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Native cloud budgeting, migration are limited but welcome AWS add-ons

New native cloud budget and migration features on AWS address concerns for customers moving to the cloud, but they may not go far enough for some enterprises.

Amazon has improved its baseline tool set for migrating and managing workloads on AWS, but it may not go far enough for many enterprises.

In the past week, Amazon updated its cloud budgeting feature and rolled out a new migration capability to assist customers as they transition to the public cloud. Both updates represent well-worn paths for Amazon, adding services that build on basic functionality to reach the widest swath of users. But these improvements likely won't go far enough for larger enterprises that don't want to do everything themselves.

The new Server Migration Service, accessed through the AWS Management Console, AWS Command Line Interface or a set of APIs, can migrate live VMs by automating, scheduling and tracking replication of volumes to a new Amazon Machine Image.

The feature is best suited for smaller migrations because it doesn't take into account the larger transformational issues around re-platforming and proper governance in moving from on-premises to a public cloud setting, said Lawrence Guillory, CEO at Racemi, a server migration company based in Georgia and AWS partner.

Still, it represents a major step forward from Amazon's VM Import/Export, which relied on a VM disk format to migrate workloads, Guillory said. And because the big-picture issues can be intimidating for enterprises, it could ease some of those fears by illustrating the most basic aspects of moving to the cloud.

"The more people I have that believe in the system and that migrating to the cloud is not difficult, the better," Guillory said. "Right now in organizations, even the more progressive ones, they look at it as difficult and scary, and that's bad for Amazon."

This is probably something we'll put into the arsenal, but not all customers are just VMware.
Chris Nolandirector of product, 2nd Watch

Users won't have to install an agent for each existing server, but they must download the AWS Server Migration Service Connector. The service is currently limited to U.S. East (Northern Virginia), Europe (Ireland) and Asia Pacific (Sydney) regions. There is no charge for the service beyond the Amazon Simple Storage Service storage used during the migration and the Elastic Block Store snapshots created when the work is complete.

One of the limitations of the migration service is that currently it can only be used for VMware environments.

"This is probably something we'll put into the arsenal, but not all customers are just VMware," said Chris Nolan, director of product at 2nd Watch, a managed cloud service provider in Seattle and an AWS partner. "You need a broad set of tools for different types of VMs as well as physical machines, or if they're running OpenStack or using multiple hypervisors."

The new feature comes just weeks after Amazon announced a partnership with VMware to carve out bare metal on AWS so VMware customers can fully port their workloads to the public cloud while retaining the feel of their on-premises environment.

That service isn't expected to be available until next year, and while there is potential overlap, each customer approaches the public cloud differently, Nolan said. Customers who want to maintain their VMware environments but don't want to invest in new hardware may go the bare metal route, while those who want to get out of the data center business or have an expiring license may be more attracted to this new migration feature, he added.

AWS cloud budgeting gets a boost

Amazon first rolled out cloud budgeting and forecasting tools a year ago, with the important addition of tagging to track resources. The latest update to the feature targets finance managers, project managers and vice president-level DevOps staffers, according to Amazon.

Users can now create up to 20,000 budgets per payer account and receive automatic notifications on cost allocations and forecasting to inform customers if various projects, services or business units are over or under budget. Users can then act on those notifications -- either manually or automatically.

Admins can allocate budgets using the AWS Management Console, a new budget API or the AWS Command Line Interface. The service is available now, with two budgets per account available for free; any additional budgets are charged at $0.02 per day.

One of the major benefits of the cloud is the ability to scale to meet changing demands, with the addition of resources tied to generating revenue, but most enterprises don't operate that way, said Owen Rogers, research director for the digital economics unit at 451 Research in New York.

"There are still fixed budgets, approval hierarchies, and budget allocations, and although the technology can scale, enterprises naturally don't want to spend more than they can afford," Rogers said.

Amazon has made huge improvements to its financial management capabilities, and this latest addition continues that trend around providing assurances that enterprises are in control of their spending and won't get stung at the end of the month by unexpected bills.

The cloud budgeting feature on AWS has been fairly primitive until now, so the enhancements are a step in the right direction, said Vittaly Tavor, co-founder and vice president of products at Cloudyn, a multicloud monitoring provider based in New York and an AWS partner.

The feature may be sufficient for small to midsize business, but it still only properly categorizes about 60% of total spending, Tavor said. The remainder can be difficult to track because of various complexities within an environment and connections or because services such as DynamoDB still can't be tagged.

"You need a much more complex budgeting structure for the whole enterprise and for each cost center and each unit," Tavor said.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Contact him at [email protected].

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