Tag Archives: VMware

VMworld pushes vSAN HCI to cloud, edge

VMware executives predict the vSAN hyper-converged software platform will grow rapidly into a key building block for the vendor’s strategy to conquer the cloud and other areas outside the data center.

VMware spent a lot of time discussing the roadmap for its vSAN hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software roadmap at VMworld 2018 last month. The vSAN news included short-term specifics with the launch of a private beta program for the next version, along with more general overarching plans for the future.

VMware executives made it clear that vSAN HCI will play a big role in its long-term cloud strategy. They painted HCI as a technology spanning from the data center to the cloud to the edge, as it brings storage, compute and other resources together into a single platform.

The vSAN HCI software is built into VMware’s vSphere hypervisor, and is sold as part of integrated appliances such as Dell EMC VxRail and as Ready Node bundles with servers. VMware claims more than 14,000 vSAN customers, and IDC lists it as the revenue leader among HCI software.

VMware opened its private beta program for vSAN 6.7.1 during VMworld, adding file and native cloud storage and data protection features.

VSAN HCI: From DC to cloud to edge

During his opening day keynote at VMworld, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger called vSAN “the engine that’s just been moving rapidly to take over the entire integration of compute and storage to expand to other areas.”

Where is HCI moving to? Just about everywhere, according to VMware executives. That includes Project Dimension, a planned hardware as a service designed to bring VMware SDDC infrastructure on premises.

“The definition of HCI has been expanding,” said Yanbing Li, VMware senior vice president and general manager of storage and availability. “We started with a simple mission of converging compute and storage by putting both on a software-defined platform running on standard servers. This is where a lot of our customer adoption has happened. But the definition of HCI is expanding up through the stack, across to the cloud and it’s supporting a wide variety of applications.”

VSAN beta: Snapshots, native cloud storage

The vSAN 6.7.1 beta includes policy-based native snapshots for data protection, NFS file services and support for persistent storage for containers. VMware also added the ability for vSAN to manage Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) in AWS, a capacity reclamation feature and a Quickstart guided cluster creation wizard.

If it pans out as we hope, it will be data center as a service.
Chris GreggCIO, Mercy Ships

Lee Caswell, VMware vice president of products for storage and availability, said vSAN can now take point-in-time snapshots across a cluster. The snapshot capability is managed through VMware’s vCenter. There is no native vSAN replication yet, however. Replication still requires vSphere Replication.

Caswell said the file services include a clustered namespace, allowing users to move files to VMware Cloud on AWS and back without requiring separate mount points for each node.

The ability to manage elastic capacity in AWS allows customers to scale storage and compute independently,

“This is our first foray into storage-only scaling,” Caswell said.

The automatic capacity redemption will reclaim unused capacity on expensive solid-state drive storage.

Caswell said there was no timetable for when the features will make it into a general availability version of vSAN.

Mercy Ships was among the customers at VMworld expanding their vSAN HCI adoption. Mercy Ships uses Dell EMC VxRail appliances running vSAN in its Texas data center and is adding VxRail on two hospital ships that bring volunteer medical teams to underdeveloped areas. They include the current Africa Mercy floating hospital and a second ship under construction.

“The data center for us needs to be simple, straightforward, scalable and supportable,” Mercy Ships CIO Chris Gregg said. “That’s the dream we’re seeing through hyper-converged infrastructure. If it pans out as we hope, it will be data center as a service. Then, as an IT department we can focus on things that are really important to the organization. For us, that means serving more patients.”

VMware Project Dimension to deliver managed HCI, edge networking

VMware is developing a managed edge appliance that has compute and storage for running applications and a software-defined WAN for connecting to the data center and public clouds.

The upcoming offering is in technical preview under the name Project Dimension. The product is a lightweight hyper-converged infrastructure system that includes the vSphere infrastructure compute stack and the vSAN software-defined storage product.

For networking, Project Dimension uses VMware’s NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud, which VMware acquired last year. The VeloCloud SD-WAN provides connectivity to the corporate data center, SaaS or applications running on IaaS.

Project Dimension is essentially the branch version of VMware’s Cloud Foundation, which merges compute, storage and network provisioning to simplify application deployment in the data center and the Amazon and Microsoft Azure public clouds. Companies could use Project Dimension to run IoT and other software in retail stores, factories and oil rigs, according to VMware. Actual hardware for the system would come from VMware partners.

Companies already using Cloud Foundation could apply their policies and security to applications running on Project Dimension.

“There’s a lot of potential for operational simplicity. There’s the potential for improved multi-cloud management, and there’s the potential for faster time to market [for users’ applications],” said Stephen Elliot, an analyst at IDC.

But Project Dimension’s hybrid cloud approach — which lets companies run some applications at the edge, while also connecting to software running in the cloud — could eventually make it a “niche product,” said Andrew Froehlich, president of computer consultancy West Gate Networks, based in Loveland, Colo.

“While hybrid architectures are extremely common today, most businesses are looking to get to a 100% public cloud model as soon as they can,” he said. “Thus, it’s an interesting concept — and one that some can use — but I don’t see this making a significant impact long term.”

How Project Dimension works as a managed service

VMware plans to offer Project Dimension as a managed service. A company would order the service by logging into the VMware Cloud and going to its Edge Portal, where the business would choose a Project Dimension resource cluster and a service-level agreement.

Businesses would then upload the IP addresses of the edge locations, where VMware would send technicians to install the Project Dimension system. Each system would appear as a separate cluster in the Edge Portal.

VMware plans to use its cloud-based lifecycle management system to fix failures and handle infrastructure firmware and software updates. As a result, companies could focus on developing and deploying business applications without having to worry about infrastructure maintenance.

VMware, which introduced Project Dimension last week at the VMworld conference in Las Vegas, did not say when it would release the product. Also, the company did not disclose pricing.

CloudHealth’s Kinsella weighs in on VMware, cloud management

VMware surprised many customers and industry watchers at its annual user conference, VMworld 2018, held this week, with its acquisition of CloudHealth Technologies, a multi-cloud management tool vendor. This went down only days before CloudHealth cut the ribbon on its new Boston headquarters. Joe Kinsella, CTO and founder at CloudHealth, spoke with us about events leading up to the acquisition, as well as his thoughts on the evolution of the cloud market.

Why sell now? And why VMware?

Joe KinsellaJoe Kinsella

Joe Kinsella: A year ago, we raised a [Series] D round of funding of $46 million. The reason we did that is because we had no intention of doing anything other than build a large public company — until recently. A few months ago, VMware approached us with a partnership conversation. We talked about what we could do together. It became clear that the two of us together would accelerate the vision that I set out to do six years ago. We could do what we set out to do faster, on the platform of VMware.

How will VMware and CloudHealth rationalize the products that overlap within the two companies?

Kinsella: The CloudHealth brand will be a unifying brand across their own portfolio of SaaS and cloud products. That said, in the process of doing that, there will be overlap, but also some opportunities, and we will have to rationalize that over time. There is no need to do it in the short term. [VMware] vRealize and CloudHealth are successful products. We will integrate with VMware, but we will continue to offer a choice.

What was happening in the market to drive your decision?

[Enterprises] have settled on a nuanced approach to leverage a broad portfolio of cloud options, which means many public clouds, many private clouds and a diverse set of SaaS products. Managing [such] a diverse portfolio is incredibly complex.
Joe KinsellaCTO and founder, CloudHealth Technologies

Kinsella: Cloud management has evolved rapidly. What drives it [is something] I call the ‘three phases of cloud adoption.’ In phase one, enterprises said they would not go to the public cloud, despite the fact that their lines of business used the public cloud. Phase two was this irrational exuberance that everything went to the public cloud. [Enterprises in phase three] have settled on a nuanced approach to leverage a broad portfolio of cloud options, which means many public clouds, many private clouds and a diverse set of SaaS products. Managing a single cloud is complex; managing [such] a diverse portfolio is incredibly complex.

What’s your view today of cloud market adoption and how the landscape is evolving?

Kinsella: Today, the majority of workloads still run on premises. But public cloud growth has been dramatic, as we all know. Amazon remains the market leader by a good amount. [Microsoft’s] Azure business has grown quickly, but a lot of that growth includes the Office 365 product as well. Google has not been a big player until recently. It’s only been in the past 12 months that we felt the Google strategy that Diane Green started to execute in the market. Alibaba has made some big moves and is a cloud to watch. Though Amazon is still far ahead, it’s finally getting competitive.

But customers don’t really just focus on one source anymore, correct?

Kinsella: I’ve talked about the concept of the heterogenous cloud, which is building applications and business services that take advantage of services from multiple service providers. We think of them as competitors today, but instead of buying services from Amazon, Google or Azure, you might build a business service that takes advantage of services from all three. I think that’s the future. I believe these multiple cloud providers will continue to exist and be differentiated based on the services they provide.

VMware takes NSX security to AWS workloads

VMware has introduced features that improve the use of its NSX network virtualization and security software in private and public clouds.

At VMworld 2018 in Las Vegas, VMware unveiled an NSX instance for AWS Direct Connect and technology to apply NSX security policies on Amazon Web Services workloads. Also, VMware said Arista Networks’ virtual and physical switches would enforce NSX policies — the result of a collaboration between the two vendors.

VMware is applying NSX security policies, including microsegmentation, on AWS workloads by adding support of NSX-T to VMware Cloud on AWS. NSX-T provides networking and security management for containers and non-VMware virtualized environments. VMware Cloud on AWS is a hybrid cloud service that runs the VMware software-defined data center stack on AWS.

The latest AWS feature is in NSX-T Data Center 2.3, which VMware introduced at VMworld. Other features added to the newest version of NSX-T include support for containers and Linux-based workloads running on bare-metal servers. NSX-T uses Open vSwitch to turn a Linux host into an NSX-T transport node and to provide stateful security services.

VMware plans to release NSX-T 2.3 by November.

NSX on AWS Direct Connect

To help companies connect to AWS, VMware introduced integration between NSX and AWS Direct Connect. The combination will provide NSX-powered connectivity between workloads running on VMware Cloud on AWS and those running on a VMware-based private cloud in the data center.

AWS Direct Connect lets companies bypass the public internet and establish a dedicated network connection between a data center and an AWS location. Direct Connect is particularly useful for companies with rules against transferring sensitive data across the public internet.

Finally, VMware introduced interoperability between Arista’s CloudVision and NSX. As a result, companies can have NSX security policies enforced on Arista switches running either virtually in a public cloud or the data center.

Arista CloudVision manages switching fabrics within multiple cloud environments. Last year, the company released a virtualized version of its EOS network operating system for AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud.

VMware is using its NSX portfolio to connect and secure infrastructure and applications running in the data center, branch office and public cloud. For the branch office, VMware has integrated NSX with the company’s VeloCloud software-defined WAN to provide microsegmentation for applications at the WAN’s edge.

VMware competes in multi-cloud networking with Cisco and Juniper Networks.

VMware HCX makes hybrid, multi-cloud more attainable

LAS VEGAS — VMware HCX attempts to drive migration to hybrid and multi-cloud architectures, but IT administrators are still hesitant to make the switch due to concerns around cost and complexity.

Before doing product evaluations and determining if VMware Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) is a good option for workload migration, admins must figure out if the cloud meets their current and future business needs. What is the organization trying to accomplish with its existing deployments?

For example, consider a near-end-of-support vSphere 5.5 environment: Is the goal to seamlessly migrate those workloads from the current environment to the cloud without an on-premises upgrade? Or, is successfully migrating hundreds of VMs or large amounts of storage the objective?

Determining the ultimate goal and whether a private cloud, hybrid cloud, public cloud or multi-cloud makes the most sense is a decision that admins must make on a case-by-case basis.

Cloud cost and complexity concerns

The ongoing fee associated with using cloud services is just one of the cost concerns, experts said in a session here at VMworld 2018. During the migration, admins have to worry about whether they’ll need to change IPs, the potential of running into compatibility issues, and the responsibility of ensuring business continuity and disaster recovery.

“Even after we meet all their requirements, we’ve seen in any organization all kinds of inertia about getting going,” said Allwyn Sequeira, senior vice president and general manager of hybrid cloud services at VMware. “People think they need to go buy high-bandwidth pipes to connect from on-prem to the cloud. People think they need to do an assessment of applications to see if this is an app that should be moved to the cloud.”

App dependencies and mapping are certainly important issues to consider. With more VMs, the environment is more complex; it’s easier to break something during migration.

Even when a certain vendor or product addresses their concerns, admins need buy-in from networking, security, compliance and governance teams before moving forward with the cloud.

The introduction of VMware HCX is the vendor’s attempt to remove some of the roadblocks keeping organizations from adopting hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

What is VMware HCX, and what are its use cases?

VMware HCX, also known as NSX Hybrid Connect, is a platform that enables admins to migrate VMs and applications between vSphere infrastructures with at least version 5.0 and newer and from on-premises environments to the cloud.

The top use cases of VMware HCX include consolidating and modernizing the data center, extending the data center to the cloud, and disaster recovery.

“HCX gives you freedom of choice,” said Nathan Thaler, director of cloud platforms at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. “You can move your workload into a cloud provider as long it works for you, and then you can move it out without any lock-in. We’ve moved certain VMs between multiple states and without any network downtime.”

Thaler did caution organizations to avoid using virtual hardware beyond the highest level of compatibility with the oldest cloud environment.

Disaster recovery to the cloud, while maybe not as front of mind as other popular use cases, is key in the event of a natural disaster.

“We wanted to be able to have resiliency whether it’s an East Coast event or a West Coast event,” said HCX customer Gary Goforth, senior systems engineer at ConnectWise Inc., a business management software provider based in Tampa, Fla.

VMware HCX-supported features include Encrypted vMotion, vSphere Replication and scheduled migrations. The functionality itself seems to be what admins are really looking for.

“We wanted a fairly simple, easy way to implement a cloud,” Goforth said. “We wanted to do it with minimal to no downtime and to handle a bulk migration of our virtual machines.”

In terms of the VMware HCX roadmap, the vendor is working on constructs to move workloads across different clouds, Sequeira said.

“It’s all about interconnecting data centers to each other,” he said. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, where you run is going to become less important than what services you need.”

VSAN hyper-converged users offer buying, implementing advice

LAS VEGAS — Today, VMware paints vSAN hyper-converged technology as a key piece of IT everywhere, from the data center to the cloud to the edge. But early vSAN customers remember when it was still a nascent concept and not fully proven.

As a customer panel at VMworld 2018, vSAN hyper-converged software users offered advice for buying and implementing what, in some cases, was still a suspect technology when they adopted it. The customers were split between using vSAN on integrated appliances, such as Dell EMC VxRail hardware, or buying on servers as vSAN Ready Nodes. Either way, they faced similar buying decisions and implementation challenges.

Here is some of the advice offered for going down the road of vSAN hyper-converged and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) in general.

Start small and prove its value

Several of the vSAN hyper-converged customers said it was difficult to gain support originally for moving from a traditional three-tier architecture to HCI. It helped to start with a specific use case to prove the technology and then grow from there.

William Dufrin, IT manager of client virtualization engineering and architecture at General Motors, said the early case was virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

“In our environment, change is kind of rough,” Dufrin said. “We’re a large organization, and it could be difficult to make changes like vSAN instead of traditional storage.”

He said IT developers started using vSAN for VDI in 2014, “and in four years, we’ve seen a huge adoption rate inside the organization because of the values and the savings. It’s been stable, and performance has been phenomenal.”

Dufrin said General Motors now has around 10,000 virtual desktops running on a six-node cluster, with two fault domains for availability.

Mark Fournier, systems architect for the United States Senate Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va., said his bank started with vSAN Ready Nodes in remote branches. The HCI implementation came around the time USSFCU began virtualizing in 2014.

“Going to vSAN was a challenge against some of the traditional technology we had,” Fournier said. “Even though we were virtualizing, we were still siloing off storage, compute and networking. To get into what seems to be the future, we upgraded our branches using vSAN Remote Office Branch Office licensing. That allowed us to implement hyper-converged architecture in our branches for a lot less money than we expected.”

Fournier said the credit union put Ready Nodes on all-flash blade servers in three branches. He said a four-node all-flash implementation in one branch is so fast now that some of his organization’s developers want to move workloads to the branch.

“With the new PowerEdge M7000 from Dell, options for onboard storage are more flexible, and [it] allows us to bring vSAN out of the branches and into the data center now that management sees the benefit we get out of it,” Fournier said.

Think platform and relationships, and consider all options

The panelists said they did a lot of research before switching to HCI and picking a vendor. They evaluated products from leading HCI vendors, different offerings from the same vendor and compared HCI to traditional IT before making buying decisions.

Mariusz Nowak, director of infrastructure services at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., said cost played a large role — as is often the case with educational institutions.

“I was sick and tired of replacing entirely every traditional storage array every few years and begging for new money, hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “My boss, and everyone else, wasn’t happy to have to spend tons of money.”

Oakland University was a VMware customer since 2005, and Nowak said he looked at early versions of vSAN hyper-converged software, but felt it wasn’t ready for the university. After VMware added more enterprise features, such as stretch clusters, deduplication and encryption, Oakland installed the HCI software in 2017. It now has 12 vSAN hosts, with 400 guest virtual machines and 350 TB of storage on vSAN Ready Nodes running on Dell EMC PowerEdge servers.

I was sick and tired of replacing entirely every traditional storage array every few years and begging for new money, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mariusz Nowakdirector of infrastructure services, Oakland University

“I choose Ready Nodes so I don’t have extra overhead,” Nowak said. “With VxRail, you have to pay more. With Ready Nodes, I can modify my hardware whenever I need, whether I need more capacity or more CPUs. Some HCI vendors will say, ‘This is the cookie-cutter node that you have to buy.’ We have more flexibility.”

Alex Rodriguez, VDI engineer at Rent-A-Center, based in Plano, Texas, said his company did a proof of concept (POC) with Dell EMC VxRail, Nutanix and SimpliVity — since acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise — when evaluating HCI in 2016. He said price and vendor relationships also figured in the final decision.

“When we did a POC, Nutanix won out,” he said. “But we saw a cost benefit with VxRail, and we decided to go in that direction because of our relationship with VMware. And each generation of this [vSAN] software has gotten a whole lot better. Performance is better and manageability is easy. You may find an application that’s better for one stack or another, but overall we think VxRail is a better platform.”

Divide and cluster

Several of the panelists suggested using clusters or stretch clusters with vSAN hyper-converged infrastructure to help separate workloads and provide availability.

Nowak said Oakland University installed 10 nodes in a stretched cluster across two campus data centers, with 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks to a witness site connecting them.

“For little cost, I have an active-active data center solution,” he said. “If we lost one data center, I could run almost my entire workload on another site, with no disruption. I can technically lose one site and shift my workload to another site.”

Rent-A-Center’s Rodriguez set up a four-node cluster with management applications and a 12-node cluster for VDI and other applications after installing Dell EMC VxRail appliances in 2016.

“We wanted to make sure we could manage our environment,” he said. “If we would’ve consolidated the management stack with the VDI stack and something happened, we would’ve lost control. Having segmentation gave us control.”

VMware vSphere update tweaks HTML5 client, bundles AppDefense

A stand-alone update to VMware vSphere 6.7 sports a few upgrades and a polished HTML5 client interface, while another version bundles the company’s AppDefense security product with a higher price tag.

Besides the new interface, vSphere 6.7 Update 1 contains a vCenter Server Converge Tool and additional vMotion and snapshot capabilities for Nvidia Grid vGPUs and support for field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

Experts said these additional vSphere capabilities are useful, if not long overdue, but don’t elevate this release to a major one for vSphere customers.

“There are some nice things, like the vSphere Client, and the FPGA support for vMotion is good for people that will use the product every day … but it is a minor upgrade,” said Gary Chen, research manager for software-defined compute at IDC.

Gary Chen, research manager for software-defined compute, IDCGary Chen

Some of the higher-end technical improvements could attract some users who implement machine learning and AI capabilities, Chen said. However, the virtualization market is very well-penetrated, and the new release is more to evolve the product and keep customers on board.

Most end users will welcome the vSphere update’s tweaks to improve the HTML5 client, as well as vGPU vMotion additions, but those particular functions won’t drive greater adoption of the product, said Brian Kirsch, IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

VSphere Platinum plugs in AppDefense

The bundled version, vSphere Platinum Edition, contains vSphere 6.7 Update 1 and AppDefense, with a vCenter plug-in for AppDefense, and it offers application-level security, according to Mike Adams, senior director of product marketing for VMware’s cloud platform business unit.

“AppDefense can offer a good known state for what should be running in the hypervisor from the applications’ perspective,” Adams said. “So, if there is any deviation from that, admins will get an alert right away and be able to do something about it.”

Most IT shops will appreciate VMware’s continued focus on security with the bundling of AppDefense, Kirsch said. This, combined with NSX’s attention to east-west attacks, should curry favor with larger IT shops.

Bargain hunters beware

Why would you [buy] the bundle if you can buy [vSphere and AppDefense] cheaper separately?
Gary Chenanalyst, IDC

What could steal attention away from the products’ new features, however, is the Platinum Edition’s price tag of $4,195 per CPU, per year. The current edition of vSphere Enterprise Plus goes for $3,495 per CPU, per year, and the current SaaS version of AppDefense is $500 per CPU, per year, totaling $3,995.

Asked to explain the higher Platinum price tag, Adams noted the package includes $10,000 in promotional credits for VMware Cloud on AWS. He added that this, plus the AppDefense vCenter plug-in, “is of significant value” to users.

The additional $200 per CPU, per year, is a significant sum for some large IT shops that have hundreds of servers, each with four, eight or more CPUs. Many might opt to buy the products separately and pocket the savings.

“Why would you [buy] the bundle if you can buy them cheaper separately, unless they are not telling us something?” IDC’s Chen said.

The promotional credits for VMware Cloud on AWS may offer some incentive, but workloads that require the aforementioned horsepower in AWS will use that up relatively quickly. Buyers also should be aware that the credits are good for only six months and can be used only toward single-server instances, Chen said.

SearchServerVirtualization site editor Ryann Burnett contributed to this story.

VMware Cloud on AWS ups its appeal to legacy shops

LAS VEGAS — Updates to VMware Cloud on AWS aim to ease hybrid cloud migrations and reduce costs, but the jury’s still out as to whether they will compel enterprises with more modern application needs.

VMware rolled out several enhancements to its hybrid cloud offering here at VMworld this week, most of which are designed to simplify the migration of on-premises workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS, as well as help users manage those workloads after the move.

“For VMware workloads, the service makes a lot of sense, and I think they’ll find a market for that,” said Gary Chen, analyst at IDC. “It’s going to be the new workloads that are more of a challenge.”

Expanded migration, availability options

For users that want to move legacy workloads to the public cloud, the latest version of VMware Cloud on AWS offers some help.

Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX), a service in VMware Cloud on AWS that helps admins move large volumes of VMs into the public cloud, now supports scheduled migrations. Based on vSphere Replication, this capability lets users duplicate data into VMware Cloud on AWS, while workloads continue to run uninterrupted on premises. After data synchronizes across the two environments — which, according to VMware, could take days to weeks, depending on volume — admins can more granularly schedule and control the formal “switchover” from their on-premises data center to VMware Cloud on AWS. The switchover uses VMware’s vMotion technology.

“In the past, even though you could do a warm replication and warm migration, when you actually ‘flipped the switch’ there would be downtime,” Chen said. “This eliminates that.”

IDC analyst Gary Chen Gary Chen

Another update to VMware Cloud on AWS is NSX integration with AWS’ Direct Connect service, a move that further seeks to ease the migration process, and improve the performance of hybrid cloud networks.

VMware Cloud on AWS is also now available in five AWS regions, with the addition of Asia Pacific Sydney.

More options to manage costs, secure workloads

Users also can now specify the number of CPU cores to support workloads with per-core licensing models, such as those from Oracle and SAP, or for SQL Server. This reduces the risk that users will pay for more CPU cores than their applications actually need. They also can “pin” a workload to a specific host within a cluster — through a feature called VM-Host Affinity — to further support licensing requirements.

Added support for Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) gives enterprises more control over cloud costs for storage-intensive workloads, as they can independently scale storage capacity without also scaling compute. To do this, users can opt for an EC2 R5.metal instance type with support for EBS volumes. Available options are in increments of 5 TBs, with a range of 15 TBs to 35 TBs per host.

For VMware workloads, [VMware Cloud on AWS] makes a lot of sense. … It’s going to be the new workloads that are more of a challenge.
Gary Chenanalyst, IDC

VMware also has reduced the minimum number of required hosts to run production workloads from four to three. The move could make VMware Cloud on AWS more palatable for users who found the service cost-prohibitive, said Brian Kirsch, IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and also a TechTarget contributor.

Other VMware on AWS updates include the ability to use NSX micro-segmentation to create more granular security policies for workloads, and integration with AWS Key Management Service (KMS) for data encryption and centralized management of encryption keys.

VMware Cloud on AWS adoption

VMware declined to cite specific adoption numbers for VMware Cloud on AWS. Adoption so far, however, has seemed largely experimental or proof of concepts, IDC’s Chen said. “It’s still fairly new to market, so I think a lot of people are still in research mode,” he said.

Kirsch agreed that most users appear to still be “dipping their toes” in the technology.

One of the biggest challenges for VMware is to attract organizations with more cloud-native applications to this particular service, Chen said. Other VMware offerings, such as VMware Managed Kubernetes (VKE) service, appeal to those with modern apps, while VMware Cloud on AWS is still largely geared toward legacy workloads.

“That’s something they’ll have to develop,” he said.

ClearSky Data launches service for VMware Cloud on AWS

ClearSky Data launched a new service that will enable VMware Cloud on AWS customers to protect their data in inexpensive object storage.

The new ClearSky Data service gives VMware Cloud on AWS customers the chance to keep their existing backup applications and use Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) as the back-end storage repository. The startup’s software can transform the block- and file-based data from the certified backup applications to an object format to enable data protection and archiving in Amazon S3, according to Laz Vekiarides, CTO and co-founder of ClearSky Data.

VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS users can choose certified backup options from vendors such as Commvault, Dell EMC, Druva and Veeam. But those vendors typically offer repositories in Amazon’s Elastic Block Store (EBS). Commvault is the only certified VMC option to back up natively to Amazon’s more economical object-based S3, according to Bryan Young, a group product manager of vSphere external storage at VMware.

“Customers are generally wed to their particular backup vendor. And they do not like to change because they want a common backup application across the enterprise,” Young said. “But they also want the lowest cost storage for their long-term backups.”

Extends on-premises virtual server environments

The VMware Cloud on AWS on-demand service lets customers extend their on-premises server virtualization environments to Amazon’s cloud. The service is based on VMware Cloud Foundation, which integrates vSphere server virtualization, vSAN software-defined storage, NSX software-defined networking and security, and vCenter management software.

VMware Cloud customers create a virtual private cloud (VPC) to run their application workloads on vSphere VMs in Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) bare-metal infrastructure. VMware’s vSAN creates the local storage on SSDs in the host server cluster to keep the data.

“Part of the issue with the cloud inside of Amazon EC2 is that at any given point in time, if you decide to shut any of these [servers] down, all the data that’s inside of them gets lost,” Vekiarides said. “So, obviously, you need a place to keep all of your data when you’re not using your VMware cluster.”

ClearSky Data service for VMware Cloud on AWS
ClearSky Data service for VMware Cloud on AWS architectural diagram.

A third-party backup proxy runs in a VMware Cloud on AWS software-defined data center and copies data using the vSphere Storage APIs for data protection (VADP). The backup proxy copies data to an EC2-based backup repository that typically uses Amazon’s EBS.

Cache 64 TB per backup volume

ClearSky’s Cloud Edge appliance can connect to the backup application and cache up to 64 TB of data per VM guest-attached volume to enable fast access to frequently accessed data. Vekiarides said ClearSky can have many such volumes online, up to 4 PB total. On the back end, the Cloud Edge appliance connects to the ClearSky Data Network’s Amazon S3 storage via AWS Direct Connect to protect and archive all the data.

ClearSky supports a recovery point objective of less than 10 minutes for point-in-time snapshots and a recovery time objective of less than a minute once the customer’s applications are running.

In addition to the cloud-based deployment option, customers could run VMware virtual servers, third-party backup applications and ClearSky Edge Cache appliances on premises. The Edge Cache appliance’s software would deduplicate and compress the data and convert it to object format for archiving in ClearSky Network’s Amazon S3. The data from the on-premises Edge Cache and off-site Cloud Edge appliances would be stored in a common Amazon S3 repository.

ClearSky Data used the VMware Cloud on AWS service to build out a server cluster to test its new service. Vekiarides said ClearSky engineers made minor changes to the deployment software to ensure it works and meets performance targets in the AWS cloud environment.

Pricing for the ClearSky Data service ranges from 6 cents to 20 cents per GB, per month depending on the use case, quality of service and data capacity.

ClearSky Data does not charge fees for replication and customers do not incur AWS egress charges to restore their data, according to Vekiarides. He said egress charges generally do not apply because nearly all of the data is cached either inside AWS’ cloud or somewhere in ClearSky’s network.

Mist Systems gives VMware NSX SD-WAN a boost

Arista Networks and VMware, both recent entrants in campus and branch office networking, have made significant moves to add cloud-based Wi-Fi management and analytics to their respective software portfolios.

VMware launched this week interoperability between its NSX SD-WAN and Mist Systems’ machine learning engine for maintaining Wi-Fi performance. Meanwhile, Arista acquired Mojo Networks for the startup’s analytics, which it calls Cognitive WiFi.

Arista’s purchase of Mojo shows the former vendor taking control over its Wi-Fi offering, rather than depend solely on its current deal to offer Aruba wireless products from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said Bill Menezes, an analyst at Gartner. “[They’re] going to have much more input and control over the pace of tech development.”

The VMware-Mist collaboration, on the other hand, reflects an industry trend of connecting the wireless access layer in remote offices to an SD-WAN product, Menezes said.

“That’s something that most of the major vendors are looking at in one way or another,” he said. “Some of them, like Cisco and Aruba, are developing that capability in-house.”

Mist is providing interoperability between its products and NSX SD-WAN through open APIs. As a result, the combined products deliver to IT administrators “end-to-end visibility and insight into users, application and network performance for LAN and WAN,” the companies said in a statement. Other features include trend detection and recommendations to avoid problems, and event correlation and anomaly detection for fault isolation and remediation.

Mist combines big data and machine learning to track user behavior on Wi-Fi and ensure network performance. The company’s machine learning engine will help NSX SD-WAN analytics by gathering more than 100 different user states from access points (APs).

Metrics gathered by Mist technology include the time it takes an AP to connect to devices and the number of failed attempts. The system can also collect roaming data, such as when a mobile device switches APs to take advantage of a stronger signal or leaves an AP that’s dropping too much data.

Mist will also add to NSX SD-WAN anomaly detection for APs, mobile devices, operating systems and applications connecting to Wi-Fi. Mist and VMware will sell their products separately through joint channel partners.

In 2017, VMware entered the market for branch-office networking with the acquisition of software-defined WAN vendor VeloCloud. In May, VMware extended its virtual networking software, NSX, to remote offices through integration with VeloCloud, which the company renamed NSX SD-WAN. Combining the technologies made it possible for VMware customers to use NSX for policy-based network management across the data center and branch.

Arista acquires Mojo

The VMware-Mist collaboration came nearly a week after Arista said it would acquire Mojo for its cloud-based software focused on network analytics and management. The acquisition, which Arista expects to close by the end of September, is the company’s first. Arista did not release financial details.

Arista announced the Mojo acquisition roughly three months after introducing its first switches for the campus LAN. Available in the fall, the 7300X3 and 7050X3 spline switches are 10/25/40/50/100 Gigabit Ethernet gear equipped with telemetry and monitoring features designed to help network operators  diagnose performance problems.

Arista acquired Mojo for its machine learning and big data platform. The Cognitive WiFi system tracks more than 300 key performance indicators, Gartner said in its latest Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure. The research firm listed Mist and Mojo in the visionary quadrant of the report.

As a campus network supplier, Arista needed more than just technology for the wired LAN, Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal told financial analysts during a recent conference call. That’s because a growing number of Arista customers are turning to Wi-Fi as it approaches multigigabit speeds.

“What we bought Mojo for was their Wi-Fi, their Cognitive WiFi, and the software capabilities associated with the access points [Mojo provides],” Ullal told analysts, according to a transcript on the financial site Seeking Alpha.

Arista plans to  merge Mojo technology with its CloudVision network management software that combines cloud computing, big data and machine learning. The product collects and archives network state and runs a suite of applications against the data to provide visibility, automate the deployment of network components, and analyze and report on incidents.