When does it make sense to move applications and data to the public cloud? What exactly should be moved? What are the potential and actual cost benefits?
Business and technology leaders at many organizations are likely asking these questions on a regular basis as more and more cloud services emerge. The answers are not always clear, despite the ongoing hype about everything related to the cloud.
To plunge headlong into a cloud migration without having a clear business case and a long-term cloud strategy is to risk losing money and wasting time. On the flip side, building a strong use case and executing on a coherent strategy can deliver significant benefits.
Analyzing the thinking behind moving the VMware virtualization platform to the cloud provides a good case in point. What makes such a move possible is an initiative announced in late 2018 by VMware Inc. and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to expand VMware Cloud on AWS in the U.S. and Europe.
VMware Cloud on AWS brings VMware’s software-defined data center platform to Amazon’s public cloud. At the time, VMware also announced new capabilities for the cloud service that it said allows organizations to better protect and secure applications and virtual desktops.
A number of businesses have deployed the new offering. Here’s a look at what went into the decision-making of three of these customers.
Potentially a million-plus in savings
Rosendin Electric, an electrical contracting company, was running VMware on premises for years and is now in the process of migrating data to VMware Cloud on AWS. The older platform was “rock solid,” says Sam Lamonica, CIO at Rosendin, so any plan to replace it would have to proceed carefully.
Executives examined the return on investment (ROI) with respect to replacing dozens of blade servers, storage arrays, and other equipment in the data center, and the decision became an easy one.
Gaining scalable performance was a key driver in the decision to move VMware to the cloud. “When you’re limited on your hardware, you’re equally limited on scalability,” Lamonica says. “We’re a two-billion-dollar company, expanding at a rapid pace. Therefore, it’s key for us to quickly spin up VMs [virtual machines] on a daily basis. This is a much easier process within the cloud.”
The exact cost savings from using VMware Cloud on AWS compared with running VMware on-premises remains to be seen, Lamonica says. Rosendin Electric estimates that based on a three-year ROI it will save about 23%, which equates to nearly $1.5 million.
Prior to the move, “we were in the process of deciding if we wanted to upgrade our entire infrastructure, which would entail racks upon racks filled with Cisco UCS blades and EMC storage,” Lamonica says. “It was a perfect time to make the switch to the cloud and we had just finished our email migration to [Microsoft’s Office 365], so we definitely understand the benefits.”
The existing hardware on premises is already a sunk cost for the company, “so in reality we are now building out our environment, at least from a hardware perspective, from scratch in the cloud,” Lamonica says.
Citing security reasons, Lamonica declines to say exactly what workloads the company is moving to the cloud, including customer-facing applications. But he says Rosendin will have some mixture of quality assurance, application development, and disaster recovery (DR) in the cloud as part of the shift to VMware Cloud on AWS.
The migration enables the company to take advantage of the best of both worlds, including familiar VM management and the economies and agility of cloud services.
For example, from a cost perspective it didn’t make sense to move terabytes of archived data to VMware Cloud on AWS. But by tapping AWS’s Amazon S3 Glacier, a low-cost cloud storage service for data archiving and long-term backup, Rosendin can easily handle that task in a cost-effective way.
Speeding up workloads from months to weeks
Cyber security provider Trend Micro is in the midst of a migration to the public cloud and the adoption of VMware Cloud on AWS is part of that strategy.
Trend Micro’s products work together to share threat intelligence and provide a connected threat defense with centralized visibility and control. Its threat detection network has been growing exponentially, and the company needed to make sure its IT infrastructure could scale to support product growth as well as new business opportunities.
Trend Micro differentiates itself by reacting quickly to the changing threat landscape to best protect its clients, says Zack Milem, cloud solution architect at the company.
“This often means we must deal with high-priority projects requiring our IT teams to move quickly to analyze, validate, and deploy [or] update existing services,” Milem says. VMware Cloud on AWS allows the company to deploy resources in the cloud extremely quickly, rather than waiting for procurement of hardware, deployment, configuration, etc., which could delay the project for two or three months.
“We also look for ways to optimize data center resources and costs, and at the same time leverage the cloud for on-demand capacity and software development agility,” Milem says. Having VMware on the cloud allows Trend Micro to continue to use its familiar data center tools and reuse its VMware investments without increasing headcount.
As a result, the company can reduce the time to set up additional hardware and reduce the time to plan, test, and deploy workloads to the cloud from several months to a few weeks.”
Trend Micro was using a vSphere-based private cloud, and VMware NSX Data Center for micro-segmentation, to keep systems with sensitive employee data for human resources separate from customer-facing initiatives that developers are working on to enhance the company’s threat detection offerings.
With VMware Cloud on AWS, Trend Micro now has a familiar VMware control pane for its public cloud environment. The IT team at Trend Micro is using VMware Cloud on AWS to quickly migrate workloads to its public cloud with on-demand expansion and no impact to application uptime.
With threat intelligence data load demands that are constantly increasing, the scalability of the public cloud eliminates capacity issues. Trend Micro development teams can get the IT infrastructure resources they need quickly, without going through a time-consuming procurement process as in the past.
The biggest difference in running on VMware in the cloud versus on premises is the ease with which Trend Micro can run its traditional applications while not having to manage the hardware and updates.
The cost differences are difficult to compare, Milem says. That’s because, while Trend Micro continuously runs a four-node base cluster in VMware Cloud on AWS, it is not having to pay for data center space, electricity, or bandwidth. In addition, it saves on human resource costs for those who would have to maintain and update the hardware.
“We also now have the added benefit of being able to add capacity for temporary projects, where we might need to expand to 30 or 40 hosts for a short time when peak capacity is needed, while only paying for that one or two months instead of a larger capital investment,” Milem says.
Despite the difficulty of measuring, there are clear cost savings. Due to the nature of the business, there are fluctuations requiring additional computation and analysis during periods of high threat volume. During these times, teams need to increase capacity quickly, and on a short-term basis.
Provisioning 30 to 40 hosts for a month does not seem like much, Milem says, but the company can trim up to 12% of costs as they do not have to procure additional on-premises hardware, power, etc. “We can estimate about 20% in savings from not having the operational overhead of configuring, managing, updating, and maintaining the additional resources during these temporary, peak periods,” Milem says.
Better infrastructure planning
George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, a law firm specializing in personal injury law, opted to deploy VMware Cloud on AWS in part because CIO Tim Mullen did not like where previous IT leadership at the firm was going with building data centers to accommodate geographic growth patterns.
“Small-to-midsize organizations have no business building data centers,” Mullen says. VMware in the cloud allows the firm to capitalize on service offerings that leverage hardware, software, and networking without the associated dependencies on specialized skills and physical assets, he says.
The firm still runs vSphere in two data centers. It also uses on-premises resources for authentication, localized file storage, and other functions. “But the biggest change has been in our mentality,” Mullen says. “When your options live on the ground [on-premises], then your solutions manifest themselves in the form of more boxes or instances. You spin up more and more servers to meet the need of any particular service.”
With on-premises infrastructure, various departments end up with their own servers for their own solutions, and the infrastructure becomes more complex. Administration requirements grow, storage and networking components need to be upgraded and expanded, and personnel need to be trained and spread more thinly over a larger infrastructure surface.
With VMware in the cloud, “we find ourselves actually planning for better solutions, where we fully utilize what we have rather than just throwing hard dollars at equipment and infrastructure,” Mullen says. “When we deploy a solution, we examine our vSAN storage policy requirements to ensure we’re making the right choices. The VMC [VMware Cloud on AWS] makes us better at what we do while still allowing us full access to our own hardware and giving us the ability to spin up new resources on demand.”
Leveraging the AWS cloud for VMware is saving the firm money, from a total cost of ownership standpoint. “When you consider the less-obvious expenses of administration time, out-of-band purchase requirements, and even things like power, air-conditioning, and backup generators, it’s really a no-brainer,” Mullen says.