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What I Learned at AWS re:Invent 2016: VMware and AWS Together

In mid-October of this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware announced a strategic partnership and a new offering, VMware Cloud on AWS, targeted for general availability in mid-2017.  Since that announcement was made, details around the offering have been relatively sparse, as both organizations have been fine-tuning the operations and model of the agreement. Given that backdrop, the interest at AWS re:Invent was high on what additional information would be released, as evidenced by the packed afternoon session co-presented by the two companies titled VMware and AWS Together.

About the Session

In this session, the AWS and VMware teams reviewed the announcement and partnership at a high level.  The payoff happened when they showed an architecture diagram of the connectivity and account structure.  Here are a few important details that I took away:

  • The service requires (2) AWS accounts to be provisioned.
    • This includes a VMware managed account under VMware’s master billing structure.  This account will have its own VPC per hardware cluster deployed.
    • A “normal” AWS account, which the customer will use to create a VPC that allows for connection to the VMware VPC.  Customers are recommended to implement Direct Connect to this Amazon VPC, and then traffic will bridge over to the VMware VPC.  This AWS VPC (can be multiple) is where the native AWS extensions to augment/replace functionality in the VMs will be executed.
  • This is a managed service from VMware. For the VMware consumption, AWS will bill VMware, and the balance will be paid from consumption credits the customer buys from VMware. There is a credit card option through VMware as well, but I don’t see that being used much, if at all. Support is handled via VMware, and VMware will handle the infrastructure patching.
  • As a managed service, the Security and Governance controls are the responsibility of VMware.  Several of the new 6.5 encryption features were mentioned as included.
  • The offering is still in development, and no pricing guidance was made available.  There are also several technical details that were not fully clear yet.

Session recording from VMware and AWS Together

My Take

I see this as a positive move for both organizations, though in the long term, I believe AWS is the biggest beneficiary here. Below is a list of both winners and losers I believe will be affected by the VMware Cloud on AWS offering.


    • VMware – This is a functional replacement for vCloud Air, extending relevance in the cloud, serving as a solid offering on its line card to stave the bleeding of public cloud. This will also drive increased adoption of NSX, which is required in the VPC to run, and thus requires at least a connector on-premises.
    • AWS – Gains an enterprise sales force pushing consumption of its product, and every VMware sale requires AWS accounts be created as well. This removes much of the friction of AWS adoption for the enterprise market.  There will be improved consumption due to VMware ELA structure.
    • Whoever the manufacturer is of the compute for these dedicated ESXi nodes (I’ll go out on a limb and guess DELL EMC was at least involved in that conversation, even if they didn’t end up securing the contract).
    • Enterprise customers – More choice is good, and this may finally be the carrot that drives enterprise procurement and legal teams to work through those complex AWS agreements.
    • Networking providers – Organizations such as Equinix should be able to add value here with offerings supporting the Direct Connect recommendation


    • Traditional colocation providers – Whereas your primary avenue for a remote data center was a rented cage, especially internationally for one to two racks of equipment, this offering sweeps the rug out from under that market.  This also becomes a solid D/R alternative, once the details of replication are fully announced.
    • VMware – Yes, you will get a lot of consumption and sell through this offering, but once the enterprise market starts consuming, they are that much closer to operationalizing native AWS services as the standard. See the interesting dynamic of AWS’s Step Functions announcement, in contrast to VMware’s vRealize Orchestrator utility, for a example of how AWS will chip away at VMware’s software differentiation.

AHEAD is very excited to continue to help our customers with holistic cloud adoption and acceleration strategies, and to incorporate this new offering into our customers’ catalogs as it makes sense. As an organization that deeply understands both of these companies and technologies, we expect to spend a significant amount of time in 2017 working on projects in this arena. To learn more about AHEAD’s capabilities or offerings with AWS, contact us today to meet with our experts. You can experience (or relive!) the excitement of AHEAD’s re:Invent sponsorship with a personalized demonstration of ServiceNow, DevOps, or Amazon WorkSpaces that you can set up when you click the button below.


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