By Corey Roberts, Director of Technology
Over the past week I have taken a close look at the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service and I am quite impressed with the new offering. VMware has done a great job bringing the capabilities of vCloud Director to customers in a pay as you go service offering. This will enable customers to more seriously consider moving workloads to the cloud by leveraging the skills and knowledge they have already acquired internally. Certainly utilizing the cloud for enterprise workloads creates many challenges and raises concerns for any IT administrator. However, the ability to address these challenges and mitigate risk by partnering with VMware could certainly facilitate a more widespread adoption of cloud computing.
How it Works
The vCloud Hybrid Service is built on vSphere 5 providing a broad range of OS and application support. The service currently supports over 90 guest operating systems and 3,800 applications, more than Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure combined. The offering comes in two flavors, Dedicated and Virtual Private Datacenter. The dedicated offering provides hosts that are committed to the customer and not shared with other vCHS customers. This offering has an increased cost and a long term commitment in 1 to 3 year increments. The alternative offering is the Virtual Private Datacenter which places workloads on shared hosts and only requires a 3 or 12 month commitment with the ability to pay month to month after the initial contract period ends.
The service is accessed using the vCloud tools VMware administrators are accustomed to in addition to a new web interface built specifically for vCHS. Having both options provides an easy way to manage the environment, provision new resources and troubleshoot issues with deployed VMs. The vCloud Connector is available to integrate the vCHS resources to your existing on premise VMware environment making it easy to move workloads to and from the cloud. Once workloads are migrated to the cloud they can expand simply by requesting additional capacity through the web interface. There are some minimum levels of CPU, memory and disk resources when provisioning capacity and they vary depending whether you leverage dedicated or virtual private datacenter. However the minimums are in line with an entry size vSphere environment and should be of little concern for most customers.
A Few Limitations
While at first pass the service seems like a home run, there are some limitations to the service that still need to be addressed. However I don’t feel any of the limitations provide a significant road block for customers. The first potential issue that I saw is the inability to support vCenter Site Recovery Manager. Leveraging vCloud Hybrid Service for a disaster recovery target is going to be compelling use case. VMware is working to add this functionality so I am sure it won’t be long before you see this feature released. The second area where I had some concern was with the data protection service which is an add-on feature that comes with an additional charge. The current offering only allows for VMDK level backups and all restores must be performed by VMware technical support. Additional limitations exist with the backup retention which is currently 30 days with daily synthetic full backups. This is definitely an area where I would like to see some enhancements in the service. The third feature that I found to be limited was the ability to take virtual machine snapshots. Currently the service only allows a single snapshot per virtual machine. Development and test environments are great workloads for cloud. It provides the ability to spin up virtual machines as needed and shut them down when testing is complete. Any time I have done any testing of new applications, upgrades, or security patches I have leveraged a series of snapshots to provide multiple roll back points. Without the option for a chain of snapshots I see larger customers keeping test environments on premise where they can leverage the full functionality of VMware guest snapshots.
In the end I feel that the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service is an intriguing start to launching VMware into the service provider space. Where they go from here will dictate the success of vCHS. VMware was built around offering great software products so venturing into the service provider space may pose some challenges and growing pains for sure, to say nothing of the channel conflict they may create with their ecosystem of VSPP partners. That being said, if they manage the service well and continue to add new features the service should prove to be another great offering from VMware.