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Azure Migrate aims to attract VMware workloads to the cloud

A new Azure service removes a lot of the guesswork for IT teams that want to move VMs to Microsoft's public cloud. But will a lack of early support from VMware hurt its appeal?

As enterprises continue to gravitate toward hybrid cloud, both AWS and Azure have targeted VMware customers who want to extend their data center and migrate on-premises workloads to the cloud.

VMware Cloud on AWS, a service that helps customers migrate their vSphere-based environments to the AWS public cloud, became available in August 2017 as part of a formal partnership between the two vendors. To compete with the offering, in February 2018, Microsoft unveiled Azure Migrate, a service expected to become generally available this year, to ease the migration of VMware workloads to the Azure public cloud. And while VMware didn't formally support the service out of the gate, it has since said it is in the "process of engaging" with Microsoft on the Azure technology. This could come as a relief for Microsoft customers who've been concerned about a lack of VMware involvement in the service -- but the extent of VMware's support and its effects remain to be seen.

An overview of Azure Migrate

Microsoft understands that it needs migration tools to compete in today's cloud game, and Azure Migrate is its big bet.

Microsoft understands that it needs migration tools to compete in today's cloud game, and Azure Migrate is its big bet. The service helps enterprises evaluate their on-premises VMs and associated dependencies to gauge how they would perform in the public cloud, as well as the resources they would require. Azure Migrate, for example, offers cloud instance size recommendations based on key on-premises metrics and can also help organizations estimate what their cloud costs will be post-migration.

Despite its benefits, there are some limitations to the tool. For instance, Azure Migrate exclusively supports the movement of on-premises VMware VMs -- that organizations manage with vCenter Server -- to Azure. Secondly, the service is limited geographically; currently, you can only create an Azure Migrate project in the West Central US or East US region. This means that, if you're not located near one of those regions, you'll likely run into latency issues.

VMware's role

Of course, the most common question enterprises have around Azure Migrate is how it compares to VMware Cloud on AWS. One core difference between the two is that, while the VMware and AWS service was the result of a long-standing partnership, the relationship between VMware and Microsoft has not been as tight.

Ultimately, this difference might not have deterred those looking to use Azure Migrate, considering that those users are typically all in on Azure and, as a result, wouldn't view the VMware-AWS service as an alternative.

Enterprises, in general, tend to choose their public cloud provider first and then attempt to make that choice fit with their existing workloads. To that end, Azure Migrate is still a good bet for Microsoft shops that want to move to the Azure cloud and also have VMware VMs in their data center -- which is almost all of them.

That said, without a commitment to formally support the service, VMware might not invest in tool sets for Azure that many enterprises would consider minimal, such as those for ongoing security, management and monitoring. And if these holes aren't addressed, many enterprises might remain reluctant to make the move.

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