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.

5 Benefits of VMware Cloud on AWS

Everyone’s journey to the cloud is different. Before deciding your direction, you should consider your business goals, risk tolerance, internal skills, cost objectives, and existing technology ecosystem.  For some, the choice is a 100% native cloud-first strategy on a single Cloud Service Provider (CSP). Others will use a mixture of services across multiple providers. And some others will choose a hybrid strategy in some form.  For a hybrid approach, an interesting option worth considering is leveraging VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS.

VMware Cloud on AWS is a great solution to consider whether you are integrating your on-prem work environment into the cloud, evacuating your datacenter, scaling datacenter extensions, looking at disaster recovery (DR), or focusing on remote workforce enablement.

What is VMware Cloud on AWS?

About three years ago, hundreds of engineers from VMware and AWS spent more than two years bringing the VMware Cloud solution to market. VMware Cloud on AWS refers to the VMware infrastructure stack or VMware cloud foundation. It encompasses the three infrastructure software pieces that VMware is known for: vSphere, NSX and vSAN. vSphere provides virtualization of compute, NSX is virtualization of the network, and vSAN virtualizes storage. VMC is an instance of the vCloud foundation being executed on AWS bear metal hardware. When you sign up for a VMware Cloud account, you can get access to the entire VMware stack in an AWS availability zone in just 90 minutes.

Traditionally, VMware has been in datacenters. Now, you can combine those servers into one piece of hardware. With AWS, you can now move functionality to the cloud and enjoy the many benefits of this platform.

1. Expanded functionality

There is so much more functionality in the VMware stack than in the cloud alone. There’s also more functionality in the cloud than you can build in your own environment. VMware Cloud on AWS is more than just a traditional VMware stack. It’s all the functionality of NSX, vSAN, and vSphere, plus the latest additions, at your fingertips, allowing you to always run the latest version of VMware to have access to the newest features. VMware takes care of the maintenance, upgrading, and patching, and with VMC being placed in AWS, you have instant access to all of the AWS cloud features in close physical proximity to your application, allowing you to experience improved performance.

2. Easy adoption

If you’re new to the cloud and have experience with VMware, you will easily be able to apply those existing on-prem skills to VMC on AWS. Because vShere on-prem is the same as the vSphere on AWS, it’s backwards compatible. The traditional management interface of the vCenter has the same look and feel and operates the same in the cloud as it does on-prem. These mirrored interfaces allow you to preserve the investment you have made in your existing VMware administrators, keeping headcount and employee costs down because you don’t have to hire for new skills or ask existing techs to increase their skillset. This quick familiarity lets you ramp up and use the service much faster than bringing in a completely new platform.

3. Agile scaling capability

After COVID-19 safety precautions sent 80-90% of the workforce home, organizations scrambled to enable and protect their new remote workers. Datacenters and BDi farms weren’t built to scale for the influx, and it’s just not possible to build additional datacenters as fast as necessary. Organizations needed to find already-built hardware and available datacenters and software that could meet their needs quickly. VMC on AWS solves the problem because it is built to scale without the limitations of on-prem environments.

4. Transition from CAPEX to OPEX

A fundamental change people are seeing from VMC on AWS is the ability to move from a capital expenditures (CAPEX) model to an operating expenditures (OPEX) model, freeing you from exceptionally long and expensive contracts for datacenters and DR locations.

With VMC, you can move to an OPEX model and spread your cost out over time, and the hardware, maintenance, and upgrades are no longer your responsibility. On top of that, the savings in headcount, manpower, and man hours creates a conversation between IT and financial staff as to what’s best for the overall organization.

5. Lower costs

Chances are, you’re already using VMware and recognize it as a premium brand, so if you’re looking at cost solely from a compute point of view, it might appear as if costs are higher. However, if you add up the individual expenses you incur without VMC – including real estate, hardware, software maintenance, headcount, management, travel costs – and compare that to VMC on AWS, you see the cost benefit ratio in favor of VMC. And additional resources are saved when you consider all the management roles that are no longer your responsibility.  VMware also offers a hybrid loyalty program with incentives and savings for customers who are already invested in the VMware ecosystem.

2nd Watch holds the VMware Cloud on AWS Master Services Competency. If you’re considering the next step in your cloud journey, Contact Us to learn more about our team of VMware Cloud experts, available to help you navigate the best platform for your goals.

Cloud Crunch Podcast: Hybrid Cloud Computing

This week on Cloud Crunch, we welcome our first guest, Dusty Simoni, Sr Product Manager at 2nd Watch, to discuss hybrid cloud computing. We dive into what hybrid cloud is is, examples of hybrid, benefits, complexities, and how to get started. For this conversation, we look at hybrid cloud as on-premises infrastructure and public cloud – specifically around AWS, Azure and VMware – and exclude private cloud services. Listen now on Spotify, iHeart Radio, iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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

Why VMware Cloud on AWS?

By now you’ve likely heard of VMware Cloud on AWS, either from the first announcement of the offering, or more recently as activity in the space has been heating up since the product has reached a state of maturity.  On-premises, we loved what VMware could do for us in terms of ease of management and the full utilization of hardware resources.

However, in the cloud the push for native services is ever present, and many first reactions about VMC are “Why would you do that?   This is certainly the elephant in the room whenever the topic arises.  Previous experience with manually deployed VMware in the AWS cloud required nested virtualization and nearly the same care and feeding as on-premises.  This further adds to initial reaction.  Common sense would dictate however, that if the two 800-pound gorillas come together in the room, they may be able to take on the elephant in the room!  As features have been added to the product and customer feedback implemented, it has become more and more compelling for the enormous installed base of VMware to take advantage of the offering.

What are the best features of VMware Cloud on AWS?

Some of the most attractive features of the cloud are the managed services, which reduce the administrative overhead normally required to maintain reliable and secure operations.  Let’s say you want to use SQL Server in AWS.  Moving to the RDS service where there is no maintenance, configuration or patching of the underlying server is an easy decision.  After some time, the thought of configuring a server and installing/maintaining a RDBMS seems archaic and troublesome. You can now have your DBA focus on the business value that the database provides.  VMware Cloud on AWS is no different.  The underlying software and physical hardware is no longer a concern.  One can always be on the optimum version of the platform with no effort, and additional hardware can be added to a cluster at the press of a button.

What software/service helps manage and control the entirety of your IT estate?

There are many third-party software solutions, managed service providers, and up and coming native services like Simple Systems Manager.  Now imagine a cloud based managed service that works for on-premises and cloud resources, and has an existing, mature ecosystem where nearly everyone in Enterprise IT has basic to advanced knowledge.  Sounds attractive, doesn’t it?  That is the idea behind VMware Cloud on AWS.

The architecture of VMC is based on dedicated bare metal systems that are physically located in AWS datacenters.  VMware Cloud on AWS Software Defined Datacenters (SDDCs) are deployed with a fully configured vSAN running on NVMe Flash storage local to the cluster, which currently can expand up to 32 nodes.  You are free to provision the hosts anyway you see fit.  This arrangement also allows full access to AWS services, and keeps resources in the same low latency network.  There is also a connector between the customer’s AWS account and the VMC SDDC, allowing direct low latency access to existing AWS resources in a client VPC.  For management, the hybrid linked mode gives a single logical view spanning both on-premises and VMC vCenter servers.  This allows control of the complete hybrid environment with vCenter and the familiar web console.

Figure 1.  VMware Cloud on AWS Overview

Below are some selected capabilities, benefits, and general information on the VMware Cloud on AWS:

  • There is no immediate requirement for refactoring of existing applications, but access to AWS services allows for future modernization.
  • Very little retraining of personnel is required. Existing scripts, tools and workflows are reusable.
  • Easy expansion of resource footprint without deploying more physical infrastructure.
  • Easy migration of VMs across specific geographies or between cloud/premises for compliance and latency reasons.
  • VMware native resiliency and availability features are fully supported: including DRS for workload distribution, shared storage for clustered application support, and automatic VM restart after node failure.
  • DR as a service with Site Recovery is supported, including the creation of stretched clusters. This can provide zero-RPO between AZ’s within the AWS region.  This service takes advantage of the AWS infrastructure which is already designed with high availability in mind.
  • VMware Horizon 7 is fully supported. This can extend on-premises desktop services without buying additional hardware and enables placement of virtual desktops near latency-sensitive applications in the cloud.
  • The service has GDPR, HIPAA, ISO, and SOC attestations to enable the creation of compliant solutions.
  • Region expansion is underway and two new regions have recently come online in Europe.
  • Discounts are available based on existing product consumption and licensing.
  • Integration with CloudFormation for automated deployment is available.

Figure 2:  VMware Cloud on AWS Target use cases

So for those currently using VMware and considering a move to the cloud and/or hybrid architecture, VMware Cloud on AWS offers the most straightforward gateway into this space.  The service then brings all the hundreds of services in the AWS ecosystem into play, as well as a consistent operational model, the ability to retain familiar VMware tools, policies, management, and investments in third-party tools.  So instead of planning and executing your next hardware refresh and VMware version upgrade, consider migrating to VMware Cloud on AWS!

For help getting started migrating to VMware Cloud on AWS, contact us.

-Eric Deehr, Cloud Solutions Architect & Technical Product Manager