Vmware on azure you're still doing it wrong

Ned Bellavance
5 min read


Sigh.  There’s an old adage that I always come back to.  Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should.  In this case I am thinking about the recent announcement by Microsoft that Azure would be supporting bare metal deployments of VMware on Azure hardware.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, AWS went GA with a very similar offering back in late August.  Of course there are some specifics that differ, but the overall theme is the same.  You can run your VMware workloads in their public cloud on bare metal, but still have close proximity to their respective public cloud services.  Alas, just because it’s on Azure now, doesn’t make the idea any better, and I stand by my previous post.

The actual announcement and the subsequent gnashing of teeth is covered pretty well on the latest episode of Buffer Overflow.  I’ll sum up here just in case.  On November 21st Microsoft dropped the blog post called “Transforming your VMware environment with Microsoft Azure” which seems fairly innocuous.  Most of the post is actually about the newly announced Azure Migration service.  It’s not exactly a secret that Microsoft would very much like you to run everything on Azure if possible, on Hyper-V if you can’t, or on VMware if you must.  The relationship between Microsoft and VMware has always been a bit strained, like they know that they need each other, but kinda wish they didn’t.  Sort of like the UN and the US; shaking hands and smiling unconvincingly, all the while trying to crush the other’s hand to pulp.

The central issue is that Microsoft has a hypervisor, operating system, and successful public cloud.  VMware has well, it’s a really nice hypervisor.  And since System Center VMM is contortionists idea of easy to use software, VMware handily won the on-premises war of hypervisors and the management thereof (aka the SDDC).  Sadly, things are getting cloudy for VMware, and so grasping at straws (can’t spell straws without AWS) they reached out to Amazon Web Services.  After all, the enemy of my enemy, etc.

So, coming back around to the actual post, apparently some workloads are so special that they will only run in VMware, and so these magical prancing unicorns will be able to run on a full VMware stack running in Azure.  At first I was thinking maybe it was nested virtualization, but no, it is a “bare-metal solution that runs the full VMware stack on Azure hardware, co-located with other Azure services.”  It is going to be offered in partnership with a premier VMware certified partner and generally available next year.

A couple things:

  1. Azure hardware is a tricky wording.  Are they talking about Microsoft’s own Open Compute Project compliant hardware that runs other Azure workloads being repurposed to run VMware?
  2. Who are these mysterious VMware-certified partners?  Why not name any of them, unless they aren’t ready to name one yet?  And why not VMware itself?

Well, someone apparently let VMware know about this whole thing.  And they were, shall we say surprised and a little sour about it?  Ajay Patel, SVP of Product Development in Cloud Services (so probably heavily involved in the whole VMware on AWS thing) wrote a by turns snarky, gloating, and somewhat petulant post on the VMware blog, saying such wonderful things as:

“This offering has been developed independent of VMware, and is neither certified nor supported by VMware.”

“VMware does not recommend and will not support customers running on the Azure announced partner offering.”

“Microsoft recognizing the leadership position of VMware’s offering and exploring support for VMware on Azure as a superior and necessary solution for customers over Hyper-V or native Azure Stack environments is understandable but, we do not believe this approach will offer customers a good solution to their hybrid or multi-cloud future.”

“VMware HCX technologies, a superior alternative to Azure Migration Service, enables organizations to migrate and manage hybrid cloud deployments.”

Ajay goes on to extoll the virtues of VMware’s partnership with AWS, OVH, and the VMware Cloud Foundation.  Which I mean sure, you have to plant your flag somewhere, but considering that most analysts are unimpressed with VMware’s hybrid cloud motions, it takes a little bit of gall and a not insignificant amount to self-delusion to crow about your vast superiority to Azure’s offerings.

The speculation from The Register is that the mysterious partner that Microsoft is working with is in fact Nutanix, who is known for their own brash and brazen approach to the truth and marketing.  Last year, Nutanix claimed that their Cisco based UCS deployment was validated and fully supported, to which Cisco replied, “um WHUT?  No no, tis not true.  Hyperflex is awesome, thank you for your time.”  I find this line of reasoning possible, if not probable, although it is just as likely that Microsoft is building this with OCP servers and having some poor VMware partner try and engineer this thing together.

Microsoft subsequently announced a webinar in which inquiring minds could learn more about the solution, scheduled for 11/28.  That webinar was then postponed until December 13th, for reasons that were not forthcoming.  Maybe Microsoft did not anticipate the kerfuffle that would occur?  Or maybe they have to do a little legal wrangling before they make any more announcements?  Regardless, the whole solution is a bit silly.

What Microsoft is trying to do is make it easier to get VMware workloads into Azure.  At least in the short term.  In the long term, they want clients to migrate those workloads to Azure proper.  This is the same thing that AWS is trying to do.  AWS had the good grace to at least appear to partner with VMware whilst trying to destroy them, while Microsoft appears to be uninterested in offering up that poisoned apple at all.

Since I am a Microsoft MVP in Cloud and Datacenter, most people would reasonably assume that I am an Azure fanboy and that had colored my opinion on the whole VMware on AWS thing.  Reasonable, but false.  A bad idea on AWS is also a bad idea on Azure.  I get why Azure and AWS are doing this.  But I still say, if you’re running VMware in the cloud, you’re doing it wrong.