IBM and VMware: Hybrid Cloud Partnership Yields Thoroughbred Value

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  August 27, 2017

There’s no shortage of partnerships in the IT industry. That’s partly due to simple practicality—no single vendor can do absolutely everything its customers require. But pursuing certain commercial opportunities by partnering with other vendors, often those a company competes with in other spheres, makes profound strategic sense. Doing so can potentially enable the involved parties to expand their business while minimizing costs and risk.

However, it’s safe to say that many such partnerships achieve far less than they originally hope or promise. So it’s worth taking a close look at strategic relationships that deliver the goods for both the principals and their respective customers, like the IBM and VMware hybrid cloud partnership.

IBM and VMware then

Originally announced 16 months ago (on February 22, 2016), the pair’s relationship aimed to help enterprise customers take better advantage of hybrid cloud’s speed and economics by easily extending their existing on-premises VMware workloads to IBM Cloud’s nearly 60 global data centers.

However, the deal seemed to confuse some in the tech industry and media who considered it counterintuitive. After all, hadn’t IBM sold its System x x86-based server business to Lenovo just over a year before? Since then, the company has doubled-down on pitching its flagship Z System mainframes and Power Systems offerings as the industry’s best solutions for enterprise requirements and use cases.

But those either/or arguments ignored the fact that virtually all of the enterprises that depend on IBM solutions also utilize x86-based systems for a wide variety of applications and workloads. Tailoring an enterprise value proposition was deeply embedded in VMware’s go-to-market strategy from the very beginning and the company achieved remarkable success with large customers, to the point that its solutions are used by nearly all of the businesses in the Fortune 100 and over 90% of Fortune 500 companies.

IBM Cloud has supported x86 workloads since the very beginning. Plus, given that the fact that enterprise-class computing is an essential part of the IBM’s DNA, the partnership with VMware make perfect practical and strategic sense. The fact is that the pair already serves thousands of common customers, gaining years of experience and expertise in the process. Plus, the deep technical excellence and wide global footprint of IBM Cloud’s data center facilities made it an ideal platform for extending hybrid cloud services to existing and prospective VMware-using businesses.

IBM and VMware today

In other words, together IBM and VMware weren’t simply promising what they could deliver. Instead, they were ideally positioned to deliver what they promised.

So how do their strategic partnership look now?

Pretty darned healthy, overall. At last year’s VMworld 2016 conference, the companies announced that over 500 customers were already moving their VMware environments to IBM Cloud, and IBM noted that it was training more than 4,000 of its service professionals to support clients’ VMware environments.

Today, those 4,000 global service consultants have been mobilized and are helping over 1,000 enterprises, including Clarient Dream Payments, Syniverse and Telstra move their VMware environments to hybrid IBM Cloud solutions.

Moreover, IBM is also bringing its formidable partner network into the effort. Numerous value-added partners, including HyTrust, Veeam and others are supporting VMware environments on IBM Cloud. Plus, the company is enabling its channel partners to provide one-stop shops for migrating customers’ on-premises VMware platforms to the cloud with lifecycle services, including planning, architecture, migration and end-to-end management.

Along with its VMware relationship, IBM also continues to build out new cloud offerings of particular value to enterprise customers. Those include industry-specific services for banking, airlines, auto manufacturing, transportation and other verticals, solutions tuned for advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), and support for key emerging technologies, including Kubernetes and Docker containers, microservices and Blockchain.

Final analysis

The simple fact is that relationships of every kind—whether they’re between individuals or organizations—tend to falter and collapse if they fail to evolve. That may be the fundamental point underlying what IBM and VMware have achieved together.

The two companies had much in common from the very beginning, enabling them to quickly offer a range of solutions attuned to their individual abilities and their go-to-market strategies. But at the same time, IBM and VMware continue to learn, develop and grow individually, resulting in a deepening of the solutions they offer together.

In addition, the companies’ partnership also reflects larger movements in cloud computing, especially the emergence of hybrid cloud as the mechanism enterprises and many other businesses prefer for their cloud initiatives and deployments. In short, IBM and VMware’s joint offerings occupy a sweet spot for addressing broader market trends and clients’ specific requirements.

Individually, the companies offer solutions and services well-attuned to the needs of businesses either at the starting tape or racing toward hybrid cloud. Together, their portfolios provide a near-embarrassment of riches to help carry customers over the finish line.

These points all underscore the success IBM and VMware have achieved so far, and bode well for the companies’ and their customers’ future.