VMworld 2017: Recap VMware on AWS

It’s been a couple of weeks since VMworld 2017 was held in Las Vegas. This was my first time in attendance, and wow, what a great event.

What I found most valuable were the sessions that were the customer-based sessions and the LABs. I also spent a lot of time in the LABs, though I had trouble booking them. Whenever I would try to book a LAB prior to arriving they all showed as being fully booked. What I found was even if you couldn’t get into the session, there was a standby line. Fortunately, the LABs were still available as self-paced tutorials which were generally available after a five-minute wait. So anytime I had 30 minutes to spare, I hit up the LAB space to get hands on.

As an AWS Certified Architect, one of the areas that I am most interested in is VMware on AWS. From an Amazon Web Services (AWS) perspective, when a customer buys VMC, VMware creates an account on your behalf on the AWS platform which will have the bare metal machines. This AWS account is a separate account and you do not have any direct access to consume AWS services with this account. What you do have access to is the vSphere console on VMC which has access to all your resources.

AWS has a few constructs which are important to know about when you look at VMC. AWS defines a Region as a separate geographic area. Each region has multiple, isolated locations known as Availability Zones. As of the time of this writing, VMC is only available in US West (Oregon) and is limited to the one Region/Availability Zone. When your instance of VMC is deployed, your resources will be deployed into its own Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). You can think of this as a single data center with no redundancy aside from the rack you have with your gear.

What makes AWS so attractive is the ability to get started with a credit card to start small and ramp up. With VMC, your entry point is a bit steeper. As I mentioned, this is a Managed Service from VMware and as such there is a minimum commitment to get started. From a contract perspective, this is a minimum of 12 months. From an infrastructure perspective, this means a 4-node minimum (maximum of 16 nodes). Each node is comprised of 2 CPU’s with 18 cores each, or 72 hyper-threads; 512GB of Ram, and 15TB (raw) NVMe storage. Since this solution is based on VMware’s SDDC, you’ll be using vSAN and NSX when it is deployed. I’ve heard different reports on usable disk space per node which range from 8TB to 10.7TB, so keep this in mind when planning your environment. To connect your on premise vSphere to VMC you’ll need to be running at least 6.0 and if you want hybrid link mode you need vSphere 6.5.

Another caveat is once your environment has been provisioned with VMC, you don’t automatically gain access to other AWS services. To accomplish this, you’ll need to sign up for a AWS account and provide billing information which is separate then the VMC account. Once you have the two accounts, you’ll be able to create a VPC Peering connection between your VMC VPC and your AWS VPC. Once you do this, you can start creating the networking required to start using AWS native services from within your VMC environment. With AWS, you can easily deploy VPN connectivity to your VPCs, but you should also consider obtaining a dedicated circuit to AWS which will help to reduce costs and increase your availability to your infrastructure in AWS. AWS currently only offers 10Gbps circuits; however, if you are looking for a fractional circuit, there are a number of 3rd party providers that can deliver this to you.

Once all these pieces are in place, VMC starts to be very interesting. I was Initially thinking of VMC for disaster recovery, data center consolidation, and data center migration workloads. But because you can link your VMC to an AWS VPC, this opens the floodgates to a truly Hybrid environment. When you migrate your VM’s to VMC, you’ll no longer have to worry about your ESXi hosts, data center, or any of the other VMC infrastructure which should reduce your operational overhead. So, what are you going to do with all this free time? Focus on driving business value and innovating with these new tools at your disposal. Start learning about 100+ services you can consume from AWS. If you or your developers are looking to consume AWS Software as a Service or Platform as a Service, when you migrate your workload to VMC you get to ride the AWS fiber backbone to give you low latency access to these services.

VMware has said that VMC will have a more agile approach to releases to the platform than VMC on Prem. VMware plans on releasing incremental features every 3 months; since they are iterating faster on VMC we should see new capabilities and features roll out as time goes on. This version of VMC is what we should consider a standard offering, as it also only supports cold migration of VMs into and out of VMC. I heard several rumors (and saw a demo) at the conference about an advanced offering which supports live migration and multiple availability zones. The next availability zone that will get VMC will be the AWS Virginia region. There was no timeframe for this, but I suspect it’ll before the end of the year.

I’m really excited about this new offering from VMware and AWS as it gives operation teams and architects the ability to leverage our existing skills with VMware and begin to consume the hundreds of applications on AWS infrastructure, SaaS, and PaaS at a speed and pace which makes sense to you and the business. This model also allows you to move workloads to the cloud without having to convert or re-platform your applications which reduces the risk in moving to the cloud. are so many other things I’d like to cover today, but I’ll save it for a deeper dive in the future.