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vCloud Air – Will it work for my organisation?


By now you have probably heard at least some information about the ViFX VMware vCloud Air offering. More than likely you will have heard it provides a simple, cost effective way for New Zealand businesses to access the transformative advantages of the hybrid cloud in a seamless way. But, in the back of your mind there are probably still a few nagging questions. In particular, “Will it work for my organisation?”

Our experience in cloud migration tells us vCloud Air will be a great fit for many organisations – and that is the key starting point, using an approach that aligns best with your needs. But what about cost, finding the sweet spot, data ingest and connectivity? These are all key considerations that I will discuss below.

How do the costs compare?

The nice thing about vCloud Air pricing is that it doesn’t include any hidden charges. It’s very apparent what costs are subscription based, as opposed to usage-based or one-time charges. This is especially relevant when speaking about  bandwidth. You get a base amount of 10/50Mbps and you can expand this to 1/10Gbps with a direct connection. And from there you don’t pay for outbound (or egress) data charges. This is important because outbound data volumes are sometimes hard to predict. Other cloud vendors are often vague about egress data transfer charges and often base them on poorly understood metrics, such as API calls like ‘GETS’. Say there is a traffic spike that hits your cloud systems, such as if you suffer a DDoS attack that hammers your website. With other cloud charging models you will be penalised with high outbound data costs.

Included services are often another cause of confusion. vCloud Air includes services you would typically pay for elsewhere – such as Firewalls, Load Balancers, and High Availability Redundancy. These items are included at no extra charge whereas in other clouds you would have to pay for these either as subscription services, such as an ELB, or with additional virtual machines to host these services.

Finally, with regard to making accurate cost comparisons it is important to note the components that are often overlooked. For on-premises solutions these overlooked costs often include ones associated with maintaining infrastructure, expanding and upgrading infrastructure, upgrading applications, and mobilising to perform disaster recovery testing. For other cloud solutions, what is often overlooked are the additional components and tools needed for monitoring cloud availability, application performance, brokering cloud services and billing reconciliation.

What is the sweet spot with vCloud Air?

With vCloud Air, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is most definitely the sweet spot because it’s easy to get started – there is no need to invest in specialist staff, additional equipment or secondary sites. It’s flexible and cost effective, it offers management consistency because it leverages the same skills, toolsets and processes you already use, and it provides the ability to set up the DR protection and do the DR testing yourself.

All it takes to get going are a few simple steps. Namely, use VMware Infrastructure Navigator (VIN) to figure out what to protect and how those pieces hang together (if you aren’t using it already, just run a VIN trial in your environment for a period). Secondly, deploy into DRaaS, setting up links and components, and copying datasets (online or offline), Next, test the recovery. You will receive seven days test time each year with your subscription and you get 30 days run time if you need to enact DR in anger. It’s also reassuring to note that charges don’t rise sharply if you have to run in DR for more than 30 days. The on-going charges are for all intents pro-rata, if it is going to take you more than a month to rebuild your DC from a smouldering pile of rubble.

But it is in the final step where I think the value of DRaaS really shines. You get to evolve the value of your DR testing with each iteration. Start with a simple internal connectivity to recovered systems test, then extend it to external connectivity tests as well, then maybe go for automation of more aspects of the recovery, and then develop granular recovery plans for single lines of business.

If you have already invested in DR, consider moving some of the DR function to the cloud over time and use the capacity you free up to satisfy on-premises growth demands. If you have a mature DR practice, consider expanding the scope of DR to lower tiers, providing more risk mitigation coverage for the business – at a lower price point.

No ingest or connectivity indigestion

If you have some big systems and are worried about getting the initial ingest done – don’t. vCloud Air has a service called Offline Data Transfer. It consists of an encrypted NAS device set up on premises, onto which data is copied and then the device is sent to the Telstra DC in Victoria, and the data is ingested.

There are three vCloud Air connection options:

  • Option 1: Connect over the Internet via HTTPS. End users can access public-facing workloads.  Administrators can manage the environment.
  • Option 2: Site to Site IPsec VPN. Edge Gateway at vCloud Air is VPN endpoint. Use any on-premises VPN concentrator, and;
  • Option 3: Direct Connect private WAN link, using Telstra NextIP or other providers like Megaport and Vibe for tuneable bandwidth.

This last option with variable bandwidth is quite interesting. Megaport or Vibe, as a provider, aggregate backhaul links from Equinix DC and then you as a consumer can decide (and set in the portal), how much bandwidth you need. So start with 100Mbps in pilot at production levels of latency and performance, and then ramp up to 600Mbps in full production (for example).

So why not use an existing vCloud Air Network partner?

A vCloud Air Network (vCAN) partner is a service provider whose offering is based on VMware technology. There are three vCAN partners listed in the directory for New Zealand – Revera, TheCloud, and Datacom.

In my opinion, vCloud Air offers the following advantages over these vCAN providers:

  • Faster innovation: VMware is running 30 day release cycles in vCloud Air allowing you to incorporate VMware’s advanced capabilities faster. For example, you can take on NSX for network virtualisation, Pivotal PaaS for rapid application development, and/or Code Stream for application deployment management. And if cloud is not delivering you innovation, then it’s missing the point in my opinion.
  • Broader operating system support: The vCAN is Managed IaaS, so there are limits on the legacy operating systems that those providers want to support, whereas vCloud Air supports anything vSphere supports – over 90 operating system versions and over 5,000 applications.

The key to success

So in summary, the key to success for this type of cloud deployment is understanding the Relative Cost of Ownership (RCO) and ensuring that everyone is on board with what the financial impact of achieving that RCO actually is. A great way to start is to run a trial to build up experience and knowledge – and to get the right people excited. Make sure you optimise workload resources for running in the cloud and also make sure your team is ready for day-two operations, including SLA and cost management, automated deployments, performance and availability monitoring.

vCloud Air eBook - Your Guide to Seamless Hybrid Cloud

If you have VMware or you are looking for innovative cloud solutions, this guide contains everything you need to know to ensure you can make an informed decision on vCloud Air for your business.

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If you would like a vCloud Air demo or have further questions on how it can work for your organisation, contact us today.

Author: James Knapp

James focuses on the cloud technology landscape, developing cloud strategies for our clients, as well as being a regular conference presenter on new IT service delivery models.

16 June 2015 / 0 Comments