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Headache-free tools for moving from VMware to AWS

Cloud users looking to migrate from VMware to Amazon Web Services have several options to ensure their workloads transition safely.

Enterprises have a variety of reasons to move from VMware vSphere to AWS, including cost savings, dynamic provisioning,...

support for hybrid environments and disaster recovery. And just as there are multiple benefits of moving from VMware to AWS, there also are multiple ways to make the leap. So, what's the best method for migrating from VMware to AWS public cloud?

There are two main approaches for migrating VMware-based VMs using native Amazon Web Services (AWS) tools, such as VM Import/Export and AWS Management Portal for vCenter. Enterprises may also want to use a third-party tool -- such as those from Boomerang, RightScale, Racemi and CloudVelox -- which could better support cloud bursting, disaster recovery (DR), backup, automated migration or reporting and management.

RightScale, for example, has integrated cost analysis capabilities that make it easier to understand the cost implications of complex application deployments on different infrastructures. Other tools automate the transfer of VMs in response to peak loads or set policies for DR scenarios. These capabilities could help ensure that migration scenarios work in concert with enterprise compliance needs.

It's also important to take into account networking requirements for moving data back and forth between AWS and existing data centers. IT teams can transfer smaller instances, as well as associated databases and files over existing enterprise Internet connections. But larger data migrations should consider special AWS transfer services. AWS Direct Connect allows enterprises to create high-speed connections between the data center and the AWS cloud. AWS Import/Export Snowball is an encrypted physical storage appliance that enables enterprises to transfer via mail from the on-premises data center to AWS.

Using the VM Import/Export utility

AWS' VM Import/Export can help IT teams move VMware workloads to AWS, and then back into a private cloud. It allows companies to use tools and infrastructure created for security, configuration management and compliance with VMware within the AWS infrastructure. Admins can provision AWS instances from a command-line interface (CLI) or other developer tools. To bring a VM back on premises, export the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance into an Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) bucket, which can be downloaded and run on premises or in a private cloud.

There are two main command line tools used as part of this process. ImportInstance is best for single volume VMs. The ImportImage set of commands is required when migrating VMs with multiple volumes or when Microsoft Windows instances are moved using a Bring Your Own License model.

VMs have to be Windows or Linux/Unix-based. In addition, the VM instance format must be saved in a RAW, VHD, VMDK or OVA format. Use OVA if the image includes multiple hard disks. There is also a default limit of 20 simultaneous upload tasks and 1 TB disk image maximum; the VM must work with a single network interface. In addition, it does not support IPv6.

Admins must configure several things in the AWS account, including a VM Import Service Role and AWS Identity and Access Management permissions. The enterprise must also consult with the legal department around software licensing for all installed instances.

Automating a VMware migration with the AWS Management Portal

The AWS Management Portal for vCenter can automate the process of migrating workloads to AWS. This tool installs as a plug-in into the enterprise's existing VMware vCenter management environment. It can also allow the IT department to manage AWS resources from within vCenter. This is a good option for enterprises with VMware expertise. It makes it easy to move VMs from VMWare to AWS while continuing to use existing VMware-related tools. It's also helpful for creating a self-service portal from within vCenter, migrating VMware VMs to EC2 and reaching new geographies from within vCenter.

In addition, AWS Management Portal for vCenter features integrated support for VM Import. IT personnel can click on a stopped VM from within vCenter and select "migrate to EC2" to automatically create an EC2 instance.

Administrators can also track the progress of a migration from within the vCenter console. To get started with this option, download the AWS Connector for vCenter. You can manage the connector using the CLI or the connector management console. It is also important to set up a secure connection between the AWS Connector and the AWS Management Portal. For added security, set up a rotating encryption key that can help automate the process of updating keys using an AWS Management Portal Connector key.

Native AWS tools are a good option for enterprises considering a move to AWS. The tools make it easy to use existing VMware expertise while moving into the proof of concept and testing phases. Still, it's important to perform additional testing of workload migration before going into production. This is especially important when applications span multiple VMs, have special considerations around large file sizes, have IPv6 networking requirements or contain other features AWS does not support. It's also good practice to consider the cost differentials between AWS and VMware infrastructure to decide where to move current and new workloads.

Next Steps

AWS unveils new migration tools at re:Invent

Avoid pains during an AWS migration

Establish an AWS cloud migration roadmap

This was last published in October 2015

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What factors would cause your enterprise to move from VMware to AWS?
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Factors I've heard from Boomerang customers include:

1. In executing the IT strategy to move to the cloud, AWS offers richer features / more capabilities than vCloud Air, at a lower cost.

2. Adding VM capacity via AWS can be significantly more cost-effective than adding on-premise VMs.

3. Off-premise computing offers business continuity protection beyond what local data centers can deliver.

And for Boomerang users, they can can alwaysquickly/easily revert back to on-premise VMs if they change their minds -- as the name suggests.


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At the Boomerang booth at re:Invent, I heard from several customers who said that their VMware licensing investment was capped or targeted to be reduced and new VMs were targeting AWS.
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To add on to what was said below, we're seeing an increasing "partial" move to Amazon AWS where VMware vSphere licensing is at a premium and thus some virtual machines are moved - and we're seeing storage optimization where more people use Amazon AWS for backup (see www.unitrends.com/unitrends-free for an example tool of this type.)
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Apart from cost considerations, how do the SLAs stack up between a VMW based Private Cloud and AWS? Thoughts?

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Are there any tools that can perform online, live migration from VMWare to AWS, requiring only a very short cut-over outage after data is synced up?   My customer has a need to migrate 20TB of data for 15 Windows VMs from VMWare (each VM has a C: drive that is about 200GB and 1 or 2 data disks that are 200GB to 1TB in size).  They want to be able to keep the app running while the migration tool syncs up and keep syncing the data until they are ready to cut-over, with only about an hour of total outage.  The data disks are proprietary large database files that are always open and changing.

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