This week Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been in the news for offering a tool that imports VMware VMs to the Amazon cloud. You can read the announcement on the AWS blog here. While this is a good and important step for Amazon, the announcement reminded me of a conversation I frequently have with clients – when it comes to mobility, converting the VM is the least of your worries. In some use cases such as training, the underlying hypervisor may not matter. However, for most production roles hypervisor parity remains important today. For starters, consider test and development. For early stages of test, the hypervisor choice may be irrelevant, but for later QA and integration testing, most enterprises prefer to test on an environment identical to what they run in production. This is why most organizations consider the hypervisor (and a specific hypervisor version) part of the application certification process. When you look at production workloads, the challenges are more complex. Switching hypervisors, replacing in-guest paravirtualized device drivers, and converting virtual disk storage formats is oftentimes pretty straightforward. However, significant challenges may occur with operational management. For example, if my backup software assumes a VMware backend and uses the vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP), switching out the hypervisor would require changes to how the organization backs up the VM. Of course, that could be offloaded to the provider, but you’d also need to check on long term archiving support and that data privacy requirements are satisfied. You’d also have to determine the implications on backup and archive if you decided to move the VM from the cloud back to your internal data center or to another provider. The organization’s security software and associated policy enforcement may require a specific hypervisor, and the same can be said for additional aspects of operational management (e.g., capacity, configuration, and lifecycle management). So after moving a VM, I may need to rebuild integrations to my operational software as well, assuming the software supports the new hypervisor format and cloud IaaS platform. In a pure public cloud context, many providers offer a wide array of management services, but in the hybrid cloud context integration with the organization’s enterprise management software is often necessary. Application owners shouldn’t have to care about the underlying hypervisor, but the infrastructure and operations teams have no choice but to care (due to the operational management software dependencies I just mentioned). Many clients I speak with are working to be more cloud-like internally and are dabbling in public cloud IaaS, and most are planning for hybrid clouds but are not ready to embrace them at a large scale. A lot of work is necessary...

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