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VMware Talking with Microsoft on VMware Virtualization on Azure

VMware isn't planning to work directly with Microsoft on the technical details of its emerging VMware virtualization on Azure solution, but the company has dropped some of its initially condemnatory language about it.

Microsoft's VMware virtualization on Azure preview, announced back in November, is still available for testing, with general availability expected in "the coming months," according to an announcement last month by Microsoft.

Corey Sanders, director of Azure compute at Microsoft, explained in a December announcement that the preview, a bare-metal Microsoft Azure-hosted solution for running VMware virtual machines, will use FlexPod hardware with NetApp storage. FlexPod is a datacenter hardware stack validated by Cisco and NetApp that typically consists of Cisco Unified Computing System servers and Cisco Nexus switches, along with NetApp storage hardware, according to a NetApp description.

FlexPod was first introduced in November 2010 aimed at enterprises running private clouds. FlexPod hardware has been "tested and validated across leading hypervisors and operating systems from VMware, Red Hat, and Microsoft," according to Cisco's FlexPod overview document (PDF).

Sanders further explained that the FlexPod hardware used by Microsoft's VMware virtualization on Azure preview "is similar to Azure's bare metal SAP HANA Large Instances solution that we launched last year" (in 2016). Microsoft and SAP certified HANA on Azure as part of a broad partnership effort announced back then.

Since the FlexPod implementation of the Microsoft VMware virtualization on Azure preview is described as a "bare-metal" deployment, it seems that Microsoft can deploy specific hardware in its Azure cloud datacenters on an ad hoc basis. However, the use of the Azure infrastructure specifically will facilitate application connections to various Azure services, according to Sanders' description.

"With this approach, we will enable you to use the same industry-leading VMware software and services that you currently use in your on-premises datacenters, but running on Azure infrastructure, allowing L3 network connectivity for existing applications to Azure-native services like Azure Active Directory, Azure Cosmos DB, and Azure Functions," Sanders explained.

Microsoft is currently working with "multiple VMware Cloud Provider Program partners" using "VMware-certified hardware" to implement the VMware virtualization on Azure preview solution, he added. To test the preview, an organization has to contact their Microsoft sales rep.

Microsoft's November announcement of the VMware virtualization on Azure preview got a cold reception initially from VMware. Ajay Patel, senior vice president for product development at VMware Cloud Services, had indicated back then in a VMware announcement that VMware virtualization on Azure was "neither certified nor supported by VMware." That announcement was later updated on Dec. 19.

In the revised VMware announcement, Patel confirmed that Microsoft's VMware virtualization on Azure solution was "being offered as a dedicated, server-hosted solution similar in approach to other VMware Cloud Provider Partners (VCPP)" offerings, and it was using FlexPod hardware. He also reiterated that "this offering is being developed independent of VMware."

The revised Dec. 19 announcement by VMware removed Patel's more definitive language, such as: "VMware does not recommend and will not support customers running on the Azure announced partner offering." When asked about this discrepancy, a spokesperson for VMware would only comment by phone that VMware is currently working with Microsoft on the details concerning the VMware virtualization on Azure solution and it is also working with a VMware partner on the matter.

The details being discussed between Microsoft and VMware don't appear to be technical details. It seems that VMware will not directly certify the VMware virtualization on Azure solution. Instead, that'll be left to VMware's partners. That approach differs from VMware's previous work with other public cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM, where VMware had taken a hands-on approach to certifying its solutions. It was a point emphasized by Patel in the original November VMware comments.

The talks between Microsoft and VMware are still ongoing, but it's not exactly clear right now if a VMware partner-certified solution would be equal to a solution certified by VMware itself.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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