VMware and AWS partnership is just what each other needed. Now…will it work with desktops?

VMware and AWS seem to have gone beyond the cross-cloud architecture we heard about in August. Is this bare-metal VMware on AWS offering setting the stage for desktop workloads?

As if this hasn’t been covered enough in the last few weeks, I wanted to weigh in on the announcement of the VMware/AWS partnership that came out just before VMworld Europe last week in Barcelona.

In case you somehow missed it, VMware and Amazon Web Services announced a partnership that lets you run VMware workloads natively in the AWS cloud. SearchVMware.com’s Trevor Jones wrote a nice article on the deal, and I encourage you to head over there and check it out. If you don’t have the time, here are the high-level details:

  • The service from VMware, called VMware Cloud on AWS, is currently in Tech Preview (at least according to AWS). It will enter an invite-only beta program in early 2017 with plans to debut in mid-2017.
  • AWS is now VMware’s go-to public cloud platform. They’re not saying they're exiting the public cloud business, but basically they’re exiting the public cloud business.
  • VMware workloads will run on bare metal in AWS, so there will be full VM compatibility, even vMotion, from on-premises to the cloud.
  • Workloads running in AWS still get the benefit of many other AWS services, like RedShift (data warehouse) and Aurora (MySQL-compatible database).
  • This is sold and supported by VMware

Though the benefits of this sound a bit skewed in VMware’s favor, the deal brings along a huge upside for AWS, too: a migration path.

The biggest pain companies have moving any workload to AWS is that everything is a huge migration since no two things are done in exactly the same way. Networking, security, even VM image types are all different, and there’s no one-click migration between the two. By being able to run native VMware workloads, AWS now becomes an easy option for any company ready to move resources to the cloud.

So how does this affect EUC?

After VMworld US, I wrote about VMware’s Cross Cloud Services, specifically how there is no immediate use for anyone deploying Windows desktops via either Horizon or Horizon Air. The short reason for this is that while a VMware server application like the Horizon broker or AirWatch server would work, virtualized desktops are too ingrained into the hypervisor to make the transition at this point.

Based on that information, it appears that this new announcement changes things. We’re no longer are we talking about running NSX in AWS and using it as a traffic cop that maintains security and network configurations between providers while the workloads themselves run in VMs specific to the provider (as I wrote in that other article, I know that’s an oversimplification). Instead, we’re talking about a bare-metal offering with “full VM compatibility.” At the risk of taking that phrasing for what it says and not scrubbing it for flamboyant marketing, that sounds to me like desktop workloads are back in contention.

That said, desktop workloads are almost certainly not on the radar for the first version of this. After all, we haven’t heard any details on licensing yet, probably because they haven’t been worked out. It’s likely challenging enough to work that out from a low-level perspective, let alone trying to figure out how to have desktops managed by VMware living on AWS at the same time AWS is selling AWS Workspaces. Then again, perhaps it’s as simple as saying “You want to use AWS for DaaS? Would you like that on our VMware or standard platform?”

Let’s assume that desktop support is not coming in the first wave, but that the “full VM compatibility” is true to its word. I’m hopeful that this means that both on-premises Horizon and Horizon DaaS (both on-premises and cloud) could eventually be managed alongside or migrated to AWS. It would seem that’s how the world is unfolding, with Citrix and Microsoft already teaming up (though Citrix also supports desktop workloads on AWS for the time being).

Even if we never see desktops in the mix, though, two huge things come out of this that we can all appreciate: AWS has a hybrid cloud capability to compete with Azure Stack and OpenStack, and you no longer have to decide between doing what you know (VMware) or putting workloads in the most popular cloud platform.

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