Thoughts on VMware Cloud on AWS


Last month VMware announced the availability of VMware cloud on AWS. The size and scale of VMware essentially means that any large-scale product launch like this is significant. Large players like this can create the trend as well as follow it. Whilst VMware has not been massively successful in the cloud space yet, their foothold on-premises is huge and therefore the market potential also.

Technical Specs

Components of VMware cloud on AWS

This service leverages vSphere, NSX and vSAN to allow you to run your Vmware VM’s in the AWS cloud. This is not a nested solution like Ravello, but runs on dedicated hosts housed in the AWS data center. Today this service is only available in one region, AWS west and with a minimum of 4 dedicated hosts. The ESXi hosts are beefy with each having dual E5-2686 v4 CPUs @2.3GHz with 18 Cores, that’s 36 cores total or 72 including hyper threading. Memory is 512GB of RAM and storage 10TB raw per node.


Cost has been one of the most eagerly anticipated aspects of this announcement and initially there is one option which is an on demand billed per hour. This is $8.37 per host per hour, given the requirement for 4 hosts minimum this works out at a monthly cost of approx. $24,000 /month. This off the bat sounds expensive but Keith Townsend has done some analysis which shows this is comparative to running a VM in AWS EC2. In time 1 year and 3 year pricing deals will be available which will offer 30% and 50% reductions respectively compared to the on demand pricing.

Adoption and Use cases

In terms of technical innovation VMware on AWS does not offer significant additional benefits currently v hosting on premises today. Further integration with AWS services is expected in the future. However this still offers a number of cloud type benefits such as on demand pricing and scaling. VMware are responsible for all the patching and hardware maintenance of the hosts, so this becomes like a SAAS offering of VMware with only the management of the VM’s remaining a concern.

The 4 host minimum may be prohibitive to many SME’s. If VMware was able to deliver a non-dedicated hardware model this would facilitate the adoption rate by lowering the barriers to entry. It will be interesting to see if they look to a Ravello style nested system or if the performance hit of this approach is viewed as too great.

The on demand pricing facilities cloud bursting, imagine a travel company that in the summer season has double demand could request and deploy additional capacity in a familiar tool. This would be powerful.

VMware is extremely familiar to most organisations, it is a known and trusted technology. Some organisations may choose to do a lift and shift of their current VMware infrastructure to the cloud. When choosing to move to another cloud technology for example native AWS this would require a significant re-skilling process and potentially costly redesign exercise. VMware on AWS would enable a far simpler transition and be compatible with current processes and skill sets

From a pessimistic point of view VMware on AWS also offers CIO’s an easy on ramp for those under pressure to introduce a move to the cloud into the organisation.

This new lift and shift model being offered by VMware and Ravello gives organisations a more simplified path to the cloud. Whilst re-architecting application may be optimal to leverage the architectural differences of the cloud, that is a significant undertaking. This is a 1.0 release, it seems likely additional integration with AWS will come over time plus this product brings choice to the market with another method to move to the cloud.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments

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HVX hypervisor now with Hardware assisted virtulization

Ravello Cloud Matures

Last week Ravello announced their next generation of nested cloud solution with the Oracle Ravello Cloud Service. When Oracle first announced the purchase of Ravello I was unsure of their motives. At the time this was a cool solution essentially for geeks, allowing them to host lab environments in the Cloud. However as VMware have proven with the recent buzz around VMware on AWS, lift and shift of production workloads to the cloud is gaining mainstream focus.

But of course production workloads need performance and scale and that’s what Oracle aim to deliver with this new release of Ravello.

Ravello Architecture

For those new to this technology Ravello is a nested cloud solution that allows VMware virtual machines to run on AWS, Google or Oracle clouds. The technology that allows this is HVX which creates an abstracted storage layer, exposes VMware virtual devices and provides a networking layer.

Oracle Ravello Cloud HVX hypervisor

The VMware VM’s run on top of this HVX layer which traditionally has its self-resided on top of a KVM hypervisor. In summary Ravello allows you to run your VMware VM’s in the cloud like VMware on AWS but without the need for dedicated hardware hosts. If you want to see how the interface looks you can check out when I deployed vCentre on Ravello

Increased Performance

Whilst Ravello can run across several cloud providers, this release focuses on brining additional performance to Ravello in the Oracle Cloud. Hardware assisted virtualisation is now implemented allowing up to a 14 times improvement in performance versus without hardware assisted virtualisation.

HVX hypervisor now with Hardware assisted virtulization

Further performance enhancements are possible by entirely removing the KVM layer and allowing VM’s to run directly on the HVX layer in a bare metal mode. You can read about the performance tests of fellow bloggers Ather Beg and Robert Verdam in the Ravello Oracle Cloud.

Increased Scale

As well as performance increases to the underlying layer, VM’s themselves receive a performance boost by being able to scale to 32 vCPUs and 200GB RAM per VM. Oracle lists some of the potential use cases as test / dev , training, security testing and production. These performance increases certainly seem to make production a possibility. With Ravello and AWS both tempting customers with a lift and shift options it will be interesting to see how this cloud migration strategy evolves and how many companies opt down this route.