VMware Cloud on AWS is a tech partnership that many have been watching for a long time. Jointly developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware, together the two tech giants promise to “deliver a seamless hybrid cloud experience” by extending your on-premise vSphere environment to the AWS public cloud.

But what are the common use cases and how can you leverage the scale, agility and services in this hybrid offering? Trustmarque Cloud Practice Lead Neel Dev, writes about the background to VMware Cloud on AWS and how organisations can benefit from the this powerful partnership.

The background to VMware Cloud on AWS

The opportunity: the rise of cloud

CIOs and IT leaders recognise the power of the cloud. The ability to scale up and harness more computing power when required. The ability to offload the real estate, power, cooling, networking and security problems of the on-premise datacentre. The automation benefits of cloud alongside IoT and machine learning. Add to this, the ability to leverage platform services that can unlock business value from organisational and customer data, there are new opportunities to innovate that were not available a decade or even five years ago.

The Challenge: why moving to the cloud isn’t always easy

Many businesses are heavily invested in an on-premise environments, mostly based on x86 hardware. IT staff are trained in technologies such as VMware, using the likes of vCenter and vRealize for over a decade. Shifting a whole ecosystem using these technologies can be risky, time consuming and expensive. VMware has proven itself over many years to be a stable and robust environment for enterprise applications, databases and other workloads.

Organisations are therefore reluctant to go through the reskilling and training required to embrace public cloud, even though they recognise the benefits.

On the other hand are businesses that have a cloud first strategy for new applications and development, but a separate on-premise VM environment for traditional corporate applications. These organisations are effectively running two IT teams, with different skills, operating and cost models. One team develops ‘born in the cloud’ applications using technologies such as containers, microservices, serverless technologies and follows agile methodologies. The other has a server and storage based on-premises infrastructure, procures via CAPEX and is largely VM and relational data based.

There is high value in bringing these worlds together. For example, there could be large amounts of customer and company data, as well as business intelligence locked in relational databases on premises – siloed from the rest of the on premises and cloud-based infrastructure of such a company. Imagine the insights, trends and patterns that could be discovered from consolidating into a single ‘source of truth’ and exposed to AI and machine learning.

Introducing VMware Cloud on AWS: the best of both worlds

VMware Cloud on AWS is exactly what the name states you can run VMware on the AWS public cloud. This can in effect provide customers with all the functions, management capabilities and compatibility they know alongside the enterprise class robustness and reliability. Using software defined technologies such as NSX, customers can also leverage native access to AWS services like S3 storage, cloud-based relational and non-relational databases services, or AI and ML based analytics services.

VMware Cloud on AWS how it works

Using this technology customers can extend on-premises VMware infrastructure providing a true hybrid experience through a single pane of glass management experience. Utilising VMware NSX, customers can perform hybrid migrations into the cloud with live VMs with no downtime or re-platforming.

What are the use cases and benefits of VMware Cloud on AWS?

1. Fast cloud migrations 

Generally speaking, moving workloads to the cloud can be a time consuming. Organisations need to think about application compatibility, database considerations, service access, latency and downtime of critical applications.

Migrations may take month or years. Often, organisations simply do not have the time to retrain, asses application dependencies and plan for downtime and an easy solution is the adoption of VMware cloud on AWS. Currently, the only footprint required in the cloud is a three-node cluster, though we expect to see the first two node cluster unveiled soon. Customers can scale up back down if/when needed.

Because the ecosystem of the applications essentially remains the same from the perspective or hypervisor, resources, backends, management tools, etc. there is minimal disruption during a migration. Organisations have been known to migrate hundreds, or even thousands of VMs over just a few days with none or negligible downtime.  Most importantly, the risk is minimised in a way that no other platform or migration strategy can offer. Familiar tools such as vMotion can be used for migration and there is no need to re-architect or refactor applications for the cloud.

2. Seamless cloud disaster recovery

With challenges to budgets and CAPEX, some of our customers are looking at closing down multiple datacentres and focusing their expertise, staff and budgets on a single on-premises option, using the cloud for disaster recovery.

The advantage of VMware Cloud on AWS is you use time tested technologies such as VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) and vSphere replication for DR. As opposed to having to train and understand third party or cloud-based replication technologies. The added bonus is that you can start small with a three-node cluster (soon to be two node) and scale up if and when required. The DR environment can also be used for test and dev, as with any on-premises DR environment.

3. Datacentre extension

Often organisations are forced to take on services, businesses or extend capabilities. Examples could be mergers of public sector organisations like health and local government – the IT services of one organisation may have to support those of another. Mergers and acquisitions are another example.

The decision by businesses to explore the adoption of PaaS services and serverless technologies for business critical applications is another example. In such cases a non disruptive solution would be to extend the datacentre into cloud and provide extended services from there, while decisions are made for a more permanent solution.

For example, investing in more on-premises hardware, having a larger, more permanent environment in the cloud, or moving services from IaaS to platform and serverless once due diligence has been carried out in the VMware Cloud on AWS cluster.

4. Next Gen Applications

A methodology we have seen our customers adopt when modernising applications is a three-stage approach:

  • Move applications in a risk free manner to the cloud (VMware Cloud on AWS is a great fit for this use case)
  • Create resources on VMware Cloud in AWS for test and dev
  • Carry out due diligence and begin to expose data sets to platform services and serverless technologies in an effort to modernise applications.

For example on the last point, a common first step is to move VMs that house relational database backends, web front ends and an application mi layer to IaaS using VMware on AWS. This stack can then be copied into a test and dev environment. Finally, AWS services such as RDS, Amazon Redshift, and webapp and mobile apps can be leveraged as well as serverless technologies such as lambda to modernise the stack, allow easier management and cost savings.

Coupled to this is the ability for different application tiers to scale separately to cope with high levels of demand like the web front end. Technologies like Tanzu (formerly known as Heptio), from VMware can assist in the adoption of technologies like containers and Kubernetes so that organisations moving from a VM based environment can take safe and easy steps towards microservices and containers to unlock the potential of AWS native services.

Finally, another example is exposing the data within relational databases such as SQL and Oracle to big data services and analytics services such as Amazon Athena and Amazon EMR to unlock crucial insights and business intelligence.

How can AWS can strengthen VM workloads?

It is critical to note that public services in AWS can also be leveraged to bolster predominantly VM based workloads as well:

AWS Web Application Firewall (AWS WAF) protects VMware Cloud on AWS web applications with customized rules and other comprehensive security capabilities.

Amazon CloudFront is a global content delivery network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to viewers and web users with low latency and high transfer speeds.

Amazon EBS provides durable, scalable, cost-effective block storage for their data.

Amazon Aurora, a high- performance, fully managed database service that is compatible with MySQL and PostgreSQL.

Additional info on security and networking

One of the elements of VMware Cloud on AWS is NSX. This allows enterprise grade granularity of security services. Segmentation of workloads can be carried out using NSX meaning that security can be applied at a VM/workload level.

VMware Cloud on AWS provides separate, dedicated high performance networks for management and application traffic, connected through the VMware NSX networking platform, and provides support for networking multicasting. ESXi hosts are connected to an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) through Elastic Networking Adapter (ENA), which supports throughput up to 25 Gbps.

NSX and AWS Direct Connect Integration: Now generally available, NSX integrates with AWS Direct Connect for end-to-end private networking. This is ideal for customers with traffic-heavy workloads. This enables private and consistent connectivity between VMware workloads running on AWS and those running on-premises and also accelerates migration to cloud and enables multi-tier hybrid applications. Customers can now use AWS Direct Connect for all of their hybrid connectivity requirements.

Ready to get started or find out more?

At Trustmarque our methodology for cloud migrations is collaborative and transparent. We start all engagements with a collaborative workshop where we advise on the best way to migrate workloads, infrastructure and services – based on our understanding of your applications and current infrastructure.

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By Neel Dev, Cloud Practice Lead