Back in October 2016, VMware and AWS announced a strategic partnership to deliver a solution that brings together the best of both worlds i.e Private Cloud and Public Cloud. VMware and AWS have been the leaders in the private cloud and public cloud space respectively for quite some time now, so them partnering and offering a solution to bring VMware’s enterprise-class Software Defined Data Center software to the AWS Cloud is awesome. So in this particular blog post, we will try to focus on some of the details on what this means for customers and how they can utilize this to suit their needs. Let’s start with the scenarios in which this solution can be useful:
- Maintain and Expand: The first scenario is if the customer wants to maintain their on-prem data centers, but also want to expand into the cloud for Backup, DR or other purposes.
- Consolidate and Migrate: The second scenario is more focussed around migration to the cloud. Most companies have a hard time migrating their on-prem applications into the cloud. But with this solution, you don’t need to worry as you will still be running the same software stack in the cloud. So you can easily vMotion VMs from the on-prem hosts over to the hosts in the cloud.
- Workload Flexibility: This scenario focusses on use cases, where you want to pick and choose the applications that you want to run on the cloud. You can continue running the applications that you feel are better suited for private cloud in your data center and only run the more microservices-based apps in the cloud.
The primary advantage of this solution is that you don’t have to worry about learning or adopting new technologies, it’s the same VMware stack that you have been using since many many years. And all the scripts that you have written would still work, and all the apps that you run on-prem are still compatible with the hosts that run inside the AWS Cloud.
Now, let’s dig deep and talk about the technical aspects and look at how the magic happens. As you can see in the picture below, you have your AWS Global Infrastructure, and running on top of that you have dedicated hosts that run VMware vSphere, vSAN, and NSX. All three of these components are still managed by vCenter.
So basically when you subscribe to this service, VMware will go and grab the number of hosts that you requested(minimum of 4) from AWS Infrastructure and install vSphere on bare metal, install vCenter, create a cluster, enable vSAN and NSX and what you get at the end is a vCenter IP address that you can log into and start provisioning virtual machines. Right now, they deploy vSphere 6.5 which is the latest and greatest there is. They have All Flash vSAN running on the hosts, to make sure that you get the best performance. And having NSX running in the cloud enables you to live migrate your VMs running in your data center(which also uses NSX) into the cloud. And in the case you don’t have NSX on-prem, you can power off the virtual machine, migrate it and go into edit settings to change the network connectivity for the instance. Again, since this is the same VMware software, you would still be able to use PowerCLI to manage the resources and the entire vRealize Suite is automatically compatible with the cloud. BOOM! So if you are using vROPs to manage your private cloud, you can just point it to the vCenter running in the public cloud and you can have a single pane of glass to manage both your on-prem and cloud resources. Next, you can extend the new vCenter and add the on-prem hosts to it, or you can link the vCenter you have on-prem with the new vCener instance on the cloud, and you can vMotion virtual machines back and forth. And since it’s vSphere 6.5, you don’t need to worry about security, as 6.5 has support for encrypted vMotion! This entire thing is offered as a managed service by VMware, but the great part about paying for this service is that VMware is still following the AWS Model of On-Demand and Reserved Instances. So you can pay for these hosts on an hourly basis or you can reserve those for a 1 or a 3 year period. And yes, you read it right, you pay on a per host basis and not a per instance basis. So, you can still use the same over-subscriptions ratios that you are using on-prem and get more bang for your buck. VMware will take care of supporting your cloud resources, they will perform the upgrades needed for the hosts, they will help you resolve any issues that you are having. You can compare it easily with any other managed service that AWS offers, the only difference being you would work with and pay VMware instead of AWS. Another really interesting thing about this solution is Elastic DRS. vSphere admins will already know what DRS is, consider elastic DRS as DRS on steroids. Basically, you can configure elastic DRS to add more hosts to your vCenter on the cloud, when the existing hosts are running at max capacity, and similarly, you can remove those additional hosts when the spike in the utilization goes down. You can compare this to AWS Autoscaling groups, but in this case, you are adding and removing dedicated hosts rather than AWS Instances. To know more about Elastic DRS, go and read Frank Denneman’s blog at: here: http://frankdenneman.nl/2016/10/18/vmware-cloud-aws-elastic-drs/
Next, let’s talk about the AWS side of things. When you request for this service, VMware will go ahead and create a new AWS service account per tenant and spin up all the hosts inside a new VMware Cloud VPC. You can connect back to your data center using AWS Direct Connect or by establishing a VPN Tunnel (this depends on the bandwidth and security requirements that you have). Note that you will need to have NSX in you data center, if you don’t have NSX, then you would need to deploy an NSX Edge appliance, this is a VMware requirement and not an AWS one. When you are requesting for this service, you can also provide details for your existing AWS VPC in your AWS Account, so that VMware can do VPC Peering between the two accounts which will enable you to use your existing cloud resources like your S3 buckets with the new resources that will spin up. This is another advantage of using VMware Cloud on AWS, you get the flexibility to start using other AWS services for your workloads. You can start using S3 buckets, or you can connect your EBS volumes to the instances running in the VMware VPC, or mount EFS shares to the new virtual machines. You get to decide how and where you want to run your applications depending on YOUR needs.
So to summarize, I would say that this is a really good solution for people who are considering moving to the public cloud or even moving towards a more hybrid cloud strategy. Since you can pay for this service on-demand, you can stop at any point if you don’t like it. And also you don’t have to make any upfront investment to get started. I am looking forward to this solution being GA and learning more about it. I will post additional blogs around this topic when I learn more. But till then, you can watch the Re: Invent videos and other resources that are out there to learn more about it.
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