Simplifying Hybrid Cloud and Migrations to Azure Public Cloud

Rene van den Bedem of Microsoft’s Cloud and AI division ensures that Nutanix and VMware hypervisors run in Azure. In this profile, he discusses his rapid-fire approach to problem-solving, the spread of AI-powered copilots and a paradigm shift in data center capabilities.

By Jason Johnson

By Jason Johnson April 11, 2024

A problem-solver by default, Rene van den Bedem builds solutions that help data centers extend to the cloud. The veteran enterprise architect thwarts tough compatibility issues so private data centers can interoperate with Azure, Microsoft’s public cloud platform.

In short, he makes sure Nutanix and VMware hypervisors – software used to manage multiple virtual machines (VMs) – run smoothly within Microsoft Azure.

Bridging the gaps between data centers and public cloud services isn’t easy. It’s complicated and fraught with unforeseen challenges. It requires a convergent thinker, someone with determination and mental dexterity. A leader’s team player. A doer.

“I’m not really interested in doing simple things,” said van den Bedem, a Principal Technical Program Manager at Microsoft Azure.

“Clocking into a day job and doing the same thing every day – that’s my definition of being in agony.”

The recent Broadcom acquisition of VMware has created a frenzy of work for his team.

“Customers using VMware solutions are now in a state of flux, and the next 12 months will be very interesting to see what changes Broadcom makes and how the market reacts.”

Meanwhile, IT teams are re-examining their strategies and exploring alternatives and new options in light of early changes to VMware product portfolio and pricing changes. Some are hastening their reliance on public cloud services or moving to different software platforms, including Nutanix.

“We are currently rethinking and reassessing what features our customers need in light of the Broadcom acquisition,” van der Bedem said.

He likes taking on big challenges head-on and tackling complicated problems methodically and ruthlessly. It’s the behind-the-scenes work that keeps interoperability and cloud innovation flowing.

“I like it when things are hard, and I’m also very curious, so when I hear about something that can’t be done, it piques my interest,” he said.

His group also works with Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2) on Azure, a management platform for building out hybrid cloud operations while retaining your existing hypervisors and toolsets. He said NC2 provides a frictionless on-ramp to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform by keeping IT operations consistent throughout a partial or full-scale cloud migration.


Focus Shifts to Migration in Wake of Broadcom’s VMware Acquisition

To ensure a seamless user experience, van den Bedem is forever anticipating the next support ticket to come in, overhauling reference architecture and culling nerd knobs from the user interface.

“We’re always improving the quality of our solution,” he said. “You may be at 99.8 percent. And the question is, okay, how do we get to 99.9 percent? And then 99.99 percent?”

As a result, IT teams can more easily integrate their data center operations with Azure services. NC2 can be used to scale workloads from on-prem to the public cloud; to integrate cloud-based services into existing workloads; and to migrate workloads in order to run them in the public cloud.

Moving Applications Off-premises while Maintaining Consistency

Van den Bedem started in legacy telecom before spanning the globe to ultimately arrive at Amazon Web Services and, later, Microsoft, detouring in Baghdad to help restore decimated IT infrastructure during the rebuilding phase after Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I remember there was a twisted-pair token ring,” he said, referencing the obsolete networking technology that was in use at the outset of his professional journey. “TCP/IP was this corner case mainly being used for academic networks.”

In some ways, van den Bedem thinks of cloud computing, which allows resources to be accessed from a hypervisor on a tablet over Wi-Fi, as an elaborate daisy chain of many connectivity technologies to come before it.

“All of these building blocks came together to get us to where we are today, where you can move away from on-prem infrastructure entirely if you so choose,” he said.


Exploring Risks After Broadcom Acquired VMware

Van den Bedem said most customers he interacts with are doing just that: migrating applications to a public cloud environment for the long haul.

“They don’t want to be in the business of managing their own data centers anymore,” he said. “It's operationally complex. They want to do a data center exit.”

There are various reasons for the egress. Some enterprises are embarking on a multi-year strategy to modernize their applications. Going cloud-native allows them to meet key business goals, including scalability, increased uptime, and cost efficiency by way of turning IT operations into an operating expense.

Another factor is rising complexity. He said an aftereffect of the connectivity explosion is that some organizations have accumulated a hard-to-manage mix of technologies across data centers. Migration provides a path to standardized operations.

“The beauty of running Nutanix’s NC2 solution on Azure is that it reduces complexity,” he said. “All the issues…are worked out in the backend.”

While he occasionally encounters an enterprise swimming crosscurrent, that is, from cloud platforms back to on-premises operations, it is a fringe case, usually due to hasty decision-making.

“There's a level of skill that you need to have to operate in a hyperscaler correctly,” he said. “Knowing the laws of the land (regulatory issues), the laws of physics (latency issues), and the laws of economics (service fees) is very, very important before starting out.”

Running AI Workloads on Azure from a Nutanix Hypervisor

Working in Microsoft’s Cloud, an AI division, van den Bedem is always thinking about emerging technologies and how they dovetail, and sometimes collide, with cloud platforms. He believes AI will be transformative, comparing its recent maturation to the invention of the electronic calculator or the introduction of the PC.

“If people don't adopt these new AI tools, they are going to be left behind,” he said candidly.

“In 10-years time, most people around the globe will be using some form of AI-based assistance to do their jobs,” he said, making an analogy to how software has eradicated the use of handwritten ledgers for accounting purposes.


Creating AI to Give People Superpowers

He also believes that, like previous disruptive technologies, AI-based assistance will empower future workforces rather than marginalize them.

“We all need to look at AI as something that will help us, as something that will remove drudgery, error, and risk from the jobs we do,” he said.

Part of Azure's goal is to streamline the process of running AI workloads on the platform. With both NC2 on Azure and Azure VMware Solution, enterprises can leverage native Azure AI Services without drastically revising data center operations or re-platforming and refactoring applications.

The group has made rapid progress in this area. A slew of pre-trained AI models, including OpenAI’s GPT-4, can be accessed while running Nutanix and VMware hypervisors. Other functionality is still a work in progress, including the capability to connect to GPU hosts for training your own large language models.

Building Clouds for Quantum Computing

Van den Bedem sees even greater challenges ahead as quantum computing, another potentially revolutionary emerging technology, comes to the forefront.

“Quantum computing is a big one,” he said. “After AI, it’s going to be the next booming industry of technological change.”


IT Leaders Get AI-Ready and Go

Still, in the prototype phase, quantum computing utilizes principles of quantum physics to crunch giant computational problems that, in theory, would take traditional computers generations to solve. Quantum computers could conceivably be used to expedite the discovery of new drugs, produce stronger, safer materials, and train self-driving cars, for example.

Van den Bedem says that data centers and cloud platforms will play a huge role in capturing the near-infinite amount of data that these elaborately constructed machines will generate.

“You are going to need an architect to build the infrastructure for each particular use case a customer is trying to solve. It's going to create a whole new generation of problems that need solving,” he said.

In other words, making sure hypervisors run on Azure is just the first drop in the bucket.

“We're going to see a shift in the way that traditional computing models are built, so that they can integrate with AI as well as quantum computing,” he said.

“We're on the cusp of the next rocket launch of evolution. Is it going to be smooth and easy sailing? No, I don't think so.”

Editor’s note: Learn about Nutanix’s hybrid multicloud capabilities, compare offerings from VMware by Broadcom and Nutanix, see how to migrate to Nutanix then explore the VMware to Nutanix Migration Promotion.

Jason Johnson is a contributing writer. He is a longtime content and copywriter for tech and tech-adjacent businesses. Find him on Linkedin.

Ken Kaplan and Jason Lopez contributed to this story.

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