10 Keys To Successful VMware Cloud On AWS Migrations

‘We've been doubling the number of customers every quarter, so we've been doing quite well in terms of customer adoption,’ AWS vice president Sandy Carter says. ‘We've also seen increasing traction with our partners.’


Making Migrations Manageable

Amazon Web Services has four times the number of VMware Cloud on AWS customers than it did a year ago, and those customers have deployed nine times the number of virtual machines – testament to the hybrid cloud platform’s growing momentum, according to AWS, which doesn’t release actual figures.

“We've been doubling the number of customers every quarter, so we've been doing quite well in terms of customer adoption,” AWS vice president Sandy Carter said. “We've also seen increasing traction with our partners.”

Jointly developed by AWS and VMware and launched in August 2017, the integrated cloud service allows organizations to seamlessly migrate and extend their on-premises VMware vSphere-based environments to the AWS cloud.

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More than 300 channel partners have earned the VMware Cloud on AWS competency introduced in March 2018, and AWS has triple the number of validated VMware Cloud solutions from independent software vendors on its AWS Marketplace compared to a year ago, the company said.

“One of our really big success stories is MIT,” Carter said.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., is among customers using VMware Cloud on AWS. MIT migrated 3,300 virtual machines -- 550 terabytes of data -- in three months using the equivalent of one full-time employee, according to Carter.

A market survey of 1,156 information technology (IT) and business professionals released in August by Faction, a Denver managed service provider for VMware Cloud on AWS, found that 29 percent of respondents planned to start running or increase their workloads on VMware Cloud on AWS in the next 12 months. Fifty-four percent of respondents who said they’re considering VMware Cloud on AWS cited scalability as one of the top drivers, followed by strategic IT initiatives (49 percent) and cost-savings (45 percent).

Among survey respondents who already had put workloads in VMware Cloud on AWS, 51 percent said cost management was their top usage challenge, and 46 percent of those who opted against adopting it said it was too expensive.

That indicates there’s room for improvement in evaluating the total cost of ownership of VMware Cloud on AWS, Faction concluded.

“For example, organizations may be discounting their current investment in VMware tools and operational skill, or underestimating the total costs of application transformation associated with migrations to other cloud solutions,” it said.

Carter, who has been involved with VMware Cloud on AWS since its inception, addressed those cost concerns when she talked to CRN about the top 10 keys to successful VMware Cloud on AWS migrations.

“I believe a lot of that is just kind of confusion about what people are looking at in terms of price,” she said.

Here are the 10 steps that Carter recommends organizations should consider.

Develop A Strategy

AWS encourages customers to first prepare a strategy for how they’ll execute migrating workloads using VMware Cloud on AWS and how that matches their business goals, according to Carter.

At VMWorld late last month, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), which has three data centers, shared it would complete its migration of existing Oracle and SQL applications to VMware Cloud on AWS by Thanksgiving to improve resiliency.

“Freddie Mac actually started out with having Deloitte look at kind of an overall requirements document, formulating a cloud strategy,” Carter said. “Then they've been leveraging various partners as well as our ProServe (AWS Professional Services) as they got through their POC (proof of concept).”

Assess Your Costs

The second step for customers evaluating whether to use VMware Cloud on AWS is to assess their costs, according to Carter.

“Once you have a strategy, you want to do an assessment of the cost, and that's where we really step in to try to help our customers understand the cost itself,” Carter said. “For example, some customers assume that we're just putting VMware software on top of EC2 or on top of AWS, and so therefore they think the cost is AWS plus VMware, when it's not. Part of our partnership is a deep engineering integration.”

A January IDC survey of VMware partners, which was sponsored by VMware, found VMware Cloud on AWS’ value proposition includes lowering the risk associated with moving traditional applications to the cloud, accelerating cloud migrations at scale, providing adjacency to native AWS cloud services and enabling an asset-light strategy.

“It's not just cost, it's actually a business case,” Carter said. “It's about the total cost of ownership, and we actually have tools that can help assess what that will look like.”

Do A Cultural Assessment

AWS also recommends customers intent on using VMware Cloud on AWS conduct a cultural assessment to ensure employees still using data center tools know they’ll be operating in a cloud-based world.

“It usually helps morale,” Carter said, noting Kubernetes skills, for example, typically lead to increased pay for employees seeking jobs.

“This use of new tools…all helps not only from a compensation (standpoint), but just from a curiosity and a learning perspective as well,” Carter said. “When you use VMware Cloud on AWS, one of the really cool things is that you have the ability to link to AWS services. So you can use S3, which is our storage bucket for disaster recovery. You can link this to our managed AD (AWS Managed Microsoft Active Directory) if you're migrating Microsoft applications. You're actually using cloud services along with the skills you already know.”

Training And Education

Training employees in the new tools that they’ll be using is the fourth step in ensuring successful VMware Cloud on AWS migrations, according to Carter.

“We have an abundance of free training materials,” she said. “We have hands-on labs. We have best practices and reference architectures that are relevant to multiple use cases. Those really also make a big difference as you're planning for your success.”

Assess Your Applications

The next step is for customers to assess their applications to identify their organization’s resources, versioning and compatibility. It helps them understand which applications are communicating with other applications and to avoid any issues from latency being introduced during migrations, Carter said.

“As we're looking at those applications, we look at identifying workloads that are suitable for the cloud,” Carter said. “For example, some applications, you may want to leave on-premises for lots of different reasons, maybe low latency issues or other things. Then we look at you to identify internal workload dependencies. So that's three-tier -- web, application, database.”

During that process, it also helps to determine how one’s organization collaborates across its application and infrastructure teams. Having representation from all teams – including database administrators and security professionals, for example, rather than just an infrastructure team -- really helps developers, according to Carter.

Migration Planning

Customers should undertake migration planning to understand and evaluate their migration options.

“Here's where you'll identify which workloads you'll migrate over,” Carter said. “MIT did their Oracle workloads over. Freddie Mac migrated over SQL server workloads. Some will obviously stay on-premises because this is a hybrid-based solution. It's in that planning that you often determine some interdependencies and how those will be resolved.”

“This is also where you'll define your connectivity planning and your capacity requirements for storage and compute, just to make sure that you have that planning done in the right way,” Carter said. “Part of that as well, in order for cost controls, is that you don't over-provision.”

Modernization Planning

Modernization planning looks at how an organization will leverage native, cloud-based AWS services.

“How do you take advantage of the 166 services that are there?” Carter said. “How will you use Kubernetes? Will you use Kubernetes? When will you do that? It really helps to plan ahead of time. Now you've got access to these modern tools, what's the timing and the plan for using those?”

Evaluate Channel Partners

“In some cases, you may use a partner to help you with migration planning or modernization or even that upfront strategy planning,” Carter said. “But this is also a great time to now evaluate those partners. For instance, if you are migrating SAP over, you might want to choose a partner who has SAP competency. Or let's say you're doing Oracle or an IBM workload, you want to make sure that you have a partner who understands those workloads as well.”

In some cases, customers may already be working with a preferred partner that they want to continue to use.

“Then we'll come on, and we'll help them become a competency partner,” Carter said. “So depending upon how much work they've been doing, we can help them grow as well.”

Set Metrics

While setting metrics is really important, many customers fail to think about it, according to Carter.

“This is one place where customers often go wrong,” Carter said. “And this is where partners really come in. We have a lot of great partners who really encourage it and have that built into their DNA. That ability to set those believable metrics -- measurable metrics -- ahead of time really does make a big difference.”

It depends on the customer, but success of migration can be measured by application area, workloads, performance.

“You may have specific things in security that your compliance and governance team wants you to make sure that you can measure and track,” Carter said. “It may be…how many resources are you consuming? It's going to be tied back to that original strategy that you have built so that you can measure the right thing.”

Carter recently was working with a customer that’s looking at a payback on investment in less than three months.

“So that's going to be one of our measurable goals,” she said. “We thought that was a realistic goal, something that's measurable and something that matters to the business. We were looking at things like they were actually going to re-architecture all their applications. They're now not going to do that, so that's going to be a benefit to them. We're planning for a reduced number of labor hours for operations. We're planning for reduction in data center operating costs, and we're also looking at software savings that they'll receive, because they typically over-provisioned. Then (there’s) also hardware savings as well.”


Communication is the last key to successful VMware Cloud on AWS migrations, according to Carter.

“We always say to customers and partners that once you've figured out the metrics, and you've met them or not, you need to start communicating that so you can share the learnings as you go along as well,” Carter said. “We've had several customers who've spoken for us at re:Invent, VMworld and other conferences. And when they…share the story, it helps for all groups, not just the infrastructure group, to learn to understand the value of what IT is bringing to the table. It helps partners to be able to communicate back to their customer the value that they brought in terms of either labor savings, cost savings, but also increased agility. And it improves morale.”

After sharing MIT’s experience with VMware Cloud on AWS, AWS now has a line of educational institutions that want to follow suit, according to Carter.

“A couple weeks ago, we were talking to another educational institution, and they told us that they had been working for three years to refactor their apps to get them over to the cloud,” she said.