Briefing Note: Running VMware in Google/Amazon Clouds – Ravello Launches Inception Beta

There are two parts to any cloud strategy; compute and storage. As discuss in our white paper, “Reverse Your Cloud Strategy” (register below), a cloud storage strategy becomes increasingly hard to justify over time. Cloud compute though is almost an ideal use of the cloud model. Compute can be provisioned and scaled instantly and can be decommissioned just as quick. It is especially ideal for online demos, training labs and proof of concepts. There is one problem though; VMware virtual machines can’t be run natively on the major cloud providers’, Amazon and Google, environments. Ravello has a nested hypervisor that runs VMware and KVM virtual machines unmodified in the public cloud. In addition, Ravello recently announced the beta of its Inception cloud service that provides the important capability of running not just the VM workload, but the ESXi hypervisor itself in the cloud.

The VMware on Google/Amazon problem

Modern hypervisors, like ESXi and KVM, count on the virtualization extensions that Intel and AMD put into their chips (Intel-VT/AMD-V). These extensions are not made visible to a cloud VM, so essentially a cloud VM looks like a fast but older server without these extensions. In order to natively run a VMware VM on Amazon or Google these providers would need to pass the VT//V features through to them. This could be done via a nested virtualization function and the hypervisors that Amazon and Google clouds are built on have a rudimentary implementation of nested virtualization. But it will take a while for the feature to mature and both Amazon and Google seem to be in no rush to provide this support, since running VMware is not part of their core strategy.

Ravello Inception

As we wrote about in our prior briefing note, “Ravello enables traditional Data Centers to leverage the Cloud” Ravello had previously introduced the ability to nest the KVM hypervisor on AWS or Google Cloud. This latest solution allows ESXi to run on AWS or Google Cloud so that VMware labs with multiple VMware products can be run on the cloud, without requiring hardware purchases.

Although production applications could be a realistic use case in the future, for now, Ravello is being careful to position this as a solution for VMware demos, training labs, home labs and proof of concept environments. The sample pricing of a reasonably well-outfitted home lab is as little as $54 per month, with no hardware costs.

StorageSwiss Take

The market for non-production use cases is significant. There are plenty of technology companies looking for a cost effective way to demonstrate a variety of VMware solutions and Ravello gives that to them with no upfront investment. It also seems that Ravello has plenty of time for this market to become viable. Google and Amazon seem to have no real motivation to offer something similar. We see the Ravello solution as a big win for IT companies looking to demonstrate or train on their wares. And, as we discussed in our article “How Traditional Data Centers should use the Cloud” we think IT end-users will like the idea of doing development in the cloud but being able to use native VMware tools during the process. Sign up for our exclusive white paper, “Reverse Your Cloud Strategy” below.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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