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Top 5 questions on Dell-EMC-VMware cloud strategy

October 21, 2015, 8:57 PM UTC
EMC CEO Joseph Tucci and Dell CEO Michael Dell.
EMC CEO Joseph Tucci and Dell CEO Michael Dell.
Photographs by Getty Images

So many questions so little time. Up till now, both Dell and EMC have outlined a rather confusing array of cloud options and partnerships with small companies as well as the biggest of the big (Microsoft.) Now that Dell, EMC, and VMware have said they are combining their various cloud components into a single business unit (Virtustream), there are many unresolved questions.

Here are my top five.

1. What about vCloud Air’s chief? With Rodney Rogers, chief executive of Virtustream, heading up the combined company’s cloud effort going forward, what happens to Bill Fathers, the VMware (VMW) senior vice president who led the vCloud Air air charge?

The official answer is that he will stay on at VMware in a strategic advisory role, reporting to VMware chief executive Pat Gelsinger, according to a VMware spokesman. Gelsinger will be on the board of the new Virtustream business unit. Other top vCloud Air execs, including top marketing guy Mathew Lodge, had already left the company.

2: And how about those Dell cloud partnerships? Two years ago Dell backed off of plans to build its own OpenStack-based public cloud and instead said it would partner with Joyent, ScaleMetrix and Zerolag which provide public cloud for customers who wanted that. Since then, crickets. I’m not sure if those partnerships are still active or if they are whether they will survive this next reconfiguration. (Update: A Dell spokeswoman said these partnerships are still active.)

Some background: Public cloud refers to a massive pool of shared computing, networking and storage that business customers rent instead of building new data centers or extending those they already own. Many companies are relying more on public cloud options to avoid the capital expense of running their own data centers. Private cloud is the notion of running flexible on-demand computing in a company’s own data center. Hybrid cloud mixes the two models, allowing companies to keep running important jobs on their own resources, while allocating other tasks to the public cloud.

One thing is clear, Dell continued to push integration with Azure, the public cloud option backed by long-time software partner (and more recent hardware competitor) Microsoft(MSFT).

On Wednesday Dell announced another Azure hybrid cloud partnership at Dell World.

3: Where and when will the axe fall?

What about the people who came up with and implemented the aforementioned partnership strategies? There are reports of job cuts at Dell already in the wake of the EMC(EMC)news. Maybe some of the Dell software and cloud execs will head to Virtustream, but I’m betting there is not a home for all the Dell Software and Cloud execs. Stay tuned on this.

Update: Nnamdi Orakwue, who was vice president of cloud and then software at Dell, is leaving the company, as are other top Dell Software execs.

4: And whither the EMC cloud alliances?

EMC’s Enterprise Hybrid Cloud parlays the company’s own hardware and software into private cloud infrastructure but also works with VMware’s vCloud Air public cloud as a back end. Similar integration with Azure and OpenStack-based clouds and some support for Amazon(AMZN)Web Services was promised for later in the year. Unclear if that has been delivered. (OpenStack is a set of open-sourced, freely available software that companies can use to run their own private or public clouds.)

And EMC also had Project Caspian, a special OpenStack-based cloud for running brand-new, cloud-native applications. An outgrowth of EMC’s acquisition of Cloudscaling two years ago, and run by Cloudscaling founder Randy Bias, Project Caspian was on the roadmap for fourth quarter. Is that still a go? And, yes, Fortune reached out to EMC for comment.

5: Can all these parts be made into a coherent whole?

It’s hard to see how a combined EMC-VMware-Dell-Virtustream cloud business can be any less a stitched-together conglomeration than the EMC cloud strategy was already. A ton of streamlining and prioritization has to happen here. Rogers is an accomplished executive who built a strong business running enterprise applications in the cloud at Virtustream, but he has his work cut out for him here.

But while he and his team sort through the all the pieces, Amazon Web Services, which only needs to focus on world domination, is powering ahead. Kidding. But only sort of.

And, luckily Rogers will be on hand at Structure 2016 next month in San Francisco so we can ask more about specifics.

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This story was updated at 8:50 p.m. EDT with news of Nnamdi Orakwue’s exit from Dell.