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Hybrid Cloud Manager bridges vSphere and vCloud Air management gap

With hybrid cloud becoming increasingly common, VMware created a tool to extend the management layer across cloud platforms.

Whether administrators are ready or not, it appears that hybrid cloud is going to be the most common cloud adoption model. In the hybrid cloud world, there is a need for cross-cloud management tools.

VMware's vCloud Air Hybrid Cloud Manager unifies the management of on-premises vSphere with vSphere provided by vCloud Air. The idea is to have dedicated ESXi servers in vCloud Air behave like an extension of the vSphere in an on-premises data center. The vCloud Air Hybrid Cloud Manager is not a general purpose hybrid cloud manager; it has some specific requirements.

The first is that you have vCloud Air with dedicated servers -- this means physical ESXi servers that only run your VMs. You rent the entire ESXi server from the vCloud Air provider, which is a different consumption model than many infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platforms, where you rent VMs.

The VMware Hybrid Cloud Manager addresses data portability with bidirectional replication of individual VMs.

In most IaaS environments, physical servers are shared among tenants. Your application performance can be affected by what other tenants are doing. With vCloud Air Dedicated Cloud, the whole ESXi server is yours and yours alone; only your VMs can affect application performance. Since having dedicated physical servers is a higher level of service, it comes with a higher cost. Dedicated servers are similar to colocation, but without the capital cost of buying the servers.

The second requirement is having vSphere in your data center. Once Hybrid Cloud Manager is in place, you can manage some of your vCloud Air deployment through vCenter -- there is no requirement for an existing network or VPN between vCloud Air and your data center. The Hybrid Cloud Manager appliance manages the VPN setup and builds out additional services for wide area network optimization and replicating VMs between your data center and vCloud Air.

These additional services are provided by virtual appliances. These are automatically deployed from the Hybrid Cloud Manager appliance when the features are turned on. The VPN is built on top of the existing network to provide a fast network connection for replication.

Hybrid Cloud Manager can also mirror network configurations from your on-premises vSphere to vCloud Air and provides a layer 2 Ethernet bridge to join the port group on vCloud Air with the one in your data center. VMs migrate between your data center and vCloud Air without changing IP address. If you have VMware NSX, then those policies will move with the VM.

The usual impediment to VM mobility in a hybrid cloud deployment is that data takes time to move. This keeps large VMs from easily moving between on-premises and cloud locations, making cloud bursting an impractical option for hybrid cloud.

The VMware Hybrid Cloud Manager addresses data portability with bidirectional replication of individual VMs. In theory, this means only the changed blocks need to be replicated in order to be able to migrate VMs between data centers.

That brings us to the central conflict: Hybrid Cloud Manager was launched at VMworld 2015. At VMworld 2016, we learned a lot about Cross-Cloud Architecture and VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services (AWS). VMware Cloud on AWS provides dedicated ESXi servers inside AWS data centers. In many ways, it looks similar to vCloud Air Dedicated Cloud. It also looks like a lot of Hybrid Cloud Manager's technology is included in Cross-Cloud and VMware Cloud on AWS. What is less clear is the future of vCloud Air. For customers of both AWS and VMware, there is a huge benefit to having vSphere inside AWS. It may turn out that Hybrid Cloud Manager is a great tool to migrate workloads back out of vCloud Air and onto another cloud.

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