Another super-busy week at VMworld is almost done. As usual I’ve been hosting and spending time with a few of EMC’s Service Provider Partners at the event this year. Mostly running around like a crazy person trying to connect our partners with colleagues from EMC and VMware that that can help them with the development of new services and in optimising their existing services.
1. More complete adoption of the VMware Suite
Last year, a lot of SP’s were trying to figure about how they could build their own IPR to add functionality that’s important for Service Providers around the core VMware software components of vSphere and in some cases the earlier versions of vCloud Director. This was a response to the distinct requirements of service providers, which differ from those of ‘Enterprise’ IT users. I’m talking here about things like the ability to automate, or more commonly orchestrate, important non-virtualised resources that are part of the SP’s end-to-service offer. Classic examples of this are wide-area network services and physical security devices.
This year I’m hearing something quite different. Firstly, that the VMware core tool set provides a much more complete solution for an SP that is seeking to provide IT services with cloud-like characteristics, like the ability for customers to self-serve, elasticity and consumption based commercial models.
Secondly, SPs are starting to select the components within their architecture with an emphasis on the components’ ability to ‘snap-in’ to the VMware management and automation framework. A great example of the latter trend is the increasingly rapid adoption of SDN (Software Defined Networking) technologies within Service Providers, which is occurring precisely because they enable SPs to be much more agile and dramatically reduce the integration workload for building full automated, self-serve service offerings.
2. Maturing of the SP Infrastructure Model
As you could probably have predicted, I’ve written quite a bit about Storage-as-a-Service over the course of the last year and what this means for SPs. VMworld has provided a useful opportunity to discuss the relative state of Storage-as-a-Service provision with a few of EMC’s SP partners over a short period of time and this has also revealed a couple of important trends.
Number one, stratification definitely is happening and there’s increasing awareness within SPs that end-users have a broad spectrum of different needs – from the re-platforming of existing enterprise applications onto SP-operated cloud infrastructure through to the deployment of brand new applications developed with modern application development frameworks. This is leading service providers that are operating at scale to mature their architectural model so that it includes a variety of different resources with differing performance and availability characteristics, and differing cost points. This is a key area of differentiation for cloud providers that can set them apart from commodity-based operators.
Secondly, our Service Provider partners are increasingly looking to align their service development roadmaps with EMC’s product roadmaps. A year ago, many SPs were in set-up or even in catch-up, focusing on building out infrastructure to catch early demand for off-premise cloud services. Today, the majority of our partners have platforms in place and are seeing success in driving customer adoption of the services based on these platforms. As a result, the emphasis is shifting and our partners are increasingly looking to collaborate in developing roadmaps for the next-generation of services that they will launch.
Thirdly, SPs are beginning to leverage their own cloud services in the creation of value added applications that address the needs of specific vertical markets and application specific services that have horizontal appeal across a number of different segments. A great example of this is one of our partners who is delivering network-based voice recording services to customers in the financial services industry, having built this service on their existing cloud storage and computing platform they can immediately benefit from the elasticity and policy-based management capability that are inherent within the underlying platforms.
Summarising this summary, a huge amount of progress over the last year by VMware in making their products more relevant to the needs of Service Providers and a huge amount of progress by our SP partners in understanding the needs of their customers and how they can leverage cloud delivery models to meet these needs.