VMware Cloud Services: Should you Take the Jump?

VMware Cross-Cloud Services encompasses a wide range of apps and services for the cloud generation

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VMware Cloud Services: Should you Take the Jump?

Over 20 years ago VMware changed the IT industry, and the way applications were delivered, by pioneering virtualisation, making their way to nowadays’ VMware cloud services.

For customers, it meant that individual operating systems were no longer tied to individual servers. The Virtual Machine (VM) became abstracted from its underlying hardware, and to an extent didn’t care which hardware vendor it was running on.

Compute virtualisation nowadays is a core capability on which most cloud providers are built.

Later, VMware would go further and virtualise other aspects of the data centre, from basic storage and networking to advanced networking and security services.

Cloud computing blossomed and the rise of AWS (Amazon) and Azure (Microsoft) saw increased demand for VMware cloud services.

With many customers wanting increased agility and simplicity, but with reduced costs and operating models, delivering a virtual data centre in software is now an attractive option.

If the first chapter for VMware was virtualisation leader, then the second was private cloud leader through their Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC). The next chapter is becoming a multi-cloud and applications leader, commoditising the underlying cloud provider to deliver choice, flexibility, and consistency.

In this article, we’ll look at VMware Cross-Cloud Services; diving into VMware Cloud, VMware Sofware-as-a-Service (SaaS), and the VMware Cloud Services Portal (CSP).

Multi-cloud flexibility with VMware Cross-Cloud Services

At VMworld 2021, VMware cloud services announced their Cross-Cloud Services portfolio. VMware Cross-Cloud Services provides customers with the following benefits:

    • Speed – accelerating the journey to the cloud
    • Spend – improving cost efficiencies
    • Freedom – cross-cloud choices for maximum flexibility

VMware Cross-Cloud Services isn’t a single product or bundle, but a collection of services that deliver VMware’s strategic priorities. This includes:

    • VMware Tanzu – a modern application platform for building and running cloud-native applications
    • VMware Cloud – cloud-based infrastructure for running and modernising enterprise applications
    • VMware vRealize Cloud – cloud-based management for managing and monitoring multi-cloud applications
    • VMware Carbon Black and VMware NSX Cloud – networking and security across multi-cloud operations for all applications
    • VMware Workspace ONE and VMware Edge Compute Stack – enables the distributed workforce, and edge-native applications

Having said that, this article will focus specifically on VMware cloud services.

VMware Cloud

Does VMware have a Cloud?

VMware is predominantly a software company. Many of their services can now be consumed as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), where VMware host and maintain the management plane. However, the services do not run in VMware’s own cloud, they use a public cloud infrastructure back-end, such as AWS, with a VMware cloud services branded front-end.

In the case of VMware cloud services, VMware are providing the software overlay, and the service wrap around. The physical hosting facility, hardware, and connectivity are provided by a public cloud hyperscaler or partner.

The customer has flexibility over which cloud provider or location they run their applications in, along with other benefits like operational consistency. Processes and tools can be standardised, and workloads can move seamlessly between platforms.

So, whilst VMware do not have their own specific cloud, they do run a variety of SaaS, IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) offerings that make use of other cloud provider capabilities under the hood.

What is VMware Cloud?

VMware Cloud is a modern software-defined infrastructure that virtualises nearly all aspects of the data centre and provides a consistent operating platform as an overlay for commodity hardware or public cloud IaaS.

The core building blocks that make up the Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC) are:

    • vSphere & vCenter – Server virtualisation and management of virtual machines
    • vSAN – Storage virtualisation
    • NSX-T – Network virtualisation and security

When deployed together this stack is also known as VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF). VCF is the key component to an enhanced and consistent operating experience, across a variety of hardware and locations. As well as providing the digital base for VMware Cloud, VCF can also be used by customers with their own self-managed hardware.

Is VMware Cloud IaaS or SaaS?

As well as transitioning to subscription-based licensing, VMware now offers many of its solutions in SaaS form as VMware cloud services. The Software-as-a-Service model provides end-users and VI admins with hosted, or managed, versions of the same VMware software they know and love.
Some examples include:

    • vRealize Network Insight Cloud
    • Workspace ONE

This is not a comprehensive list of VMware cloud services (SaaS) solutions but gives you an idea of what to expect. In each of the cases above VMware manages the underlying hosting and infrastructure, including lifecycle management.

VI admins still control the configuration for their end-users, typically through the same admin interfaces as if the product was deployed on-premises. However, they do not need to worry about installation, patching or upgrades, high availability, backups, monitoring, load balancing, ingress, egress, and so on.

Since the IT team have no visibility into the underlying hosting platform, and simply utilise the software as a service, it is deemed a SaaS solution.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is slightly different. Although the IT team still doesn’t need to concern themselves with maintaining the underlying hardware, they do have responsibility for how the virtual machines are set up.

VMware Cloud services in VMware’s Cross-Cloud Services portfolio is about delivering a modern cloud-based infrastructure. It can be complemented with other SaaS solutions, vRealize Suite being a great example, but the branding of VMware Cloud is predominantly concerned with running the VMware SDDC (Software-Defined Data Centre) on some form of IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) or self-managed infrastructure (in the case of private cloud).

Although VMware partner with thousands of different cloud providers to deliver their multi-cloud portfolio, they have several first-party solutions with partners AWS and Dell specifically that are sold and supported directly through VMware.

These solutions fall under the VMware Cloud branding, let’s take a closer look.

VMware Cloud on AWS

VMware Cloud on AWS is a jointly engineered solution between VMware and AWS that was first launched in 2017. The solution utilises the software referenced above as an overlay for AWS bare-metal hardware. The customer receives dedicated servers and storage in the form of hyper-converged nodes located at AWS data centres, with a fully managed service wrap around.

VMware are responsible for hardware maintenance and firmware upgrades, as well the patching and lifecycle management of the VMware software stack.

The customer consumes the same VMware technologies they already know and love as a service, and can utilise this technology as a quick, low-risk method of migrating to the cloud, scaling out their data centres, or adding capacity for disaster recovery or one-time use cases.

In addition to software-defined compute, storage, and networking, VMware Cloud services include HCX (Hybrid-Cloud Extension). HCX allows on-premises and cloud-based vCenter Servers to be paired, and L2 networks to be extended between sites. This network stretch capability is what allows virtual machines to be migrated, or live-migrated, without changing IP address settings.

The use of third-party tools and existing processes continues, ensuring operational stability for things like change and incident management, backups, monitoring, anti-virus, and security. These areas can be improved over time as contracts expire or requirements change.

Furthermore, customers can start to integrate native AWS services to modernise existing applications where it makes sense to do so or to complement infrastructure services, for example using AWS S3 (Simple Storage Service) as a backup target.

VMware Cloud on AWS example setup

VMware Cloud on AWS example setup

VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts

VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts brings the same VMware Cloud services on AWS hardware, software, and operating model to the customer’s data centre. A fully operational rack of AWS hardware is wheeled into the customer data centre or site, and managed by VMware in the same way as if it were in an AWS location.

VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts is ideal for edge locations with extremely low latency requirements, or regulated environments where services or data needs to be kept in a specific physical location.

VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts example setup

VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts example setup

VMware Cloud on Dell EMC

VMware Cloud on Dell EMC brings the local cloud operating model to the customers’ data centre. A similar concept to VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts, however, the difference being this rack is made up entirely of Dell hardware, including Dell VxRAIL hyper-converged nodes.

All hardware, software, and the service wrap around are managed by VMware, or Dell depending on the commercial model. The customer provides the physical location for the rack to sit, the power source to plug into, and the core networking to patch through to the Top of Rack (ToR) switches.

VMware and Dell carry out a site survey, and then make up the rack and hardware to the customer requirements, before delivering to the site ready for use. IT teams can now focus on applications, projects, and modernising services or processes, rather than the operational overhead of infrastructure administration.

This type of local cloud operating model allows customers to subscribe to flexible 1- or 3-year terms, where previously they would need to procure and take ownership of hardware typically depreciated over a 5-year period. A ‘shadow’ or ‘dark’ node is included at no additional cost to ensure the cluster is always at full capacity, during planned maintenance or an unplanned host outage.

Use cases include customers switching to revenue-based IT funding, customers requiring an ‘on-premises’ solution for third party licensing constraints, managed VDI services, hybrid cloud, edge applications, low latency requirements, and highly regulated industries.

VMware Cloud Check Point

Let’s recap what we’ve seen so far:

VMware Cloud Foundation – Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC) deployment onto a wide range of customer or partner-managed hardware, at on-premises, edge, and cloud locations

VMware Cloud on AWS – SDDC deployment onto AWS hardware in AWS regions

VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts – SDDC deployment onto AWS hardware in customer locations

VMware Cloud on Dell EMC – SDDC deployment onto Dell EMC hardware in customer locations

A comprehensive set of modern infrastructure services, all sold and supported directly through VMware, leveraging some of their longest-serving partnerships in Dell and AWS.

That’s great, but we know from VMware Cross-Cloud Services that VMware’s vision for running its software is all about flexibility and portability across all hyperscalers. In the same way that VMware commoditised server hardware with compute virtualisation many years ago, it aims to do the same with cloud IaaS.

Further VMware Cloud Partners

This is where VMware’s extensive partnerships come in. Beyond the services and partnerships with AWS and Dell that we’ve talked about so far, the VMware Cloud Foundation ‘franchise’ extends out much further.

Each of the examples below runs the VMware Software-Defined Data Centre on the referenced cloud provider, albeit with subtle differences:

    • Azure VMware Solution – Microsoft Azure
    • Google Cloud VMware Engine – Google Cloud
    • Oracle Cloud VMware Solution – Oracle Cloud
    • Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution – Alibaba Cloud
    • IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions – IBM Cloud

Furthermore, there are over 4000 additional partners worldwide that provide local cloud or hosting services through the following programs:

    • VMware Cloud Provider Partners (VCPP)

The key difference in this section is that the services are supported and maintained by the partner, rather than VMware. Should VMware Cloud services support be needed to troubleshoot deeper issues then the partner will manage the support case and relationship with VMware on the customer’s behalf. This isn’t to say one service is better than another, each of those referenced above is a VMware partner and has a VMware Cloud Verified environment.

The VMware Cloud Verified accreditation is an assurance to the customer that they are working with a VMware partner validated for providing cloud and hosting services with VMware’s best-in class software.

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of the most popular options.

Customer, VMware, and Provider managed VMware Clouds

Customer, VMware, and Provider managed VMware Clouds

Azure VMware Solution

Azure VMware Solution (AVS) delivers the VMware SDDC, based on VMware Cloud Foundation, to Microsoft Azure. In a similar model to VMware Cloud on AWS, the core software building blocks of vSphere, vSAN, NSX-T, and HCX are deployed to bare metal hardware in the data centres used for Microsoft Azure services.

AVS is installed directly from the Azure Portal. Customers can use the same Azure Portal to manage virtual machines, or carry-on using VMware vCenter Server. This gives IT teams flexibility and the best of both worlds as they transition not only applications and technology, but skills, processes, and third-party tools into the cloud.

In much the same way as VMware Cloud on AWS integrates with native AWS services, Azure VMware Solution has a similar private connection into the cloud providers’ backbone network. This connectivity enables hybrid applications and gradual refactoring of services. Quick wins for migration to other managed Azure services often include database and file shares, while the front end or application servers may continue to run in AVS.

With Azure VMware Solution customers can also take advantage of Microsoft Windows and SQL hybrid licensing benefits with extended security updates.

Azure VMware Solution example setup

Azure VMware Solution example setup

Google Cloud VMware Engine

How VMware software is run on a public cloud provider is hopefully by now starting to make sense. With Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) we’re following the exact same model of VMware Cloud services, whereby the VMware SDDC is deployed onto bare metal hardware in Google’s data centres.

Google are maintaining the service and all operational elements of the hardware, firmware, and VMware software. A private connection is provided into Google’s 100Gbps backbone network for integrating with native Google services.

Google Cloud commercialised many of their big data and machine-learning tools used internally. Some of these services are built to return billions of search results and YouTube videos daily. Start-ups or organisations wanting to innovate quickly will find a lot of value in using Google Cloud services, and GCVE allows them to do that without refactoring their entire back catalogue of applications in one go.

Google Cloud VMware Engine example setup

Google Cloud VMware Engine example setup

How Much Does VMware Cloud Cost?

Each of the VMware Cloud services options, such as VMware Cloud on AWS, and the VMware public cloud IaaS options, such as Azure VMware Solution, mentioned in this article is priced per node. The latest pricing can be obtained from VMware, or direct from the public cloud provider depending on the desired solution.

There are some very slight differences in terms of things like the node size (CPU, RAM, and raw storage), and licensing, for example Microsoft Services Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA), but in general the cost includes:

    • Hyperconverged node: with the CPU, RAM, and raw storage specification listed
    • VMware software: vCenter, vSphere, vSAN, NSX-T, and HCX
    • Managed service wrap around: hardware, firmware, VMware software maintenance and lifecycle management
    • Hosting and facilities costs: such as building, power, cooling, racks, networking equipment and any other hardware

Typically, there is a 3-node minimum requirement per cluster, although this is continuously changing, and VMware Cloud on AWS also has the option for a 2-node cluster. Nodes can be purchased on-demand, per host per hour, or using a 1- or 3-year commitment known as reserved instances.

Here are some examples of additional costs that may need to be factored in:

    • Egress costs: public cloud providers will charge you per/GB for data taken out of the cloud
    • Private connection: a Direct Connect (AWS), Express Route (Microsoft), Cloud Interconnect (Google), or SD-WAN solution may be required as an alternative to VPN
    • Additional software licensing: there may be licensing stipulations, such as Microsoft or Oracle, depending on your environment
    • Native services: you may need, or want, to make use of additional cloud-based services in AWS, Azure, Google, etc. which are not included in the node price

VMware can assist with sizing, TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) comparisons, and choosing the right VMware Cloud services or IaaS solution for your business through their multi-cloud teams, regardless of whether you already have a preferred public cloud partner. VMware Cloud Provider Partners or Sovereign Cloud providers the software included, and pricing, will vary by company and region.

What is the VMware Cloud Portal?

Finally let’s look at the VMware Cloud Portal, or CSP (Cloud Services Portal) as it’s also known. The CSP brings together all the VMware Cloud services into a single web-based user interface.

This includes the first-party VMware Cloud services we’ve looked, such as VMware Cloud on AWS, along with a bunch of other VMware SaaS services that were beyond the scope of this article, arranged into the following categories:

    • Multi-cloud management
    • Application modernisation
    • Data and insight
    • Digital workspace
    • Intrinsic security
    • Virtual cloud network

From the VMware Cloud Portal customers can, for example, deploy the SDDC for their VMware Cloud on AWS environment, and enable or trial operational add-ons such as VMware vRealize Operations Cloud, Skyline Advisor, VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery, and so on as well as manage VMware Cloud services.

After the announcement of Project Arctic at VMworld 2021, it is expected that the long-term goal for the CSP is to bring in all available VMware IaaS partner offerings, like the ones we’ve examined in this article, including Azure VMware Solution and Google Cloud VMware Engine.

If achieved, this would make the VMware Cloud Portal a true multi-cloud enabler for organisations looking to migrate and scale across any public cloud provider on demand.

VMware Cloud Services Portal

VMware Cloud Services Portal

To protect your VMware environment, Altaro offers the ultimate VMware backup service to secure backup quickly and replicate your virtual machines. We work hard perpetually to give our customers confidence in their backup strategy.

Plus, you can visit our VMware blog to keep up with the latest articles and news on VMware.

Wrap up

VMware has moved aggressively to fulfil its multi-cloud ambitions. The VMware Cloud Provider Partner (VCPP) program was first initiated in 2008, bringing managed VMware Cloud services to customers. Capabilities jumped up a notch following the 2017 partnership with AWS, after which VMware moved to partner with all major public cloud providers inside just 3 years.

VMware Multi-Cloud Strategy

VMware Multi-Cloud Strategy

Acknowledging that not all applications will be best suited to virtual machines, VMware also bet heavily on Kubernetes and other DevOps tooling throughout the multi-cloud timeline you see above.

Thinking back to VMware Cross-Cloud Services at the start of this article, we can see how the VMware Tanzu portfolio of services for modern applications complements VMware Cloud services to provide flexibility for both Virtual Machine and container-based workloads.

In summary, VMware has managed to pivot its services from being data centre focused, to now giving customers genuine use cases for continuing to run its software in the cloud. Perhaps more surprisingly, VMware has given industry competitors compelling reasons to partner with them on jointly engineered solutions, ultimately to the benefit of the customer with VMware Cloud services.

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Frequently Asked Questions

VMware provides a software overlay, allowing customers to use the public cloud provider of their choice, or build their own on-premises private cloud or hybrid cloud.
VMware is cloud agnostic, which means its main differentiator is the ability to run software across any cloud provider without the need for refactoring applications or services.
The best cloud computing platform varies per customer depending on specific applications and environment variables. Often customers have use cases for multiple clouds. VMware software enables a multi-cloud operating environment with consistent tooling and experiences.
VMware Cloud is a modern software-defined infrastructure that virtualises nearly all aspects of the data centre and provides a consistent operating platform as an overlay for commodity hardware or public cloud IaaS.
VMware is predominantly a software company. Many of their services can now be consumed as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), where VMware host and maintain the management plane. However, the services do not run in VMware’s own cloud, they use a public cloud infrastructure back-end, such as AWS, with a VMware cloud services branded front-end.

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