The newest feature added to VMware's vCloud Air public cloud is the ability to spin virtual machines up and down with just a few clicks and pay for them by the hour.
This better positions VMware to go head-to-head with public IaaS cloud vendors Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, but analysts say VMware still has lots of catching up to do.
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VMware's stronghold in the virtualization market has made it an important cloud computing vendor to watch. The company, touting a software-defined data center strategy since its VMworld event last year, has helped many customers migrate their virtual environments into private clouds via automation and self-service provisioning features.
But competing in the public cloud market will be a tough challenge even for a company with such name recognition, analysts say.
Over the past year the company has built its vCloud Air (vCA) public cloud platform, which is based on vCloud Director software and has data center sites across the world. The platform is still in its earliest stages and analysts say for it to truly compete with AWS and Microsoft Azure, VMware needs to add features, and quickly.
"VMware has said it intends to develop more platform services than it currently has," says Gartner analyst Lydia Leong.
The process of rolling out services to gain feature-parity with AWS and Azure started today with the release of on-demand computing as a service, paid for by the hour with a credit card.
Just how far behind is vCA? On-demand access to VMs is a feature AWS has had since about 2007 with its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
Feature gaps like those make AWS and vCA appeal to mostly different users, Leong says.
Since Microsoft and VMware both emphasize hybrid cloud platforms, there will likely be more direct competition between Microsoft Azure and VMware's cloud platform rather than vs AWS offerings. Still, Azure has many more features than vCA, Leong notes.
More features are on the way for vCA, though. VMware says it will roll out a disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) offering in the first quarter. In the first half of this year new networking features based on VMware's NSX platform will be available that allow isolated security groups and private networks.
But vCA still falls short of AWS and Azure, which have wide catalog of virtual machine offerings, for example. AWS and Azure have even moved beyond the battle over price and are now competing with one another on higher-level services (read more about that trend here). Both AWS and Azure have multiple options for customers to run databases on their clouds, and offer advanced big data analytics tools, too. VCA Vice President Scott Collison says customers can run databases on VMware's cloud, but there is no specific DBaaS offering.
"It's early yet," Collision said about the IaaS public cloud market. That may be true, but while AWS and Azure are out winning deals, VMware is still building its public cloud.
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