What to Ask Yourself When Considering VMware Cloud on AWS

Deciding on the best cloud strategy for your business can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the cloud. If you’re considering VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC on AWS), ask yourself these questions to find out if it’s the best solution for your needs.

1. Is it cost-effective for your business?

VMware is a premium brand and if you’re just looking at the compute cost, it may seem out of budget. To get an accurate comparison, you need to evaluate the compute cost against the expenses incurred in an on-prem environment – real estate, line pull, hardware, software maintenance, headcount, management, upgrades, and travel costs. Because it can be difficult to estimate these operational costs ahead of implementation, VMware provides some tools to help.

  • Production Pricing Calculator: Post a roadmap of the features you need in the cloud, along with workload sizing to get a cost calculation, or post-sizing calculation, that includes software overhead.
  • Operations Manager in VMware: Get a granular estimate of the cost for a sub-segment of your workload using this VMware management tool. Best for larger organizations where workload has a bigger impact on costs.
  • Network Insight in VMware: Another VMware management tool, Network Insight tracks traffic flow, something often neglected when comparing on-prem and cloud costs.

2. Do you use proof of concept environments?

Proof of concept (POC) environments let you evaluate a product in your architecture and demonstrate its capabilities. As opposed to POCs on hardware when someone has to unrack the hardware, unplug it, find the original box it came in, and ship it once you’ve completed your trial, closing a POC with VMC on AWS takes as few as three clicks. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s a huge time and resource saver for technicians. Additionally, it makes everyone more willing to try new products, ensuring your environment is best equipped for your business.

3. Do you want to add hosts easily?

Adding hosts to your environment increases computing and storage capacity. With a datacenter, you buy hardware based on an estimation of capacity alongside your budget. After getting a quote and a purchase order, it can take six months to get your hardware. Then you need to rack and stack it and depend on the datacenter guys to give you a report. Over the next three to five years, you amortize the cost of the hardware and your effort.

With VMC on AWS, you input how many hosts you want and nine minutes later, an additional host is added to the cluster. When you no longer need the host, you can turn it off and only be billed for the time it was used. The quick control over your storage needs keep costs low, productivity high, and resource use optimized.

4. Do you need disaster recovery?

Using VMC for disaster recovery (DR) is becoming more popular with larger companies and those needing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), failover, and burst capability. This allows you to get started on VMC without it being heavily utilized until you’re ready.

Smaller companies considering DR on VMC need to consider the size versus cost model to determine what’s best for them. If you’re doing a business continuity case using VMC as a pilot light, then you can layer on Site Recovery Manager (SRM), VMware’s DR solution, very easily. In fact, you may be able to use VMC on AWS for more than just DR, including cloud strategy, business continuity or the pilot light, and potentially bursting capability for your on-prem. When you can rely on one solution for multiple purposes, you save time and resources through simplicity and standardization.

5. Do you just want it to work?

Professionals outside of tech have one simple goal – they just need this stuff to run reliably. They need a solution that allows them to focus on their responsibilities, rather than navigating issues, set-up, and dealing with other distractions.

One of the best things about VMC on AWS is the hands-off, ‘set it and forget it’ capability. The hardware and the upgrades are no longer your concern. There’s no need to spend so much money, time, and effort reinventing the wheel. It’s the bill versus pay model and it can put a lot of people in your organization at ease.

Building your cloud strategy, determining what products to use, and creating the architecture is all unique to your individual company. Our VMware Cloud experts can help you navigate your options for the best long-term results. Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey.

Improved Performance and Disaster Recovery with VMware Cloud on AWS

Even though public cloud adoption has become mainstream among enterprises, the heavily touted full cloud adoption has not become a reality for many companies, nor will it for quite some time.  Instead we see greater adoption of hybrid cloud, a mixture of public and private clouds, as the predominant deployment of IT servicesWith private cloud deployments largely consisting of market share leader, VMware, it gives even more credence to a VMware Cloud on AWS solution. 

Looking back 2 years to when VMware and AWS made the announcement that they had co-engineered a cloud solution, it makes a lot more sense, now.   That wasn’t necessarily always the case.  I’ll be among the first to admit that I failed to see how the two competitive solutions would coexist in a way that provided value to the customer.  But then again, I was fully drinking the cloud punch that said refactoring applications and deploying in a “cattle vs pets” mentality was necessary to enable a full-on digital transformation to merely survive in the evolving aaS world. 

What I was not considering was that more than 75% of private clouds were running on VMware.  Or that companies had made a significant investment into not only the licensing and tooling, but also in their people, to run VMware.  It would not have made sense to move everything to the cloud in many situations. 

I viewed it solely as a “lift and shift” opportunity.  It provided a means for companies to move their IT infrastructure out of the data center and “check the box” for fully migrating to the cloud while allowing for the gradual adoption of AWS cloud native solutions as they trained staff accordingly.   

While it is true that performing a complete data center evacuation is a common request with various factors influencing the decision, delaying cloud native is less of a driver.  Some companies are making the decision because they have been unsuccessful in renegotiating their contract with their colo-provider and find themselves in a tough situation resulting in the need to rapidly move or be locked-in for another lengthy contract.   In other situations, the CIO has decided that their valuable human capital would be better spent delivering higher value to their company as opposed to running a data center and converting from a CAPEX to OPEX model for their IT infrastructure works better for their business. 

However, there are two use cases that seem to be bigger drivers of VMware Cloud on AWS; the need for improved performance and disaster recovery.   

Aside from on-demand access to infrastructure, another big advantage of AWS is the sheer number of solutions they have created that become available to use in a matter of minutes and can be easily connected to your applications residing on VMware VMs. With VMware Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX), moving applications between on-Premises VMware deployments and VMware Cloud on AWS deployments is seamless.  This allows your VMs be closer to the dependent AWS tooling to improve latency and may result in improved performance for your users. If you have a geographically disbursed user base, you can easily set up a VMware Cluster in a region much closer, further reducing latency.   

I do want to caution, though, that prior to performing a migration of your applications to VMware Cloud on AWS, you should create a dependency map of all your VMs in your on-premises environment.  It is necessary to have a thorough understanding of what other VMs your applications are communicating with.  We have seen numerous cases where proper identification of dependencies has not occurred, resulting is dissatisfaction when the application is moved to VMware Cloud on AWS but the SAP database remains on-premises.  So, while you may have brought the application closer to your users, performance could be impacted if the dependencies are not located nearby. 

The other use case that has been gaining adoption is the ability to have a disaster recovery environment.  With the severity of natural disasters occurring at what seems like an increased rate, there is a real threat that your business could be impacted with downtime.  VMware Cloud on AWS coupled with VMware Site Recovery Manager provides you an opportunity to put in place a business continuity plan in geographically diverse regions to help ensure that your business keeps running. 

The other exciting thing is that hybrid cloud no longer has to be located outside your data center.  VMware Cloud on AWS has gained such wide spread acceptance that, at AWS re:Invent 2019, VMware announced the opening of a VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts Beta program, which brings the popular features of AWS Cloud right into your data center to work alongside VMware.  This seems like it would be best for clients who need the benefits of VMware Cloud on AWS but have some data sovereignty issues or legacy applications that simply cannot migrate to off premise VMware Cloud. 

As one of only a handful of North American VMware Partners to possess the VMware Master Services Competency in VMware Cloud on AWS, 2nd Watch has performed numerous successful VMware Cloud on AWS Implementations.  We also support AWS Outposts, helping AWS customers overcome challenges that exist due to managing and supporting infrastructures both on-premises and in cloud environments, for a truly consistent hybrid experience.

If you want to understand how VMware Cloud on AWS can further enable your hybrid cloud adoption, schedule a VMware Cloud on AWS Workshop – a 4-hour, complimentary, on-site overview of VMware Cloud on AWS and appropriate use cases – to see if it is right for your business.  

-Dusty Simoni, Sr Product Manager

2nd Watch Earns VMware Master Services Competency in VMware Cloud on AWS

We’re excited to announce that 2nd Watch has achieved the VMware Master Services Competency in VMware Cloud on AWS! This competency demonstrates our commitment to helping organizations accelerate digital transformations by leveraging validated services delivery capabilities around advanced VMware technologies.

“VMware is pleased to recognize 2nd Watch for achieving the VMware Cloud on AWS Master Services Competency,” said Jenni Flinders, vice president and worldwide channel chief, VMware. “This achievement shows customers that partners like 2nd Watch are dedicated, invested and have validated expertise in advanced VMware technologies. We value 2nd Watch as a VMware partner, and appreciate their efforts in achieving this VMware distinction as they work to increase their service delivery capabilities.”

The competency designates expertise in the deployment of an integrated cloud solution that delivers an on-demand service enabling customers to run applications across a VMware Cloud Infrastructure environment with access to a broad range of AWS services.

We are excited to extend our relationship with VMware, a company that shares our commitment to helping companies use cloud infrastructure to drive growth, innovation, cost savings and digital transformation. This latest recognition underscores our skills and experience moving VMware workloads to AWS. Since forming an initial partnership with VMware, we have successfully teamed with the company on numerous client engagements.

Troubleshooting VMware HCX

I was on a project recently where we had to set up VMware HCX in an environment to connect the on-premises datacenter to VMware Cloud on AWS for a Proof of Concept migration.  The workloads were varied, ranging from 100 MB to 5TB in size.  The customer wanted to stretch two L2 subnets and have the ability to migrate slowly, in waves.  During the POC, we found problems with latency between the two stretched networks and decided that the best course of action would be to NOT stretch the networks and instead, do an all-at-once migration.

While setting up this POC, I had occasion to do some troubleshooting on HCX due to connectivity issues.  I’m going to walk through some of the troubleshooting I needed to do.

The first thing we did was enable SSH on the NSX manager.  To perform this action, you go into the HCX manager appliance GUI and under Appliance Summary, start the SSH service.  Once SSH is enabled, you can then login to the appliance CLI, which is where the real troubleshooting can begin.

You’ll want to login to the appliance using “admin” as the user name and the password entered when you installed the appliance.  SU to “root” and enter the “root” password.  This gives you access to the appliance, which has a limited set of Linux commands.

You’ll want to enter the HCX Central CLI (CCLI) to use the HCX commands.  Since you’re already logged in as “root,” you just type “ccli” at the command prompt.  After you’re in the CCLI, you can type “help” to get a list of commands.

One of the first tests to run would be the Health Checker. Type “hc” at the command prompt, and the HCX manager will run through a series of tests to check on the health of the environment.

“list” will give you a list of the HCX appliances that have been deployed.

You’ll want to connect to an appliance to run the commands specific to that appliance.  As shown above, if you want to connect to the Interconnect appliance, you would type “go 0,” which would connect you to node 0.  From here, you can run a ton of commands, such as “show ipsec status,” which will show a plethora of information related to the tunnel.  Type “q” to exit this command.

You can also run the Health Check on this node from here, export a support bundle (under the debug command), and a multitude of other “show” commands.  Under the “show” command, you can get firewall information, flow runtime information, and a lot of other useful troubleshooting info.

If you need to actually get on the node and run Linux commands for troubleshooting, you’ll enter “debug remoteaccess enable,” which enables SSH on the remote node.  Then you can just type “ssh” and it will connect you to the interconnect node.

Have questions about this process? Contact us or leave a reply.

-Michael Moore, Associate Cloud Consultant