BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
IT pros at VMware shops are cautiously optimistic as they port their on-premises data center workloads to the public cloud.
More than 1,000 companies have begun to move their existing, familiar VMware environments to IBM's public cloud through a recent partnership, and a similar road to Amazon Web Services (AWS) is about to open up. Both are driven by the VMware Cloud Foundation, which combines the company's vSphere virtualization, vSAN storage and NSX networking as an integrated software stack -- and, after the sale of vCloud Air to OVH earlier this month, is now central to VMware's plans to connect its on-premises tools to the public cloud.
So far, users say the transition is a familiar and comfortable way to get the benefits of the public cloud, such as scalability and flexibility -- but other customers still worry about unforeseen problems.
Larry Burgess, an IT systems engineer at Grain Craft, a flour milling company in Mission Woods, Kan., faces a CIO mandate to move to the cloud. He thinks VMware Cloud Foundation could be a safe and comfortable way to accomplish that and utilize his firm's existing VMware talent and infrastructure, but he says it's too early to determine which applications to prioritize.
"I can definitely see the additional resiliency we could get," he said. "I've also heard enough about it to see that we could really screw it up and achieve less resiliency but at a higher cost."
Today, he can safely make a lot of assumptions about his existing infrastructure because he has been iteratively building it for years, he said, but it would be different with VMware on IBM Cloud.
"This isn't iterative and there are assumptions I can make about my environment that I can't make when I go to the cloud," he said.
Loyalty mobile application company Multiplus in Sao Paulo, Brazil, jumped to use the VMware on IBM Cloud product after its release last summer at IBM InterConnect 2016, as a way to meet the infrastructure demands that come from promotions sent out to customers, typically via email or push alerts, said Fernando Fernandes, an IT operations senior manager.
The company's leadership wanted to move beyond traditional hosting and use cloud computing, but didn't want to sacrifice past purchases and progress made to meet compliance, performance and security demands.
"They were performing well and up to date, so it didn't make sense to get rid of that equipment," Fernandes said.
In the end, Multiplus combined its existing equipment with the IBM Cloud to achieve greater flexibility and agility, including the ability to use the fiber connections of IBM Cloud data centers. It took three months to complete and was up and running last September, with plenty of time to spare before November's Black Friday, the busiest day of the year for the company.
Next up, the company will "right size" its instances. A previous outsourced provider charged the company by the instance which meant large instances running a lot of services, but on IBM Cloud each instance will be a separate service and scaled horizontally, which will be a better design for his company's needs, he said.
IBM now, AWS soon for VMware users
While companies such as Multiplus are up on running with VMware on IBM Cloud, many others are on the sidelines waiting for VMware on AWS to become generally available later this year. The question is which AWS services, such as EC2, RDS, IAM and IoT, will be ported to the VMware stack.
"The richness on the AWS side will be higher," said Sid Nag, a research director at analyst firm Gartner. "I don't have a crystal ball, so IBM could very well catch up and do the same thing."
Michael AllisonCTO, Louisiana Office of Technology Services
The Louisiana Office of Technology Services (OTS) already has its hands on the VMware on AWS product as part of its lighthouse program. It will be used to extend the NSX topology and policies from the state's data center to AWS and maintain a security baseline from on premises to the public cloud.
"For our security officer this is key because he doesn't have to go in again and re-baseline," said Michael Allison, the state's CTO.
Allison said he couldn't offer details about the state's VMware on AWS project, which does not involve production workloads, but he did say that AWS selects the workloads that should be run on a certain number of VMs with a certain amount data and asks for feedback.
"It is pretty prescriptive at this point," he said.
Louisiana OTS leaders looked at the IBM Cloud partnership, but it does not meet the state's requirements for seamless integration between the cloud and on premises, Allison said. It would require using vSphere to create microsegmentation rather than just duplicate policies.
"I could care less who the provider is as long as it meets our requirements," he said. "It is just a matter of time before Azure and IBM increase their capabilities."
VMware finds a fit in both AWS, IBM clouds
Even before the VMware on IBM Cloud partnership, users were able to deploy VMware on IBM Cloud as a software deployment, said Francisco Romero, COO at IBM Cloud, formerly known as SoftLayer.
"Now you don't just get the server with the software installed; it is preconfigured based on a specific set of requirements that have identified and built and automated," he said.
The greatest draw for VMware Cloud Foundation may be for enterprises that aren't already in the cloud, said Nag, the Gartner analyst.
Those already with a public cloud presence, however, should consider their costs today and their costs after deploying Cloud Foundation.
"If I am already doing it, is it worth moving away from it to this other version?" he said.
Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at email@example.com.
Explore IBM's cloud management tools
IBM's cloud strategy focuses on AI, open source
Discover the bumps in IBM's road to cloud