Data centers today are looking for ways to add infrastructure and services from the big public cloud providers on an as-needed basis. It’s called multi-cloud deployment, and it gives operators options even if they don’t always need them. Up until this week, these operators actually had one option from Microsoft for extending their VMware virtual machine environments onto Azure infrastructure, called Azure VMware Solution.
On Monday, Microsoft announced what it called the “next generation” of that extension to VMware platforms. The fact that it had the very same name, Azure VMware Solution, could lead reasonable folks to conclude that this was just a new version, or a relaunch of the old one. Such a relaunch was quite necessary, since CloudSimple — the cloud services firm that produced the first version of the solution — was acquired by Google last November. Indeed, any attempt to reach that company on its old website redirects you to the GCP version of the solution on Google Cloud Marketplace.
So, the product Microsoft announced Monday is a first-party service, with Microsoft providing a managed service for extending VMware environments onto Azure infrastructure. But after an extended period of reflection, a Microsoft spokesperson told DCK Wednesday morning that the new version will not replace the old version. Indeed, both services will co-exist; not only will Microsoft continue to support the previous Solution, but it will continue to offer it for sale, under (almost) the same name.
“Azure VMware Solution by CloudSimple is still a Microsoft first-party offering (sold and supported by Microsoft),” the spokesperson told DCK. “The solution announced [Monday] is an additive Azure service, not a replacement. Customers using the Azure VMware Solution by CloudSimple are not impacted.”
What does “additive Azure service” mean? What is it adding to? And is it shoving anything else to the side?
“The new service makes use of NSX-T as its default network plane,” the spokesperson responded, referring to the portable version of VMware’s network virtualization layer. “This means the IT admin can use NSX Manager as they always have, and it will be readily available. At the GA [general availability] of Azure VMware Solution, the Azure Portal will also offer NSX configurations for private cloud setup for a simplified experience. The operator also has vCenter instantiation per private cloud, so they would have natively used VMware interfaces fully enabled.”
So, through Azure Portal an organization could build essentially an Azure private cloud on a VMware NSX-T platform that would be manageable using VMware tools. Did VMware and Microsoft collaborate on this feature the way VMware and Amazon Web Services did for their cloud infrastructure project? (That reportedly tight collaboration has been AWS’s go-to comment on all the rollouts of similar services on competing clouds.)
Apparently not. Asked this question, a VMware spokesperson told us: “VMware is confident in the performance of the VMware stack running in all of its partners’ clouds. Customers will make their own evaluation plans for various cloud options based on their unique business requirements.” VMware spokespersons declined to answer all other questions we offered them.
But there was at least some some collaboration, according to Microsoft: “Microsoft developed the Azure VMware Solution in close partnership with VMware. In addition, the Azure VMware Solution continues to integrate tightly with the Azure native services over time, in collaboration with VMware engineering.”
The new Solution is not an IaaS service (neither was the old one) but rather a way to extend Azure services to bare-metal servers using NSX-T, deployable from Azure Portal but manageable using VMware tools.
“Customers will see unmatched price benefits with Windows Server and SQL Server workloads running on Azure VMware Solution by taking advantage of Azure Hybrid benefits and free extended security updates,” the Microsoft spokesperson told us. “Azure VMware Solution allows customers to run VMware Cloud Foundation in Azure, which is different than pure IaaS on Azure or any other cloud.”
The new Solution also offers VMware customers the option of adopting VMware HCX Enterprise, which enables them to live-migrate their non-VMware workloads into a VMware environment, while keeping them in Azure.
Microsoft said it expected general availability for the new Solution in the second half of 2020 and would announce pricing options closer to that time.