I've spent the last couple of weeks shifting back and forth in my opinion of VMware Cloud on AWS. It is a unique product, but it provides a solution to an unclear problem statement.
After talking to several industry executives and consultants about their initial impressions, I've consistently heard two responses. The first is that the solution is a simple lift and shift model for cloud migration. The second impression is that it places traditional data center workloads close to AWS, reducing complexity and improving performance. It makes sense to examine these two use cases carefully.
1. Lift and shift
Lift and shift cloud migrations are very similar to data center migrations. The concept is whether that VM runs in your on-premises VMware vSphere environment or inside a public cloud. The business value of performing a lift and shift to the cloud is questionable. I've only encountered a handful of organizations that have performed a lift and shift migration to the public cloud and claim the cost is actually worth the migration.
SEE: Cloud computing policy template (Tech Pro Research)
Regardless of the value of lift and shift as a cloud model, it is a popular use case. When evaluating lift and shift options, one must consider the impact to operations. Technical consultant Richard Arnold highlighted that VMware Cloud on AWS offers organizations a similar operating model to their existing data center. There's little to no learning curve for operations staff as the core of the offering is VMware vSphere. The migration from on-premises vSphere to VMware Cloud on AWS offers reduced complexity.
That familiarity comes at an annual cost of $207,948 for the minimum four-host configuration. Talking with other IT executives, most would be hard pressed to justify the cost versus on-premises vSphere. However, among lift and shift deployments, VMware has a strong argument for large environments.
In a recent video, I performed some basic calculations. A large organization considering Amazon EC2 as the destination for lift and shift can see significant cost savings by leveraging VMware Cloud on AWS versus EC2. A customer receives the advantages of the same AWS physical infrastructure with cost savings and reduced risk associated with a new operating model for legacy workloads.
Smaller organizations with fewer than a couple hundred medium-sized workloads may be hard pressed to see cost savings compared to EC2 or Azure, though. However, any customer heavily invested in vSphere faces reduced operations risk due to changes in the underlying hypervisor and management layer.
2. Proximity to AWS
It's a little harder to convey the network advantages of VMware Cloud on AWS to the existing VMware ecosystem of cloud partners. Integration of a private network with AWS, leveraging Direct Connect, is complicated. VMware Cloud on AWS removes the complexity and places workloads within the same data center as other AWS products.
On paper, any VMware cloud partner could provide managed network services to reduce the complexity of VMware to AWS networking. Additionally, VMware cloud partners can provide multi-cloud connectivity to other IaaS and SaaS providers. Albeit higher latency, VMware cloud providers offer more flexible cloud connectivity options.
When I challenged the VMware Cloud on AWS product team with the alternative, the representative highlighted two points. The first point is that VMware Cloud on AWS doesn't compete with VMware cloud partners. The two solutions are complementary. For example, IBM offers data centers in Europe while the initial offering from VMware Cloud on AWS only supports one AWS region in the US. The second point is that VMware Cloud on AWS will offer future integration with AWS not possible with other cloud providers. VMware gave the example of using Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) as a storage provider to VSAN inside of VMware Cloud on AWS.
At $207K a year, there are a limited number of application use cases that can justify the proximity to AWS as the primary advantage.
In the end, VMware Cloud on AWS is yet another option in the cloud journey. The organization must first make the big decisions such as lift and shift as a cloud strategy or refactoring of applications. Once those difficult business decisions are determined, weighing VMware Cloud on AWS against any other cloud strategy becomes clearer.
- Special report: The cloud v. data center decision (free PDF)
- What VMware Cloud on AWS means for infrastructure pros (TechRepublic)
- How VMware Cloud on AWS compares to Microsoft Azure Stack (TechRepublic)
- Five pitfalls to avoid in your hybrid cloud strategy (ZDNet)
- Five major pitfalls to avoid in a cloud migration (ZDNet)
Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a BA in computing and a MS in information technology from DePaul University.