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.

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.

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

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