Last week, VMware has announced its intent to acquire Carbon Black, one of the leading providers of cloud-based endpoint security solutions. This announcement follows earlier news about acquiring Pivotal, a software development company known for its Cloud Foundry cloud application platform, as well as Bitnami, a popular application delivery service. The combined value of these acquisitions would reach five billion dollars, so it looks like a major upgrade of VMware’s long-term strategy with regards to the cloud.
Looking back at the company’s 20-year history, one cannot but admit VMware’s enormous influence on the very foundation and development of cloud computing, yet their relationship with the cloud was quite uneven. As a pioneer in hardware virtualization, VMware has basically laid the technology foundation for scalable and manageable computing infrastructures, first in on-premises datacenters and later in the public cloud. Over the years, the company has dabbed in IaaS and PaaS services as well, but those attempts weren’t particularly successful: The Cloud Foundry platform was spun out as a separate company in 2013 (the very same Pivotal that VMware is about to buy back now!) and the vCloud Air service was sold out in 2017.
This time however the company seems quite resolute to try it again. Why? What has changed in recent years that may give VMware another chance? Quite a lot, to be fair.
First of all, Cloud is no longer a buzzword: most businesses have already figured out its capabilities and potential limitations, outlined their long-term strategies and are now working on integrating cloud technologies into their business goals. Becoming cloud-native is no longer an answer to all problems, nowadays it always raises the next question: which cloud is good enough for us?
Second, developing modern applications, services or other workloads specifically for the public cloud to fully unlock all its benefits is not an easy job: old-school development tools and methods, legacy on-premises applications (many of which run on VMware-powered infrastructure, by the way) and strict compliance regulations limit the adoption rate. “Lift and shift” approach is usually frowned upon, but many companies have no other alternative: the best thing they can dream of is a method of making their applications work the same way in every environment, both on-prem and in any of the existing clouds.
Last but not least, the current state of cloud security leaves a lot to be desired, as numerous data breaches and embarrassing hacks of even the largest enterprises indicate. Even though cloud service providers are working hard to offer numerous security tools for their customers, implementing and managing dozens of standalone agents and appliances without leaving major gaps between them is a challenge few companies can master.
This is where VMware’s new vision is aiming at: offering an integrated platform for developing, running and securing business applications that work consistently across every on-premises or mobile device and in every major cloud, with consistent proactive security built directly into this unified platform instead of being bolted on it in many places. VMware’s own infrastructure technologies, which can now run natively on AWS or Azure clouds, combined with Pivotal’s Kubernetes-powered application platform and Carbon Black’s cloud-native security analytics that can now monitor every layer of the computing stack are expected to provide an integrated foundation for such a platform in the very near future.
How quickly and consistently VMware will be able to deliver on this promise remains to be seen, of course. Hopefully, third time’s a charm!