A conversation with Brian Graf from VMware

After VMworld this year, the highlight (at least for me) had to be the VMware cloud on AWS.  I was lucky enough to attend a few sessions with Brian, and he agreed to answer a couple questions for me.

Hopefully these are of value to some of you.


So who are you Brian, what do you do for VMware?
I am a Senior Technical Marketing Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS. Basically, it means I create technical content and demos, blog posts, social media awareness, present at conferences, and deliver the vision and technology to customers. I’ve been with VMware for just over four years and before that spent about 18 months in EMC Consulting focusing on virtualization projects and Datacenter migration/consolidation projects for several large financial institutions. I live in Utah with my wife and 3 small children.

What got you involved with the cloud on AWS project?
When I came to VMware, I started out in Technical Marketing doing PowerCLI and Automation (Alan Renouf’s role when he moved up to Product Management). I really liked Technical Marketing. I love presenting to people, and I really love seeing their faces when the lightbulb goes on and they ‘get it’ during a session. It’s one of the best feelings and experiences you can have as a presenter. I did that for about Two and a half years and then decided to try out Product Management, where I wanted to help deliver great features and shape the roadmap for our products. I felt like I could make a difference. I ended becoming the Senior Product Manager for DRS/HA (Distributed Resource Management). We had a very successful vSphere 6.5 release. I knew the VMware Cloud on AWS TMM role would be opening up around the beginning of 2017 and I had decided that I didn’t want to stay in Product Management so I let my Business Unit know that I was interested in going back to TMM for the VMware Cloud role. I was able to get that role and begin cranking out content while working internally with the engineering team, Product Management, Tech Marketing, and other teams as we built out the product offering. I ended up spending about a year and a half as a product manager before moving over. Just the excitement of integrating the leading on-prem virtualization technologies with the leading public cloud technologies seemed to grab my Tech-A D D focus and draw me in!

What is the basics of the offering? CPU/RAM/Disk/Software/Service?
The offering is pretty straight forward in that you get the hardware, software, and support, in one bundled package through VMware. Each host has 2×18 core CPUs, 512GB of RAM and 16TB of NVMe (Raw). As far as software goes, you receive ESXi, vSphere/vCenter Server, NSX, and vSAN. However, the versions of VMware products will always be ahead of what we make available on-prem as we can rev faster for the cloud customers. This also means additional benefits for using VMWare Cloud on AWS. This offering is also managed by VMware which means the nights of staying up late to patch your servers, update the firmware, etc are gone for you. VMware handles all of that for you.

Who do you feel is the ideal candidate for VMware cloud on AWS?
This is a tricky question because there are so many different fantastic candidates for this offering that I won’t have the time to talk about them all. However the three main uses-cases we see customers wanting this offering for are:
1) DR/Backup and Expansion from main Datacenter
2) Consolidate/Migrate (either getting out of datacenters from leases, mergers and acquisitions, etc. or wanting to just start moving workloads to the cloud)
3) Cyclical workloads and Dev/Test

There are many other benefits to the offering here around CAPEX (only pay for the servers you are currently using, but having the ability to expand your cluster in essentially 2-clicks and within 5-10 minutes rather than paying for, and holding onto, numerous additional hosts in a datacenter for those “Just in case” moments. and OPEX (I wont say that this eliminates jobs for a company, but all of a sudden you are freeing up resources that can now focus on other things like enhancing the performance of your virtual environment, creating more automation, etc.)

What does the pricing structure look like realistically?
The pricing is pretty straight forward, and you can find it here: https://cloud.vmware.com/vmc-aws/pricing

We support on-demand (hourly), 1-year reserved, and 3-year reserved. Obviously the longer your hardware is reserved, the bigger the discount you will be receiving. On-demand ends up being $8.37/hour per host or $33.47/hour for a 4-node cluster. This ends up being roughly $293,000 /year for a 4-node cluster. If you want to pay that much you can. But what is great is that there are pretty steep discounts on the 1 and 3 year reserved, and an additional discount I’ll mention in a minute. a 1-year reserved is 30% off which ends up being $5.93/hour per host, $23.72/hour for a cluster or $208,000/year while the 3-year reserved is 50% off at $4.16/hour per host, $16.64/hour for a cluster or $146,000 year. Now keep in mind you can pack these hosts as full as you want. Now, the second discount: instead of bringing your own licenses, which doesn’t really make sense since this is Hardware + Software + Support (how do you easily compute that), VMware will give you a 10% discount if you are an active S&S vSphere customer, 10% more for being a vSAN customer and 10% more for being an NSX customer (up to a max of 25%) on the 1-year and 3-year reserved models. This means that you can get down to essentially 75% off the hourly price if you do a 3-year reserved with the full loyalty discount. This means you are paying roughly $8.36/hour for a 4-node cluster, software and support, or ~ $73,000 a year for that cluster and management. I know we’ve just done a lot of math but as you can see here, once you factor in how many VMs you can run here, you can see the cost per VM as being quite low. in many cases it can be below $100/year. Now for those who are doing these numbers, it’s hard to do an apples to apples comparison of what they currently are if they aren’t taking into account the headcount and cost of upgrades/patching, etc. So realistically, I think this is a pretty good deal.

Now, from an AWS perspective you may end up spending more or less than you were previously depending on what AWS services you decide to take advantage of. For example, you may decide to pull in some of your existing EC2 instances into vSphere for the over-commit ratios, thin-provisioning, vMotion capabilities, DRS/HA, or potential to migrate workloads between cloud and on-prem. By bringing in those EC2 instances, you are saving hourly on each of those AMIs and that cost could technically be absorbed into your VMware Cloud cost.

Any east-west traffic in the same Availability Zone as your cloud SDDC will incur no egress data charges which means leveraging things such as EC2, RDS, S3 and more can be very compelling options to integrate with VMs in your cloud SDDC. Take for example, storing your VM backups in S3. If you need to recover a VM, instead of downloading it to your on-prem DC and paying the egress charges, you could simply restore to your cloud SDDC very quickly and with 0 egress data charges (saving money yet again). There are many many use-cases for leveraging AWS services with your Cloud SDDC which is what my current focus is on here at VMware and you will see many more blog articles, demos, and presentations on this in the upcoming months.

What is the value proposition for the offering? Why would someone want this solution rather than lease their own bare metal and use their own licenses?
I pretty much covered this above in the previous question. But the ability to have someone else handle the upgrades, be able to leverage AWS services with your VMs, have faster revs of vSphere, direct Intercom access to GSS through both the VMware Cloud Console as well as directly from the HTML5 Client, and more seem very compelling to many many of our customers.

Where does SMB fall into this offering? Will there be a more affordable option?
Currently this is probably not something that an SMB would be interested in as an SMB most likely does not have a high enough VM count to make this cost-effective for them. I see this as anything medium sized business and up will probably get the most value out of this. But then again, there is no one-size-fits all answer here and each customer will need to run their own numbers and determine if this is a consideration for them. As far as more affordable options, I’d say $8.36/hour for an entire cluster is pretty affordable. However, there are customers who may not need the horsepower of the current hosts and we hear them and understand this. However, I am not able to go into specifics on futures at this time.

What are the requirements from internal to hook up to the VMware cloud? Is NSX or vSAN required?
This question gets asked a lot and a lot of customers ask if they need NSX. The fact is, the only real requirements needed to create a hybrid environment are:
* On-prem vCenter version 6.5d0
* a Layer3 IPSec VPN endpoint
* Hybrid-Linked Mode

The Layer 3 IPSec VPN connection requirement will change in the future as we begin to support Direct Connect and stretched Layer 2. NSX is supported as the VPN endpoint but not required. We require a minimum version of vSphere to ensure that the connectivity works and that it’s in a supported configuration for Hybrid linked mode to work. Once VPN connectivity has been established, Hybrid Linked mode can connect to your on-Prem Active Directory and leverage the OUs for SSO and once configured, customers can then manage and see both datacenters within their vSphere Web Client (H5). It’s pretty dandy and cool to watch someone migrate a VM from on-prem to VMware Cloud and back from the same window and the same area of the H5 client (no additional tabs, logging in, or CLI’s needed. (Emad Younis has two video demos, one on cold-migration and one on hybrid linked mode from VMworld that will be going on up the VMware Cloud Youtube Channel over the upcoming weeks).

Closing thoughts, anything you wish to add?
This is definitely a great offering with significant potential to not only innovate within a hybrid cloud strategy, but for customers to truly take advantage of the best features and technologies that VMware has to offer, as well as those of AWS at the same time for better operational efficiency, cost reduction, and integrations. I’m very excited to share my upcoming demos, blogs, and sessions with customers and the vExpert community over the upcoming weeks and months. I think the last thing I will add is there is already a bit of FUD and incorrect assumptions from people and groups within the industry. Take a look at cloud.vmware.com and follow http://brianjgraf.com, http://emadyounis.com, and http://frankdenneman.nl/ for clear and accurate posts about the offering. Take a look at some of the integrations we are doing and give it a run of your own.

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