Live VMware migration tool on the way – with limitations

VMware live migration between private data centers and its public cloud could be attractive for some customers, but it’s not without its limitations.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The ability to live migrate workloads between public and private clouds is not a reality yet. But VMware says it will be the first to deliver this capability, albeit within its own ecosystem.

VMware executives were practically giddy on stage at VMworld when they demoed Project Skyscraper, a tech preview that allows cross-cloud vMotion and content synch from private data centers to its public cloud, vCloud Air.

One of the big selling points of vCloud Air is the ability to keep the same environment on-premises and in the cloud, but it has limitations in that instances must be shut down to port to the cloud. This new capability would bridge that gap by allowing customers to do continuous cross-cloud migration.

"If an instance is defined as compute, storage and network fabric all in one, and not just the CPU, but the whole instance's polices for the application, sliding it back and forth like that is powerful," said Geoff Woollacott, principal analyst at Technology Business Research, Inc., in Hampton, N.H.

VMware didn't offer a timeline for when this new capability will be generally available, but it's expected to be integrated into vCenter and vRealize.

Cloud to cloud migration closer to reality

The promise of seamless cloud migration and the potential to eliminate vendor lock-in has long been a major – yet still unattainable -- allure in cloud. IBM has talked about mirroring instances with SoftLayer, while the entire premise of OpenStack is the interoperability of the open-source technology for building and deploying cloud infrastructure. Another emerging option is containerized applications.

The issue is there's an assumption that [the cloud] you're going to is the best platform, and that's not currently the case for VMware.
Mindy Cancilaresearch director for cloud, Gartner, Inc

Building this capability is a good move for VMware at the macro level, but more needs to be done with vCloud Air to make it a truly attractive option, said Mindy Cancila, research director for cloud at Gartner, Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

"The more they can transition their on-premises investments and provide extensibility into the cloud, that's a good thing," Cancila said. "The issue is there's an assumption that what you're going to is the best platform, and that's not currently the case for VMware."

VMware has pushed its new slogan of "one cloud, any application, any device." And while the company has limited integrations with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure through vRealize, the "any" push is largely tied to staying within the VMware ecosystem.

VMware executives touted the capability to migrate with limited to no downtime and the potential to securely move VMs to compliment a hybrid cloud strategy.

"I can start to see how we're dissolving the distinction between public and private and turning it into one cloud," said Raghu Raghuram, executive vice president and general manager of the software-defined data center division, during the VMworld keynote demo.

For some customers that will be just fine, as they want to use vMotion and NSX and vSAN, and they're willing to pay the VMware licensing cost to build their hybrid environment, Cancila said. But vCloud Air still lags behind AWS and Microsoft Azure in terms of maturity, so while it's critical for VMware to improve its own cloud offering, it will be an even more compelling capability if it can connect to other public cloud services, too.

If the infrastructure landscape looks the same in the public cloud as it does on-premises, it should work properly, and that's where VMware's EVO Software-Defined Data Center Manager comes into play, Woollacott said. It's going outside the ecosystem that represents the real challenge.

"If keeping infrastructure in an all-VMware shop, that should be a layup," Woollacott said. "The three-pointer is when you take it from an all VMware shop and slide into public cloud and conform or comply with all the technology."

Making this promise a reality will require automation, and probably a custom layer built by working with early adopters to take the big repeatable frameworks and convert them into repeatable software that takes the labor out of the process, Woollacott said. Still, it's in VMware's best interest to ensure the public cloud customers migrate to its own.

"All vendors are trying to get there because it's as much about the install-base retention," Woollacott said. "IT is moving more and more to cloud-enabled applications and you want to make sure they migrate to your cloud-enabled infrastructure."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at [email protected]

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