VMWare on AWS: What does it really mean?

Unless you're a huge follower of VMware already, you probably missed the announcement today. I would have if it wasn't for my friend Trevor at TechTarget. VMWare now integrates directly with AWS Cloud.

Who cares, right? This is obviously VMWare's way of trying to stay relevant in a world where everyone is moving to Cloud Computing. They announced something similar with IBM Cloud a while ago, but again that's just two Dinosaurs joining forces to try to stay relevant... right?

They really buried the lede here, but there are actually two really cool features that make make even existing AWS Customers think about switching; Hot Migration between cloud providers (or local data centers event), and auto-scaling of underlying resources.

Auto-Scaling of underlying resources

Even if you're an all-in developer for AWS technologies, there's one thing that VMWare's integration will add that is impossible to ignore: automatic scaling of underlying resources. While Docker on EC2 is a huge improvement for allowing developers to spin up containers, it doesn't automatically scale the underlying EC2 resources when there are more requests for tasks than the existing EC2 instances allow for. This is hopefully something Amazon is working on, but right now VMWare looks like it's beating AWS.

When VMWare detects there is a server at maximum capacity, it will try to move around some VMs to less crowded instances, if none are available, it can be set to automatically launch a new one. This is pretty huge for managing underlying resources, and the way you can specify for instances to be purchased is also pretty big. It has built-in support for running either on-demand or reserved instances, and it'll automatically manage that for you, allowing you to pay using your existing VMWare account, or with an AWS account.

Hot Migration between cloud providers

Cloud-interoperability may not be important for startups that are all-in already on AWS, but for any company with sufficient size, you'll start to realize pretty quickly that the best part about multiple cloud providers is the competitive pricing. If it becomes more effective to run some instances on IBM Cloud, it's easy to migrate services over while they're live with zero downtime. When things change and Amazon comes back to beat pricing decreases that IBM just put out, it's easy enough to migrate right back without any downtime at all.

It's also possible to migrate services between regions without much effort. AWS has different pricing for different availability zones, so this may become an interesting use-case. Additionally, it looks like VMWare may be able to expand a single application to run across multiple Regions, however this is unconfirmed at this point.

The Catch

VMWare is a beast, and it's not cheap. Getting started with VMWare isn't something many developers want to do, and it probably means a new dedicated Ops team just to manage it. There's staffing costs as actual licenses from VMWare to think about here, so unless you're at a pretty high scale, and absolutely need to have cloud interoperability, it's probably not something you're going to be working with.

Also, did we mention it's not quite ready yet? VMWare lists this as ready in the "mid 2007 year". Even after it's publicly ready, I'll be waiting at least a year before I even think about trying it, to make sure all of the bugs are worked out first.

The Verdict

VMWare on AWS sounds like a good idea in theory, but like all theories, it will strongly depend on how it's implemented. I'm actually more excited to see what AWS gets out of the partnership then actually using VMWare on AWS. I'd like to see some of the advanced functionality that VMWare offers get ported back to AWS Native, such as Hot-Migration and auto-scaling of EC2 instances running containers. Either way,  it'll be late 2018 before I take another look.
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