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Docker, live migration top AWS re:Invent wish lists

AWS users hope to get live migration support, simpler cloud billing and new Docker integration at re:Invent.

IT pros are drawing up their wish lists as the annual Amazon conference, re:Invent, draws near. Hot topics include live migration and new Docker integration.

Amazon has yet to confirm live migration for resources within the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), but IT pros stand to benefit from it in their Amazon Web Services (AWS) deployments.

"We have kind of built our own live migration process in the absence of Amazon having that functionality," said Wade Billings, director of DevOps for Instructure, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based educational technology company.

Instructure can migrate its software as a service customers between different clusters for high availability. Live migration without downtime "isn’t anything we're holding our breath for, but I expect that it will be a much more graceful migration than what we're able to do ourselves," Billings said.

AWS competitor Google already has live migration in its Google Compute Engine. VMware's vCloud Air also has VMware's vMotion technology for live migration.

"Google's done a really good job in their ability to move running instances and re-point traffic so there's no downtime," said Jim O'Neill, CTO of HubSpot, a Cambridge, Mass.-based online marketing company which uses Google’s services in addition to its large AWS deployment.

Google hasn't had any major outages or service events yet, O'Neill said, and live migration has been cited as the reason.

Not everyone is sold on the idea of live migration, however.

"It's not something I would want a tuning knob to manage," said Sean Perry, CIO for Robert Half International, a staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. "We use live migration a lot within our VMware farm, but we use it to enable load balancing as well as maintenance activities, and those are things I would hope would be transparent to us already with AWS."

Live migration could be intriguing for instance-resizing or switching without downtime between on-demand and other instance types, Perry said.

Amazon customers want easier portability of resources between availability zones and regions for disaster recovery (DR) and load-balancing purposes. For example, the ability to point a single IP address at resources in one region and then switch to another could be a boon for DR, O'Neill said.

New Docker integration coming

The Docker containerization system has taken the IT industry by storm this year, promising the ability to logically separate workloads above the operating system level, which could lead to the ability to transfer workloads across Linux operating systems, hosts and clouds.

"Using Docker and AWS?" said AWS evangelist Jeff Barr on Twitter this week. "You are in for a pleasant surprise at re:Invent!"

No further details were revealed, but some IT pros shared their educated guesses.

"What I would expect is a new version of the console and updated APIs so that Docker containers effectively become first-class virtual machines on EC2," Perry said. "You could have the Docker equivalent of an AMI repository."

This could spawn new approaches to application segmentation. Rather than requiring Web, database and app server components to live on separate machines, Docker containers could more efficiently share hardware and virtual machine resources while maintaining logical separation between application components, Perry said.

IT pros to Amazon: Simplify, simplify

Amazon's considerable menu of instance types and pricing options offers flexibility, but partners want Amazon to simplify its offerings, perhaps by bundling services together or making its billing system less byzantine.

"It can be intimidating for people who are not on the leading edge to interact with Amazon," said John Treadway, senior vice president with cloud consulting firm Cloud Technology Partners Inc., based in Boston, Mass.

Bundling services could help resolve this complexity, said Glenn Grant, CEO of G2 Technology Group, a Boston-based AWS consulting partner.

"There are just so many parts of Amazon … you could introduce some simplicity around the 'staple foods' – Virtual Private Cloud, EC2, Relational Database Service, and Elastic Load Balancer," Grant said.

Amazon could also offer bundled services in the area of big data, which remains confusing today, according to Kris Bliesner, CTO of 2nd Watch Inc., a cloud computing consultancy and systems integrator in Seattle, Wash.

"Everyone would be happy to have an Amazon approved, sanctioned big data platform -- they have the components," Bliesner said.

A kinder, gentler Amazon cozies up with the enterprise

Amazon's relationship to its enterprise customers has changed in recent years – for the better, IT pros said.

"While Amazon has been able to maintain a leadership position in the past due to the fact that they are the vanguard … I think they're realizing that's not what's going to keep them in first place," said Instructure's Billings. "What's going to keep them in first place is the customer relationship."

AWS support has been communicative – as often as multiple times a week, Billings said.

"In previous engagements with Amazon with other companies, it hasn't always been that way," Billings said. "They see Instructure as a strategic partner … but I also like to think this is the way the organization is moving as a whole, to become more relationship-based rather than services-based."

Still, enterprise observers don't expect Amazon to go into managed services as far as competitors like Rackspace, which detailed its managed cloud vision last month.

"They would be swamped with demand for [managed services], but I'm not sure they could meet it, and I’m not sure that they'd really want to at the end of the day," said Cloud Technology Partners' Treadway.

One reason he doesn't expect AWS to provide managed services is that it requires client-centric process management that can’t necessarily be automated.

Google slashed its cloud prices again last week, which is often followed by AWS doing the same. AWS customers can also expect more battles in the cloud price war.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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