How VMware Tanzu Changes the Cloud Computing Equation

Rajeev Bhardwaj, vice president for cloud provider software at VMware, talks with Mike Vizard about how he believes Kubernetes—in the form of VMware Tanzu—is changing the cloud computing equation. The video is below, followed by a transcript of the conversation.

Announcer: This is Digital Anarchist.

Mike Vizard: Hey, guys, thanks for the throw. We’re here with Rajeev Bhardwaj, who is the Vice President for Cloud Providers at VMware. Rajeev, welcome to the show.

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Thank you, Mike. I’m glad to be here.

Mike Vizard: You guys are making an instance of Tanzu, which is based on your distribution of Kubernetes available to cloud service providers now. What does that mean for the ecosystem at large? Is that gonna be critical for developers and for IT operations teams? What’s the downstream impact?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Look, you know, as you see, Mike, in the marketplace, we are seeing, you know, with, especially, right, due to COVID, what we are seeing is, there’s an acceleration of digital transformation. A lot of companies are looking at ways to delight their end customers, reach their end customers in different ways, and for that, right, of course, you need to, you know, modern applications. And the foundation for modern application is, you need containers, and of course, Kubernetes is a standard for orchestration.

So, all of that is what our end customers are looking for, and there’s a lot of complexity for our customers that are doing it. What we are doing is working with our VCPP partners to enable them to deliver these services—container services, Kubernetes services, developer tools—setting it up in the VCPP clouds and deliver it to the end customers, so the end customers can accelerate their digital transformation journey.

Mike Vizard: If everybody has Kubernetes, is there a differentiation between one flavor versus another? What do I get in Tanzu that I might not get in a vanilla Kubernetes deployment?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Yeah. So, I think, Kubernetes is the standard, right? So, what we are doing, from a cloud provider perspective, right, we’re taking the standard Kubernetes and the value we deliver is the integrated experience, right? Having Kubernetes by itself, while it’s its foundation, there are things beyond that, right? How do we do storage? How do we do networking? How do we do the consumption experience? How do we do security?

So, the value we are bringing is, start with Kubernetes as the foundation, but layer in these services on top, enabling our cloud providers to (a) help their end customers on this journey in app modernization.

Mike Vizard: Alright. Are you seeing a massive amount of consumption yet? I mean, what is the rate of transition to Kubernetes? A lot of people are building microservices-based applications to run on that, but how much Kubernetes is running in production environments yet?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Yeah, so look, I can, you know, I can talk about—I think if you look again, there is no one size fits all. Different customers are in different phases of where they’re deploying. At least from, you know, I’m looking at our activity that we are seeing from our VCPP partners, right, which is a proxy of what they’re seeing from the end customers, we are seeing very huge interest, there’s a market interest. We are seeing a pull from our partners that actually reflects that—hey, there’s a lot of deployment, a lot of interest from our end customers.

There was a survey done by CNCF, right, a survey that was done which basically, it was done in May and June time frame, right, and they ________, right, in terms of increased adoption of Kubernetes and modern applications, right? 

So, we are seeing a lot of demand for this, and from our partners’ perspective, right, they’re getting ready now to start offering these services to the end customers.

Mike Vizard: Do you think that IT organizations are kinda standardizing on a particular distribution of Kubernetes and, in the case of VMware, you have a huge base on the on premise side—are they gonna make that their standard and you require the cloud service provider to kinda comply with that standard so they can drive hybrid cloud? Is that how you think this is gonna evolve?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Yeah, I think—you know, we are all about standards, right? I mean, we take these capabilities from standard distribution and we integrate—again, that’s part of our Tanzu basic portfolio, and that is the default standard, right? So, we want all our cloud providers, right—we don’t want our cloud providers to be managing different types of versions, right, of Kubernetes. So, it’s our responsibility, we get the standard versions, integrate that into our Tanzu basic offering, and that becomes like the de facto way of how our cloud providers operated, and then we own the responsibility of supporting it. That’s the way we wanna deliver this and standardize the offering and give them the right level of support.

Mike Vizard: Do you think the end customers will then use that standard to kinda make the cloud service providers compete more aggressively for workloads because there is a standard and the cost of switching will be lower?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Yeah, I think all, if you look at the VCPP partners, we call them CSPs, yeah, all of them, they have very robust, highly differentiated services in the marketplace for them, right? They have these customers, these customers are consuming infrastructure as a service as the end customers are looking for accelerating their digital transformation journey, our CSP clouds become a natural choice, right? They are using infrastructure, now they want to move up the stack to do app modernization. Once our cloud providers have this capability, it becomes like a natural extension—you know, a natural capability, right, that our cloud providers can monitor, on top of the existing infrastructure.

Mike Vizard: Do you think people will move workloads once they choose a cloud provider, or do they pretty much make the selection and then that workload sits there and stays there? Because it’s hard to move workloads around—how dynamic do you think these workloads are gonna get?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: You know, one of the benefits of containerized and Kubernetes, right, is it’s a standard and you have the benefit of portability. I think it depends, a lot depends on workloads, right? Some workloads are very, you know, have gravity, right? You know, they wanna be staying close to a given area. Some workloads are ephemeral, they move around, right?

So, I think it depends on the workloads, but certainly, containerized applications and Kubernetes gives you the flexibility to move app portability.

Mike Vizard: If I have a standard set of APIs everywhere, from Kubernetes all the way out to the edge, for that matter, and I’m using it on premise and I have it in the cloud and it’s also on HCI platforms, out of the edge of a 5G network, wherever it might be. Will the notion of the cloud just kinda dissipate? Because everything’s gonna be a consistent set of APIs and we might not have even been using the phrase cloud computing, anymore.

Rajeev Bhardwaj: I mean, you know, that is the beauty of containerized and Kubernetes infrastructure, right? I mean, with a set of APIs, you’re pretty much agnostic, right? I mean, I, as a developer, I write my application, I work a set of APIs and where it runs, right, I’m agnostic to that. And in many ways, it makes the infrastructure agnostic and by definition, cloud agnostic, right? It abstracts, and that is the beauty of the Kubernetes and container infrastructure.

Mike Vizard: How automated do you think all this is gonna get? We hear about the phrase serverless computing, that’s separate in people’s minds from a serverless community framework. It’s more about the serverless computing is the idea that the servers are just automatically gonna spin up when I need them, I’ll get more memory when I need them and I won’t have to actually manage or provision all that.

So, are we moving to some higher level of automation that ultimately will be enabled by Kubernetes and the stuff that sits on top of it?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Yeah, I think—look, I’ve been around this for a long time and I’ve seen the industry evolve from traditional architectures to traditional hardware-based infrastructure to voice-led infrastructure and then voice-based SDDCs, virtualized data centers, and then Kubernetes as the next layer, right? Kubernetes with containers is the next layer. And if we fast forward that, right, what we are seeing is, at the end of the day, developers, customers and developers are looking for business outcomes. They’re looking for writing an application. They care less about infrastructure, right? Infrastructure is there, but it’s serving a need, right? The need here is for apps, and apps should be agnostic, there should be no coupling between what the app needs and what the infrastructure delivers. And that’s really the trend we are seeing.

We see this, it’s a continuum. We see this trend towards serverless and that’s where we see applications going.

Mike Vizard: Do you think cloud service providers will have multiple implementations of Kubernetes from different vendors, or will they just opt for one?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: You know, I think—you know, clearly, right, there’s benefit of having a standardized offering for cloud providers. Because once we have standardization, right, you can lower your operational expense, you can get more agility in the services you deliver. So, clearly, there’s the benefit of having standardization on one.

But we do recognize, right, one of the differentiations that our cloud providers provide is, they are flexible, right? So, you know, we definitely see environments where different customers may have a different preference for different types of stacks, different types of offerings. We do see providers looking at different types of stacks, but definitely, right, more and more cloud providers we talk to, they are all about standardization, because standardization gives them simplification and they can clearly start automating. If you have to automate multiple versions, multiple implementations, multiple silos, right, it becomes very hard.

So, yeah—by default, they wanna standardize on one, but be flexible if there’s demand for customers for another set of capabilities.

Mike Vizard: Do you think, as we go forward, that the SKUs that cloud service providers today make us navigate is gonna consolidate, maybe collapse a little bit? It’s kinda hard to figure out what service to buy, when and where, and if I have Kubernetes, can I get to a point now where maybe all I’m doing is buying or committing to a bunch of credits for the year and then I’ll decide how I wanna spend them and where I wanna spend them without having to navigate 15 different contracts.

So, I guess I’m asking, will cloud computing get simpler soon?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: You know, I think it’s—yeah. I mean, if you go back, if you look at the legacy world, right, I have to buy a physical server, I have to buy a physical network, physical storage, switch, I can put it all together, right? The way I was building clouds on prem with hardware, right, I had to have separate by motions and separate contracts the way you’re highlighting, right?

But what you see is, in cloud computing, right, today, you don’t talk about servers, you talk about, “Hey, look, I have instances, you know, I have needs for capacity,” right? So, I think that shift has already happened, right, in terms of when you go to cloud, its usage base, right, what you use, and you don’t care about the underlying infrastructure. So, that switch has happened in the cloud. 

You know, with Kubernetes, right, I think the question then becomes—and of course, right, you move to serverless, it then becomes, the metrics will change, but yeah, certainly, consumption and contract layers potentially become a little bit simpler.

Mike Vizard: I think, after COVID, everybody rushed to the cloud, there was all these projects they were gonna put together in the cloud, do you think that there’s more awareness now of the cost of all that and people are gonna go back and do a second analysis and say, “What could we actually put in the cloud? Does it still make sense for it to be there?” And then (b) is there a way to optimize those costs, because we went with whatever contract was already signed.

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Yeah. I think one thing is for sure, right, and we are seeing this, is—you know, because of COVID and because of the way the businesses had to react and respond to their end customer needs, right? I think one thing is for sure—you know, we are seeing increased, actually, acceleration of digitizing everything, right? New ways to engage with customers, new ways to reach to customers. So, that is an irreversible trend.

Now, I think, as these applications, as these services become mature, as they scale—clearly, right, there will be considerations in terms of what’s the right price performance, right? The aspect of these workloads, the security aspect of these workloads, there’s, like I said, price, there’s performance, right? All those factors we have now will come into play, and they always did, right? Post-COVID or pre-COVID, right? Once you scale, new types of metrics come into play and yeah, those are discussions that always will happen.

Mike Vizard: Alright, so, what’s your best advice to folks, other than hanging out on the VMware site and checking out Tanzu? But if you’re looking at the next wave of the cloud, what are you telling folks to be thinking about?

Rajeev Bhardwaj: You know, I think, from our perspective, right, specifically to the cloud providers—look, our cloud providers have built really highly differentiated services with VMware software and they have very good reach. And they offer highly differentiated services to the end customers. And our providers have been very successful at infrastructure as a service solutions, but the market now is moving more and more about the stack, right, with this acceleration towards digital transformation. 

We see the stack becoming more and more about containers, with Kubernetes as the orchestration layer, and that is where there is market opportunity, end customers looking for that capability. There is a lot of complexity that end customers have to deal with. Our providers, VCPP partners are very well positioned. With this stack, they can help the end customers, they can reduce the complexity for the end customers by running these containerized applications on top of CSP infrastructure, right?

I think it’s a win/win—customers benefit from the expertise of the cloud providers, and cloud providers can benefit now, right, by offering highly differentiated value on top of the existing clouds.

Mike Vizard: Right. Hey, Rajeev, thanks for being on the show.

Rajeev Bhardwaj: Sure. Thank you very much, Mike.

Mike Vizard: Alright. Back to you guys in the studio.

[End of Audio]

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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