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VMware VP Mark Lohmeyer discusses VMware Cloud on AWS logistics

VMware Cloud on AWS is in closed beta, and details are thin on the ground. In this interview, VMware VP Mark Lohmeyer gives us a peak into the fruits of the VMware-AWS partnership.

Last year, VMware partnered with Amazon Web Services in a deal that allows users to run VMware workloads on the AWS cloud. The first significant product of this partnership, VMware Cloud on AWS, is currently in closed beta and slated for release in summer 2017, most likely at VMworld at the end of August. VMware Cloud on AWS seems to be a cautious next step into the realm of cloud for VMware after the dismal returns and eventual sale of its vCloud Air public cloud platform.

VMware Cloud on AWS has already generated a great deal of interest from customers and has raised a number of questions and concerns about price, customer support and use cases. Mark Lohmeyer, vice president of products for VMware's cloud platform business unit, took the time to speak with SearchVMware about VMware Cloud on AWS consumption models and integration and for whom VMware Cloud on AWS is best-suited.

What is the pricing plan for VMware Cloud on AWS?

Mark Lohmeyer: We're pricing [VMware Cloud on AWS] as a cloud service. We'll provide three consumption-based offers. We'll offer an hourly, on-demand option, where the customer pays for the host on an hourly basis, and they can spin them up or down as needed; they only pay for the hours they've actually used. This pay-per-host model is similar to the way you would consume and deploy our software on prem. The customer can run as many VMs as they would like on that host and can take advantage of the VMware capabilities around [Distributed Resource Scheduler], memory and CPU, as well as some capabilities within the vSphere platform, which would allow them to consolidate a large number of workloads down on that host. At initial delivery, we'll support only one host type, which we've designed with AWS to be an optimal platform on which to run our software. Over time, we'll look to provide additional options.

Mark LohmeyerMark Lohmeyer

The second option is one-year reserved instance pricing. In this case, they would pay for one year of capacity upfront, and that capacity would be reserved to them. We'll also offer a third option, which is a three-year reserved instance pricing. And, of course, the one-year [reserved instance] pricing is less expensive than the on-demand, and the three-year reserved is less expensive than the one-year.

If you're familiar with the AWS pricing model, you'll note that this is very similar to the way that AWS prices their infrastructure. We felt that that was a pretty good model; it's very well-understood by customers. Most customers can sync AWS either hourly on demand or one or three on reserve, and so we just mirrored that model.

The other question we often get asked is, 'Hey, I've made an investment in VMware on prem in perpetual licenses from you -- how can I take advantage of those licenses in the context of VMware Cloud on AWS?' The way that will work … we'll have a hybrid loyalty program for customers that will allow them to get a benefit on the price of VMware Cloud on AWS based on their existing investment in VMware. They will be able to leverage that investment in their on-prem licenses.

How will customer support work between the two providers?

Lohmeyer: This is a VMware cloud service, so it's delivered, sold and supported by VMware. If a customer has an issue, they would call VMware support. Behind the scenes, there's a close relationship between VMware and AWS, so if any of the issues happen to be on the AWS side, we would work together with AWS behind the scenes to resolve that on behalf of the customer, just like we would with any other collaborative support relationship with our other technology partners.

What special skills are necessary to leverage VMware on AWS?

Lohmeyer: If you know how to run vSphere on prem, you can immediately begin to take advantage of VMware Cloud on AWS. In fact, the fundamental design goal of the service was exactly that. A customer would start by coming to the VMware Cloud on AWS console on our website and say, 'I want to purchase a certain number of hosts and capacity' -- maybe they want to buy them on an hourly, on-demand [basis] -- 'and I want to spin it up in the Oregon-West region,' and they'd click Go. Once they click Go, a few minutes later, we would substantiate that service in the AWS Oregon region. From there, they'd just go into vCenter, and they'd run it and use it the exact same way they're currently using vCenter in their own data center. Absolutely nothing's changed. So, there's effectively zero learning curve by design.

If you know how to run vSphere on prem, you can immediately begin to take advantage of VMware Cloud on AWS.

How complicated has it been to slim down products such as NSX for the cloud?

Lohmeyer: We think NSX is the key differentiating part of this overall solution and actually of the overall hybrid solutions that we're going to be able to enable for customers. Fundamentally, customers are going to want a consistent way to network across the private cloud and public cloud, and NSX is uniquely positioned to be able to do that.

For a customer who's only using vSphere on prem today, we want to make it very easy for them to on-ramp and to take advantage of the capabilities of NSX. The way that we did that is we created something that we're calling Simple Mode Networking. When [customers] go to the VMware Cloud on AWS console, we will allow them to configure the aspects of the network that they need to configure to get started. Things like set up a [vCloud Air network] between AWS and their on-prem environment, set up firewall rules, map private IP addresses in VMware Cloud on AWS to public IP addresses and create logical networks. [It allows you to] do all these things that you need to be able to do to configure a network in a cloud and get started. We made that very simple to do through the VMware Cloud on AWS console. Under the covers, of course, it's actually NSX that's powering all of those capabilities, but the customer doesn't have to be an NSX expert to get started.

Why would customers choose to use VMware Cloud on AWS rather than on premises with VMware?

Lohmeyer: We're seeing a pretty broad range of use cases that are resonating to customers. They fall into sort of three high-level categories, and many customers are interested in multiple use cases. The first set of use cases is -- let's call them more 'data center extension-oriented use cases.' These are scenarios in which they're going to continue to have a large investment in their own private clouds, but they're looking to extend into the public cloud for specific use cases. The classic example of this, obviously, is disaster recovery, where you could use VMware Cloud on AWS as a [disaster recovery] target for workloads running in your own data center. Another one in the extension category is the geographic capacity expansion. Maybe the customer's got their own data center they're running in -- let's say the U.S. -- but they want to expand to Asia or expand to Europe, but it doesn't make sense for them to stand up a whole data center just to do that. They can leverage VMware-AWS and take advantage of AWS' global footprint to spin up a completely VMware-compatible cloud elsewhere around the world.

The second category is more [about] data center consolidation and migration. In these cases, customers are often looking to reduce their own data center footprint. In some cases, they might be looking to consolidate data centers [or] completely get out of running their own data center. In those cases, [with] VMware Cloud on AWS … you can basically take all of those applications and run them on the exact same infrastructure that is running in an AWS region instead of that customer's own consolidated data center. It doesn't require any replatforming of existing applications, it doesn't require any retraining or retooling of your team and it works with all the tools you've already got. So, it can really reduce the time, the risk and the cost of data center consolidation or data center migration projects.

The third big category is customers are looking to enable new applications and new services. They might be looking to combine some services that are running in a VMware environment in a VMware Cloud on AWS, but they might also want to take advantage of some of the AWS services, like Lambda or a new AWS admissions service. With VMware Cloud on AWS, that becomes very easy to do because you've now got your workloads that are running on VMware side by side right next to all of those AWS services, so customers can take advantage of that full portfolio of capabilities across VMware-AWS to create whole new hybrid applications. I see that one coming up more and more as customers are looking at how they're investing for the future.

In a significant portion of our customer discussions, it's not just one of those things -- they're looking to do many of them based on the needs of their business and the needs of specific applications, which can vary quite a bit.

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