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After an attempt to become a cloud service provider itself – which appears to have seen mixed results – VMware’s new cloud strategy can be summarized as wanting to be the glue that holds a customer’s multi-cloud infrastructure together, including private cloud (on-premises or outsourced), and numerous public cloud platforms.

The company, majority-owned by Dell EMC, first announced this strategy at its annual VMworld conference in Las Vegas a year ago, and today, at this year’s event, it is finally beginning to explain how the strategy, which circles around a platform called VMware Cloud Foundation, translates into specific products and services.

“We can act as cloud Switzerland,” Nick King, VMware’s VP of cloud product marketing, said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge. That means VMware wants to help customers use whatever cloud platforms they choose, providing a toolset that remains consistent, whether they’re running applications in their own data centers, on Amazon Web Services, on Microsoft Azure, or on all of the above.

To that end, the company today unveiled a number of cloud management tools sold as cloud services, using the Software-as-a-Service delivery model. They include tools for managing cloud resource consumption; monitoring cloud networks for performance, health, and compliance; optimizing cloud costs; creating private virtual networks within or across clouds; cloud security; analytics; and multi-platform app management.

See also: New Rackspace Private Cloud by VMware Hits General Availability

The services will be free between now and November 30th, by which time the company promises to provide pricing details. Like with other SaaS products, users will be able to consume the services on demand and pay per use, or commit to long-term contracts paid for upfront, presumably in exchange for discounts. Pricing is a bit of an Achilles’ heel for VMware, whose corporate clients reportedly often complain in private about high cost of its products.

Selling an ‘Easy’ Path to Hybrid Cloud

Some of the new tools work across AWS, Azure, and on-premises VMware environments; some across AWS and on-prem; and one (AppDefense for data center endpoint security) is on-prem only.

See also: In Moving Production Workloads to Cloud, VMware Professionals Prefer AWS, Azure

The on-prem bit is key here. The huge presence of VMware’s virtualization platform in enterprise data centers is the cornerstone of VMware’s cloud strategy, giving it a natural advantage over competitors in pitching hybrid-cloud solutions to those customers, offering them the path of least resistance (via a consistent toolset on-prem and in the cloud) in integrating public cloud into their service-delivery models.

The new Discovery tool, for example, automatically takes inventory of your compute, storage, and network resources deployed in AWS, Azure, and vCenter, the management platform for on-prem VMware environments.

Another example, NSX Cloud, is the cloud version of VMware’s flagship network virtualization software. The tool gives you a single management console and a common API for networking and security across multiple private and public clouds. At launch, NSX Cloud supports AWS and VMware on-prem only, but Azure and Google Cloud Platform appear to be on the list of options to be added in the future.

Outsize AWS Support

While “cloud Switzerland” is a worthy goal, it’s hard to ignore the fact that at least today VMware’s partnership with AWS, the world’s largest public cloud provider, is tighter than its relationships with other cloud providers. Most of the new SaaS tools support AWS, while only two support Azure at launch, and none support GCP, or IBM and Oracle’s cloud platforms for that matter.

VMware and AWS announced their partnership last October, saying they would offer VMware’s products as cloud services on AWS. VMware Cloud on AWS, which is VMware’s virtualization platform vSphere running on bare-metal servers in Amazon data centers sold and supported by VMware, is currently in preview period. The idea is to offer customers the same vSphere-based cloud they’ve set up in their own data centers, but as an infinitely more elastic and scalable public cloud service. It’s possible that the companies will announce the end of preview period for the service this week at VMworld.

Asked whether VMware had plans to strike similar partnerships with other cloud providers, King said the answer will depend on customer demand. “We always look at how we work with cloud providers,” he said.