Early this year, VMware (NYSE: VMW) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) formed a partnership to facilitate customers shift to the cloud, a move that has already resulted in more than 500 clients making the change, according to IBM. The partners have announced their arrangement has been extended to include an expanded suite of services as part of VMware's "cloud foundation."

For the first time,  VMware is offering a new "as-a-service" alternative as part of its software-defined data center (SDDC) platform, and IBM will be the first of many big cloud suppliers to reap the benefits. By packaging VMware's SDDC solutions with IBM's hybrid offering, clients of both will be able to make their transitions to the cloud "in hours, versus weeks or months." IBM is also training more than 4,000 of its service specialists in VMware's product line-up to facilitate customers' shifts to the combined solution.

According to industry observers, partnerships like the extended VMware-IBM  alliance could prove to be the wave of the future, essentially automating the cloud migration process. VMware has aggressively pursued strategic alignments with many of the cloud's biggest players as the competition for the fast-growing market heats up.

According to research firm Gartner, the cloud services market is expected to reach $204 billion this year.  With a more than $11.6 billion annual cloud revenue run-rate -- not to mention IBM's 50% jump in cloud services sales the past 12 months to $$6.7 billion -- VMware has hitched its cloud wagon to one of the industry's biggest players.

That said, VMware intends to makes its SDDC services package available to other cloud giants, including Amazon and Microsoft. However, until then, the partnership will be a boon for both IBM and VMware, and their respective shareholders.

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Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned.