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VMware Cloud on AWS ups its appeal to legacy shops

The latest version of VMware's joint hybrid cloud offering with AWS emphasizes faster and more seamless migrations for legacy apps on their way to the cloud.

LAS VEGAS -- Updates to VMware Cloud on AWS aim to ease hybrid cloud migrations and reduce costs, but the jury's still out as to whether they will compel enterprises with more modern application needs.

VMware rolled out several enhancements to its hybrid cloud offering here at VMworld this week, most of which are designed to simplify the migration of on-premises workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS, as well as help users manage those workloads after the move.

"For VMware workloads, the service makes a lot of sense, and I think they'll find a market for that," said Gary Chen, analyst at IDC. "It's going to be the new workloads that are more of a challenge."

Expanded migration, availability options

For users that want to move legacy workloads to the public cloud, the latest version of VMware Cloud on AWS offers some help.

Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX), a service in VMware Cloud on AWS that helps admins move large volumes of VMs into the public cloud, now supports scheduled migrations. Based on vSphere Replication, this capability lets users duplicate data into VMware Cloud on AWS, while workloads continue to run uninterrupted on premises. After data synchronizes across the two environments -- which, according to VMware, could take days to weeks, depending on volume -- admins can more granularly schedule and control the formal "switchover" from their on-premises data center to VMware Cloud on AWS. The switchover uses VMware's vMotion technology.

"In the past, even though you could do a warm replication and warm migration, when you actually 'flipped the switch' there would be downtime," Chen said. "This eliminates that."

IDC analyst Gary Chen Gary Chen

Another update to VMware Cloud on AWS is NSX integration with AWS' Direct Connect service, a move that further seeks to ease the migration process, and improve the performance of hybrid cloud networks.

VMware Cloud on AWS is also now available in five AWS regions, with the addition of Asia Pacific Sydney.

More options to manage costs, secure workloads

Users also can now specify the number of CPU cores to support workloads with per-core licensing models, such as those from Oracle and SAP, or for SQL Server. This reduces the risk that users will pay for more CPU cores than their applications actually need. They also can "pin" a workload to a specific host within a cluster -- through a feature called VM-Host Affinity -- to further support licensing requirements.

VMware targets multi-cloud management market

As it advances its hybrid cloud strategy around AWS, VMware also attempts to push further into the multi-cloud management market.

Cloud Automation Services is a collection of SaaS-based tools intended to help enterprises deploy and manage workloads that span multiple public clouds. Individual tools in the suite include Cloud Assembly, a multi-cloud automation and orchestration tool; Service Broker, a self-service catalog from which users can deploy -- and admins can govern -- resources from different cloud providers; and Code Stream, a CI/CD tool.

Some of these capabilities overlap with those of other VMware cloud management tools, such as vRealize Automation and vRealize Orchestrator. However, the Cloud Automation Services tool set is delivered in a SaaS model, unlike vRealize tools, which users install and operate within their own data centers. It also requires less customization and integration than the on-premises VMware cloud management tools, said Torsten Volk, analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, and a TechTarget contributor.

"It's a lot less of a moving target than what vRealize Automation [users] have to deal with," he said.

Cloud Automation Services supports AWS and Azure, with planned support for Google Cloud Platform.

Added support for Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) gives enterprises more control over cloud costs for storage-intensive workloads, as they can independently scale storage capacity without also scaling compute. To do this, users can opt for an EC2 R5.metal instance type with support for EBS volumes. Available options are in increments of 5 TBs, with a range of 15 TBs to 35 TBs per host.

For VMware workloads, [VMware Cloud on AWS] makes a lot of sense. ... It's going to be the new workloads that are more of a challenge.
Gary Chenanalyst, IDC

VMware also has reduced the minimum number of required hosts to run production workloads from four to three. The move could make VMware Cloud on AWS more palatable for users who found the service cost-prohibitive, said Brian Kirsch, IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and also a TechTarget contributor.

Other VMware on AWS updates include the ability to use NSX micro-segmentation to create more granular security policies for workloads, and integration with AWS Key Management Service (KMS) for data encryption and centralized management of encryption keys.

VMware Cloud on AWS adoption

VMware declined to cite specific adoption numbers for VMware Cloud on AWS. Adoption so far, however, has seemed largely experimental or proof of concepts, IDC's Chen said. "It's still fairly new to market, so I think a lot of people are still in research mode," he said.

Kirsch agreed that most users appear to still be "dipping their toes" in the technology.

One of the biggest challenges for VMware is to attract organizations with more cloud-native applications to this particular service, Chen said. Other VMware offerings, such as VMware Managed Kubernetes (VKE) service, appeal to those with modern apps, while VMware Cloud on AWS is still largely geared toward legacy workloads.

"That's something they'll have to develop," he said.

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