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VMware extends its hybrid cloud platform to the edge

VMware pulled back the curtain on some next-generation software that promises to bring the capabilities of its VMware Cloud on AWS to on-premises data centers.

At VMware's annual VMworld conference, the company previewed technology designed to extend the capabilities of VMware Cloud on AWS to on-premises environments. The upcoming software, dubbed Project Dimension, promises to tie cloud and on-premises environments more tightly together, and spread those cloud services to a variety of edge devices and locations.

Kit Colbert, vice president and CTO of VMware's cloud platform business unit, sat down with us at the show to break down the upcoming Project Dimension and its role in the company's hybrid cloud platform and edge strategies.

What is Dimension and how does it touch other pieces of your hybrid cloud platform?

Kit Colbert: We are taking what we've done with VMware Cloud on AWS and applying that same model to on-premises infrastructures. Today, VMC on AWS runs in an AWS data center, and VMware has a control plane that uses an API to call down to provision hardware. We install the software on AWS' hardware, we patch it, upgrade it and monitor it for problems. [Project Dimension] will apply that hybrid cloud control plane to the on-premises data center or edge location. The same code can operate SDDCs [software-defined data centers] in the cloud today and can also operate SDDCs on premises.

Kit Colbert, VMware cloud platform VP/CTOKit Colbert

The question is, how do we bring the edge into the cloud era? How do we make these edge locations just like another cloud region? [With the cloud] you have these giant data centers, but it just takes an API call to manage workloads across them. You can't do that at the edge today because it is not easily accessible or managed. Trying to patch or update those locations is challenging. Dimension gives you that cloud capability to provision workloads to the edge just as easily as you can to [AWS'] U.S. West - Oregon region, for example.

You're essentially patching and managing a customer's on-premises infrastructure.

Colbert: Yes. That's the beauty of the service notion. Customers no longer have to get into the nitty-gritty details of what's the best practice for patching, when to do it, or other architectural decisions. All of that stuff is taken care of, so they can focus on their apps.

So your management software makes different environments look and feel the same?

Colbert: Not completely, but it gives people a chance to get their arms around it all. But Project Dimension is focused on the hybrid cloud use case -- to enable hybrid cloud as a service at all locations. That's the key takeaway.

Project Dimension is specifically focused on enabling the hybrid cloud as a service in all locations. We believe fundamentally that hybrid cloud is the way things are going to go.
Kit ColbertVP and CTO, VMware

Project Dimension is specifically focused on enabling the hybrid cloud as a service in all locations. We believe fundamentally that hybrid cloud is the way things are going to go. A lot of folks have been talking over the last five years that public cloud is coming. We're actually seeing a lot of trends that go the opposite way. IDC predicted by 2021 about 20% of new workloads will be deployed at the edge.

Do you agree with that analysis? Are workloads moving to the edge that rapidly?

Colbert: I don't know about the specific numbers, but the general direction is what we see as well. Not all workloads are going to the cloud. There are a lot of good reasons to keep them in the data center and we're seeing a growing number going to the edge. So what we're going to have is a ton of workloads going to the edge, a bunch of workloads still in the data center for cost or performance reasons and then workloads in the cloud.

Our hybrid cloud vision comes in to address how you manage workloads across all those locations. You might want some days to run the workload in the cloud, and other days to run it on premises for performance or security. We look at Dimension as strategic to our hybrid cloud strategy because it enables hybrid cloud as a service both at the data center and at the edge.

What's changed that makes the edge more important?

Colbert: Edge [computing] is not new, but what's changing is IoT and the number of people who want to run analytics at the edge. They don't want to pay for giant bandwidth to the cloud, so they need more compute at the edge. Some organizations have thousands of edge locations, so how do you manage that?

We see an acute need at the edge. We have customers with whole teams of people whose sole job is to go to each retail store and upgrade their servers. It takes two years for them to go through thousands of stores, and at the end of those two years, they start over again. We have an opportunity to say, we figured this out with VMware Cloud on AWS, so let's take the investment we've made and apply that so customers don't have to.

How will you roll this out?

Colbert: We're not talking publicly about any release dates yet. Because it's a service, the level of integration with the hardware is much deeper than what we've traditionally done. If you think about what we had to do with VMC on AWS to get our software working with AWS, it was absolutely massive. It was a huge engineering effort on both sides with two great teams working closely in lock-step to make it happen. We need visibility not just into the software but in the hardware. If there are hardware problems we need to be able to see them ahead of time.

That same sort of integration needs to be done with hardware [when it comes to Dimension] as well. Because of that we really want to focus on just two hardware partners initially, namely Dell EMC and Lenovo. The benefit of having two is it makes sure that any solution we have is generalized enough to roll out to other partners when we're ready.

Will Project Dimension be integrated into hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) systems?

Colbert: Project Dimension is focused on HCI, and that simplicity. This is what's good about how our strategy layers on itself. Project Dimension brings cloud services to the edge. Because it uses vSphere, we can extend all of the other things we're doing there. We announced vSphere Platinum with AppDefense, so now you can have security at the edge. PKS [Pivotal Container Service] is tightly integrated with vSphere, so now you have containers and Kubernetes at the edge. That's the importance of vSphere as a platform. All of the work we've put into vSphere in the cloud with VMC on AWS will also apply to the edge. This allows us to deliver a lot of functionality at the edge quickly.

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