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At a press conference in San Francisco today, VMware announced a major deal with public cloud market leader (AWS) to enable companies to use VMware virtualization software to deploy and manage applications on top of AWS.

This marks a shift in direction for VMware; VMware launched its own cloud infrastructure service in 2013 but has ultimately taken steps away from the commodity cloud business where AWS dominates. Now VMware is responding to market sentiment to use the AWS cloud even while preserving familiar VMware tooling.

This decision is “responding to customers’ interest,” VMware chief executive Pat Gelsinger said at the event. He said AWS is VMware’s “primary” public cloud partner and, looking to AWS chief executive Andy Jassy next to him, Gelsinger said VMware is likewise AWS’ “primary” public cloud partner. The new VMware Cloud on AWS offering, Gelsinger said, couples the “dynamic flexibility” of AWS and VMware’s “enterprise-grade” software-defined data center — a marketing term, sure, but one that current VMware customers will recognize.

For AWS, this will mean more legitimacy in the enterprise sector, which is important given that Amazon’s competition in the public cloud includes the likes of Microsoft and IBM, trusted by big companies for decades. AWS has done some things to let customers work with on-premises data center infrastructure but has largely avoided the area.


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VMware is not the only one to give in against Amazon (which generated $2.88 billion in revenue in the second quarter of this year) specifically and the major cloud infrastructure dealers more generally. HP and Rackspace have done that too, basically.

But for VMware, the AWS type of core compute and storage services has come to pose a sort of existential threat. So it has decided to partner, just as when containers posed a threat to VMware’s longstanding virtualization business and so it partnered with Docker.

News of the partnership was reported last week by Fortune.

In August VMware introduced the Cloud Foundation software bundle and said that it would be coming first to the IBM cloud. Earlier this month QTS acquired the vCloud Government Service from VMware.

But even before that VMware showed its interest in working with the biggest cloud vendors; in January 2015 it announced plans to resell some Google public cloud services.

VMware is being more proactive than Oracle when it comes to looking to the biggest providers to partner with. Oracle has been accelerating its push in the world of cloud infrastructure and is actively pointing to performance advantages relative to AWS. The VMware vCloud Air service is not thought to be anywhere near as large as AWS, and so avoiding the fate of HP and Rackspace in the cloud could be thought of as very important or even necessary.

The vCloud Air service is not going away, nor is the vCloud Air Network strategy, Gelsinger said during the question-and-answer session after the press conference.

“We also have a very broad ecosystem of cloud partners that we’ll continue to enable in the industry,” Gelsinger said.

The service will be sold and supported through VMware and will be available in mid-2017, according to a statement on the news. Currently it’s in technology preview, according to AWS’ website.

Pricing details were not disclosed other than that on-demand and subscription options will be available. During an onstage demo, hourly (on-demand), one-year (reserved), and three-year (reserved) options were displayed, along with the choices to pay with a VMware account or a credit card. Also it will be available through the AWS Marketplace.

“I don’t think it’s like anything else we’ve done in the market or intend to do,” Jassy said. “It truly is, I think, a very seminal, powerful, differentiated offering that is going to change what enterprise customers can now do as they’re thinking about [a hybrid environment and] … moving to the cloud over next number of years.”

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