vCloud Director Review

Even if there are some transition scripts or similar to help move certain aspects of functionality the transition is going to be a painful process.

Summary: vCloud Director, once the flagship product spearheading VMware’s vCloud Suite, is slowly winding down for enterprise customers – potentially leaving some companies with a roadmap challenge.

Having just started work for a cloud service provider in the Channel Islands (Foreshore) my focus has shifted and vCloud Director is a product I’m working with. After VMworld last year I wrote about how badly VMware communicated their product shift away from vCloud Director (vCD) and this year I’ve not seen much sign that communication has improved. At VMworld Barcelona this year only one session out of over 400 was about vCD. Yep. One (although to be fair it was ‘vCD roadmap for service providers’ – more on that later). How the mighty have fallen.

What do we know about the vCD roadmap?

As announced last year the vCloud Suite roadmap involves the current features moving into other products, both in the vCloud Automation Center (now vRealize Automation) and the core vSphere product. It’s likely that the provisioning aspects will go into vCAC (now vRealize Operations) and some of the network functionality (multi-tenancy in particular) will go into the ‘core’ vSphere product. vCloud Director will continue to exist for service providers but for enterprise customers there is a migration to be done. There was also the following statement;

Yes, VMware will offer a product migration path that enables customers and partners to move from vCD to VCAC…

So far, so good.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is it’s been a year since that announcement and there’s been near radio silence since then. If enterprise customers need to transition off vCloud Director then VMware need to provide information, preferably sooner rather than later, on how that’s likely to work.

The last I heard, 2017 was an approximate ‘end of life’ for vCloud Director for enterprises. While that’s a couple of years off that’s not long to transition potentially complex infrastructure, especially when the ‘final destination’ itself is in flux – what will vCAC look like in a couple of years? Presumably NSX (or some version of NSX Lite, backed into the core hypervisor) will provide the multi-tenancy but when? Should companies be buying into these products and gaining familiarity already?

While at VMworld I spoke to various VMware employees and I was told there is a team within VMware who are looking at this challenge. Even if there are some transition scripts or similar to help move certain aspects of functionality the transition is going to be a painful process. I’ll reiterate that everyone I spoke to tried to help and in some cases did make the situation clearer but it seems VMware didn’t send anyone with much knowledge of this to VMworld, and didn’t really plan on communicating anything. Maybe there’s just not enough to tell yet?

Given the timeframes involved I suspect VMware are relying on enterprises adopting vCAC and eventually NSX so that when the time comes to migrate it’s less of an issue.

A clearer roadmap for Service Providers

As I work for a service provider I also wanted to find out more about the roadmap for us. While at VMworld I made it my mission to find out some more information – that’s one of the great things about VMworld, there’s usually an abundance of information. Via the Meet the Expert sessions I spoke to Ninad Desai and Gurusimran Khalsa from VMware who were both very helpful (thanks guys) and I even tried the VMware stand in the Solutions Exchange but they didn’t have anyone to talk about vCD. vCloud Air, VMware’s new flagship offering, is still based on vCD under the hood so at least service providers can be assured that development will be ongoing and aggressive. It’s clear the components and APIs will continue evolving individually (vCNS to NSX for example) but there won’t be a VMware provided GUI to unify them in the same way that vCloud Director has in the past. vCloud Director’s latest release, vCD-SP 5.6, makes it clear that VMware partners will create the GUI going forward;

This was also covered in the single vCD session at VMworld (PAR3096, “New features and interfaces for vCD”) which included the three initial partners offering a front end for vCD (Onapp, Parallels, & AirVM). Unfortunately these third party GUIs will be an extra cost so service providers will have to decide whether they can absorb the increase or have to pass it on to their customers. VMware’s rationale is that a more frequent release cycle (driven by vCloud Air no doubt) justifies existing prices but I can’t help feel that service providers are getting less than we used to for the same cost.

As an aside, I’m still curious as to how partners will compete against vCloud Air despite VMware’s recent recommitment to it’s partner network. Antoni Spiteri thinks it’s all good but for a certain percentage of their partners I’m more inclined towards his earlier post entitled vCHS vs vCloud Providers. VMware will always be able to integrate new features before their partners, they have a larger marketing budget, and more market clout – the only thing VMare don’t have is a global network of datacentres (yet). Data sovereignty is critical to many customers so for the time being that’s enough to keep partners in business but they’re going to have to differentiate more keenly to stay in business.

Final thoughts

For enterprise companies who bought into VMware’s original vision for vCloud Director they can’t transition off the platform overnight – they’re using features which can’t be offered today via another VMware product and it takes considerable time to move to other tools, rewrite code, change processes and reintegrate functionality. Hopefully VMware have a migration plan and it can be better communicated so everyone can plan their roadmaps.

Personally I’m surprised there wasn’t more conversation at VMworld on this topic. Am I missing something? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Further Reading

Flexiant’s 7 reasons not to rely on vCloud Director (though they are obviously a competitor they’re still relevant)

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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