are part of the ecosystem will necessarily fail, just that the “from many, one” concept will not be of value)
Although this soon-to-be-evident ecosystem tension alone is a significant problem, VMware will likely exacerbate it by leveraging a structural advantage. What structural advantage, you say? The fact that VMware can leverage its proprietary technology core (the hypervisor, etc.), its management tools, and current market footprint in a way that is not reproducible by anyone else in the “ecosystem.”
Although PaaS need not be designed around VMs as a first-class architecture citizen, PaaS offerings can most certainly add value by directly integrating with the virtual infrastructure it lives on. VMware can integrate their commercial CloudFoundry offering with their proprietary hypervisor and tools through proprietary APIs, something that none of the ecosystem partners can do. This could create a significant product or service disadvantage for partners. On the private PaaS side, both VMware and partners will be going after the same customer base, most of whom use VMware as their hypervisor and private cloud of choice. VMware will be able to go into these accounts with a structural advantage that puts their value significantly higher than that of their co-opetition. VMware’s market share is large enough where this product advantage translates into a defensible structural advantage that they can exploit at the sales and marketing level. If you were an enterprise buyer, would you source your CloudFoundry technology from VMware, who is the keystone of CloudFoundry and supplier of your current set of major IT assets, or a smaller company on the outside that cannot achieve technical fidelity with VMware? This is a major dilemma.
Clearly, VMware will not acknowledge this fact among partners since it would scare the community, and community members are probably reluctant to make decisions that, at this point, they would perceive to be rash. Sometime in the future, however, both VMware and the CloudFoundry ecosystem will have to come to terms with this issue and figure out what the best way forward is. I smell a forked future…
Q: Do you think that VMware’s integrations just won’t matter in the scheme of things? Will the ecosystem find another way to achieve success in the face of potential competition from VMware? …….I’d love to read your thoughts.