Tech Corner

The VMware and AWS Partnership: A welcome, if short-term, solution

There are two ways to look at the VMware and AWS strategic partnership announcement issued in October of this year: at the market level and at the end user level. We are focused on what this partnership could mean for the end users, i.e. our clients.

 

What’s the current situation?

As we understand it, VMware Cloud on AWS is currently in technology preview phase with a beta slated for 2017 and the potential for market availability later in the year.  Until then, it’s business as usual, which can be cumbersome.

At the moment, there is a conversion required in order to move virtual machines managed with VMware into the public cloud. There are numerous off-the-shelf solutions to help convert the virtual machine hypervisor format, for example Boomerang, CloudEndure, AWS Import/Export. We’ve used them, at various times, on behalf of our clients, but even so, it is complex work with a number of detailed steps involved in the process. It can be time consuming. It can also be fraught with problems if you don’t have a thorough understanding of your application inter-dependencies and your network and security constraints. Some months ago we prepared a troubleshooting guide about  Migrating an on Premises VM to the Public Cloud, which lists 25 steps.

The challenge doesn’t end there. Once the migration is completed, in order to use those virtual machines in the AWS cloud you need to change your processes around packaging and tooling, which means taking the time to reskill engineers, developers and your application teams.

Many organisations have already made investments into VMware, the relevant licensing and of course the training to ensure their people know how to use it most effectively. Some are understandably reluctant to let go of that technology as part of their cloud journey.

A welcome migration solution

VMware Cloud on AWS will mean that our customers who have investments in VMware will not have to change their hypervisor format in order to move virtual machines into the cloud. They can move straight into the AWS cloud (essentially an availability zone with dedicated infrastructure) using existing VMware technology. This will dramatically reduce the complexity of the migration.

This partnership and its promised solution represents a step forward in terms of migration challenges. Our customers will be able to meet the key objective of migrating what they want out of their data centres, more quickly and efficiently, without having to change formats and retrain staff.

This move tells us that AWS and VMware have been listening to their customers and professional partners who have wanted a simpler solution for this migration challenge. We recognise it’s an important step that could make a difference to our clients’ technology transformations, cloud programs and IT projects. If VMware Cloud on AWS simplifies migration and saves time, it not only means our clients could save money but they will be able to get their IT teams’ focus back onto business matters more quickly.

For all the right reasons, we are hopeful it will mitigate the migration challenges we have experienced alongside our clients and look forward to making use of it when it’s ready. Of course, like any other technology solution, we are assuming it will do what it promises.

Yet, it’s only what we would call a short term tactical solution for our clients.

Migration is only the beginning

Why do we call this a short term, tactical solution? Well, because cloud is not just about migration. It’s vital to get it right, and it would be ideal to reduce the time that it takes and complete it as efficiently as possible, but it’s an early step in an organisation’s cloud journey. IT strategies and cloud journeys must be planned for the long term, looking beyond migration and at the decisions and steps that lay ahead, not least of which are the ongoing costs and the ease of cloud integration. We look forward to making use of the tactical migration solution that comes out of the VMware AWS partnership, but while it negates the need for a hypervisor format switch in the short term, it doesn’t alleviate the need to make a decision around the longer term impacts (costs and integration, for example) sooner or later.

As they become familiar with the AWS cloud environment and want to consume more and more cloud services, our clients will have to integrate these services with VMware (which will still present complexities) or move completely from VMware into the AWS environment at some stage down the road.

And minimum capacity requirement may see higher than usual OPEX costs, with a fixed component unrelated to actual usage.

A nod to the Market perspective

One thing we will venture to add from a market and industry perspective is that this partnership announcement does put a bit of a question mark over the vCloud Air Network (vCAN) providers who have been offering native VMware cloud options in the meantime. We’ve been working with some vCAN providers for our clients who are fully VMware shops and who didn’t want to switch to AWS or Azure. As a rule, these players do not provide a hyperscale capability. They are not solutions for organisations with high volume and scale requirements, but they have been a key component for a number of our clients’ cloud programs.

vCAN providers have a lot to think about in the lead up to the market availability of the VMware Cloud on AWS solution. These smaller players who have been the ones thinking ahead, acting with agility to provide useful solutions and leading the market in this direction may be threatened by this partnership. Perhaps we will see some vCANs who will maintain their niche, innovate and stay ahead of the market and its big players. It remains to be seen, and we will be watching with interest.


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