With all the buzz around VMware Cloud on AWS (hereafter ‘VMC’), I thought it would be good to clarify a few facts about what it is and what it isn’t. This list might be edited as VMC features are added or changed, since the feature list is constantly being added to. I will also write more in detail about VMC and its features and how to use it.

Let’s start with what VMC is or has:

  • It is a vSphere solution running on AWS hardware in the AWS datacenters – It’s regular vCenter Server, ESXi, vSAN and NSX (with a few tweaks, which I’ll write more about later)
  • It is a more or less seamless extension of your on-prem vSphere solution, or just a ready-to-use vSphere solution by itself.
  • It gives the customer proximity to and collaboration with AWS’ full range of services, which is one of the real killer features.
  • It provides legacy applications with the same high uptime using HA (reactive) and vMotion (proactive) as their on-prem vSphere solution. (I will write a future blog post contrasting the differences between vSphere and AWS SLAs, uptime and how to build solid HA).
  • It includes VMware managing and updating all VMware software including vCenter Server, NSX Manager etc. and the ESXi hosts. This is very good for keeping your environment patched, but also limits your tweaking abilities slightly (see the ‘hasn’t’ section below).

And a couple of notes on what VMC isn’t or hasn’t got (yet):

  • It isn’t nested ESXi hosts running in AWS EC2 instances (virtual machines) – The ESXi hosts are of course running on bare-metal hosts, more specifically the I3.metal instance type. (UPDATE: At VMworld 2018, a new choice of instance type called R5.metal, containing more CPU cores and RAM as well as EBS disk option was announced)
  • It isn’t available in all AWS regions, although they are expanding into more and more. At the time of writing, VMC is available in US East 1 and West 2 as well as EU West 2 (London). On the roadmap is EU Central 1 (Frankfurt), GovCloud (US-West), as well as Asia/Pacific. The priority order is based on customer demand, so if you want VMC in your local AWS region, reach out to your VMware rep or partner.
  • It hasn’t got a full NSX implementation. At the time of writing, NSX is used behind the scenes for creating the vSphere Port Groups using NSX logical switches instead of traditional VLANs. It’s also used for Edge routing, firewalling and VPN. However, it doesn’t have micro-segmentation using Distributed Firewall or Load Balancer. These features are planned for the future, though. (UPDATE: As of the VMworld 2018 announcement, NSX distributed firewall seems to be enabled for customer use. I haven’t verified this in a VMC environment yet.)
  • It doesn’t allow you to (fully) choose which vSphere version you will get, for the same reason you can’t call Dropbox and ask them to downgrade you to last year’s version.
  • It doesn’t allow you to install VIBs in the ESXi hosts. This means that third party applications might need to be written slightly differently than before.

Stay tuned for more VMC blog posts!