Does vSphere have a place in your public cloud strategy?

Now I know what some of you may be thinking, if you are going to move workloads to a public cloud, why would you need vSphere anymore? Today I will give you a few reasons to consider VMware vSphere as part of your cloud strategy.

Server virtualization, may not be the hot technology that everyone is talking about these days. VM hypervisors is a commodity today. Containers, serverless, and cloud-native services are the future for greenfield or modernized workloads. And yet, the 800-pound gorilla in this space, VMware’s vSphere is a robust, time-tested platform which forms the cornerstone on top of which most organizations run their x86 workloads today. It is not uncommon when I talk to clients to discover that they are running hundreds or even thousands of VMware virtual machines in their data centers today.

With more and more enterprises looking to either shift or deploy new workloads on a public cloud, VMware’s place in the data center may not be as key in the future as it once was. Even if your workloads are not modernized and still running as virtual machines (and today that is still most enterprises), these can be run as virtual machines in a public cloud without VMware. All the major public clouds will have a cloud-native VM capability that allows customers to run their Windows and Linux virtual machines without the management or licensing of a hypervisor. So if you can deploy your virtual machine workloads on an IBM Cloud VSI or AWS EC2 instance, where is the place for VMware in our cloud strategy for running workloads? For me, there are three key reasons.

Firstly, migrating workloads onto a public cloud, or getting them back out is not always straight forward. Workloads should be portable. For enterprise clients with complex legacy workloads, having to convert those workloads to use whichever hypervisor format the cloud provider uses can complicate the migration and increase the risk of something not working or performing correctly. Using VMware vSphere on a public cloud provider reduces that risk since the virtual machines stay in the same format as they were. VMware also has tools like HCX to do things like stretch the on-premise network to the cloud, simplifying the migration for workloads that have complex dependencies. Keeping the virtual machines in VMware format also has a secondary benefit of making it easy to get them back out of the cloud provider without conversion or export.

Secondly, running VMware in the cloud reduces the amount of operational process and tooling change required for Day 2 operations. Running cloud-native services will require a change in organizational processes and does require a certain level of cloud maturity. While the level of control that clients get over VMware based solutions in a public cloud will differ depending on the cloud provider, I can say that IBM Cloud for VMware solutions allows clients to have root access and control of vCenter. This level of access enables clients to bring and continue to use the tools and processes that they are already using.

Lastly, running VMware on a public cloud allows organizations to take advantage of some of the benefits of the public cloud such as an OpEx model and on-demand resource scalability with a minimal commitment for workloads that may not scale-out as well as they scale up. When running VMware on a public cloud, you are generally paying per host in the cluster. This model allows you to scale down the number of hosts in the vSphere cluster and run denser during off-peak times of the year and then scale up quickly during peak months by adding additional hosts. In an on-premise environment I would have to have to size my cluster for peak usage. Being able to scale out a cluster and scale up the legacy workload within it during those peak times does bring some of those cloud benefits to otherwise traditional workloads that don’t work well with an application scale out model. This type of cluster scale-out approach also works well for disaster recovery use cases.

Now I have provided several reasons why you should consider VMware vSphere as part of your cloud strategy, but this does not mean it should be the end goal. Just because you may move your workloads into a public cloud with VMware does not mean that is where the journey ends. Running VMware on a public cloud should be a stepping stone to getting onto that public cloud while reducing risk and simplifying operations. Once in the public cloud, start looking at parts of these workloads and begin modernizing where it makes sense with containers or cloud-native services. This becomes much simpler to do when the workloads and dependencies are all in the cloud together.

Now that I have given you some reasons to consider vSphere as part of your public cloud strategy, let’s see how this could actually work. In a follow up I will show how some of the concepts I talked about can be put into practice. Stay tuned.