Transitioning away from vCloud Director – the unspoken plan

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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)

6 thoughts on “Transitioning away from vCloud Director – the unspoken plan

  1. We are facing this challenge head on. With two sites on vCD and plans to build out a new larger site under way. At this point I simply do not trust VMware with this part of the stack. I’m happy with vCO, ESXi & vSphere today. We had to build our own UI on top of vCD due to its lack of access control granularity. vCAC looks like an even bigger bag of hurt than vCD. We will be looking at other solutions to transition to and directly comparing the effort involved for migrating 6000+ VMs. Untangling the networking will be the most difficult piece and best opertunity for VMware to win our business back. That said some big expensive professional services engagement to solve a problem VMware created is not how you treat your customers.

    1. Thanks for the comment Blake. I know of several other large customers who feel that VMware will ensure they’re looked after but obviously you don’t feel so reassured, and thus far neither do I. I sure many people remember the Lab Manager/Stage Manager debacle when that went end of life – lets hope VMware have learnt that lesson. Please stay in touch – I’d be interested to hear how you fare going forwards.

  2. In the interest of full disclosure I represent a vCloud Director 3rd party portal vendor – AirVM (www.airvm.com/vcd).

    Some helpful thoughts on VMware’s improving efforts on vCD market positioning:

    It’s unfortunate but the reality is that the news from VMware isn’t being properly communicated. Over the last 12 months there has been much misinformation from VMware regarding the vCD roadmap including a statement relating to ‘vCD going away’ that was greatly exaggerated and only intended to mean ‘the GUI for vCD is going away’ and ‘vCD for enterprise is going away, vCD is being focused on VSPP/service providers’.

    VMworld Barcelona 2014 wasn’t great for vCD customers as the article points out there was only 1 track out of many focused on vCloud Director. The reality is that vCD is here to stay. After multiple interactions with their product team and feedback from their many levels of senior management I can report vCD has a roadmap going well into the future. Geoff Waters is on record to say ‘we are doubling down on vCD… to make the experience for service providers that much better’.

    Let me share a few data points to help build some confidence with the VSPP community:
    – vCloud Air is built entirely on vCD (VMware have almost certainly staked their future on vCD not going away).
    – vCD is being focused more on service providers with new tools being made available. vCD 5.6 introduces long sought after performance monitoring and advanced disk management.
    – the VSPP advisory council, comprised of the largest service provider customers, has met repeatedly in the USA and Europe and are publicly expressed their satisfaction with the new vCD direction.
    – there are new services which have been publicly announced for vCloud Air which are slated to make their way into vCD early in 2015 (visit PEX 2015 in San Francisco) to learn more.
    – VMware has successfully started their ecosystem of 3rd party vendors developing applications for vCD. The first ecosystem is focused on a 3rd party portal for vCD of which AirVM, OnApp and Parallels (to a lesser extent).

    All in all I would encourage people to look at the facts and speak with their account managers for more information on vCD. If you lack confidence in the material your account manager is providing I would strongly suggest you connect with the product management team at VMware to learn more.

    1. Thanks for the comprehensive info Ben. I’m glad it’s not just me that thinks communication needs to improve! I did mention vCloud Air being built on vCD and that’s the biggest upside for me – I’m really hoping it drives innovation to the forefront so we (service providers) can offer the benefits to our customers. I’ll have a word with VMware and sort them out in the morning! 🙂

  3. Here we are, another Service Provider using vmware Stack (vco, vcac, vcd, chargeback …) preaching and delivering to the Enterprise. in Spain. Also looking for the life after vcd with concern. Buy o build? 2015 is going to be interesting, as usual.

  4. Service providers didn’t have the software they licensed hit a dead end. The facts are clear for enterprises who licensed the vcloud suite and deployed vCD. The non SP version of vCD is not getting new features and is on a Lab Manager style ramp down. VMware is going to address the issue by selling vCAC extra hard. It’s clear that VMware made a calculated decision to change directions with vCD. We in fact had to tell our customers to rebuild all vm’s and automation when we transitioned off of lab manager. We continue to engage with VMware sales and product management. That said I don’t have confidence in their plan and see them focusing on pleasing the 80% of customers. Just sucks to be in the other 20% again.

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