Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud

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1 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud white paper

2 2 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud» Executive Summary On February 14, 2011, VMware announced their decision to discontinue additional major releases of vcenter Lab Manager. Although Lab Manager 4 will continue to be supported by VMware into, 2013, organizations that rely on virtual labs should begin developing a roadmap for their virtual lab migration. Organizations that are currently using vcenter Lab Manager are not obligated to do anything. The Lab Manager perpetual license will remain valid even after support for the product comes to a close. However, continuing to use an unsupported product is ill-advised, as investment in new product features will end and there will be no direct assistance if significant problems arise. Another option is for organizations to revise their existing virtual lab infrastructure and acquire either vcloud Director (VMware s successor to vcenter Lab Manager) or a competing product. However, this approach can be expensive and time-consuming. Implementing an alternate virtual lab solution means investing again in the required software licenses and physical hardware. There are also intangible costs that often come into play, such as user training and support costs. Given the rapid innovation in public and hybrid clouds, the best option for many Lab Manager users will be to migrate the virtual lab infrastructure to a cloud environment. Outsourcing to the cloud has the lowest total cost of ownership, and it also allows the IT staff to avoid most of the complexities involved in creating a new virtual lab environment. As with any solution for migrating away from vcenter Lab Manager, migrating to the cloud does present some risks and challenges (which are outlined in the sections that follow). However, most of these issues can be circumvented by choosing a reputable cloud service provider that offers solution components that support the various workloads one intends to migrate.

3 3 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud VMware Lab Manager Situation Analysis In early 2011, VMware announced a decision to discontinue additional major releases of vcenter Lab Manager. This leaves organizations that are currently running Lab Manager at a crossroads. They must determine whether it is best for them to continue using the virtual lab infrastructure that is already in place, or consider other options for their virtual lab after the product s end of life. These organizations have four clear options: 1 Do nothing 2 Upgrade the lab infrastructure and use another on-premises cloud management solution 3 Transition to a competing virtual lab product 4 Migrate lab services to the cloud There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options, discussed in detail on the following pages.

4 4 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud 1 Do Nothing There is nothing stopping an organization from continuing to use VMware Lab Manager indefinitely. Existing Lab Manager Perpetual Licenses will remain valid even after support for Lab Manager 4 comes to an end in May However, continuing to use Lab Manager may not be the best long-term solution. Benefits:» No upfront cost» No retraining necessary Considerations:» Lack of support leaves an organization vulnerable if problems arise» Solution remains static as competing solutions make advances in features and design» Eventual obsolescence Lab Manager is typically used by large, enterprise class organizations that depend heavily on their virtual labs. While vcenter Lab Manager 4 has proven itself to be stable and reliable, support issues can and do occur. Continuing to use Lab Manager after it is no longer supported can put an organization in a situation in which they have nowhere to go for help when problems develop. As such, organizations that are currently using should begin planning for when and how they will eventually transition away from using the Lab Manager software. Lab Manager will become less useful and flexible as computing technology advances. In particular, the fields of virtualization and cloud computing have grown by leaps and bounds in just the last five years, and rapid growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. As new features and capabilities are developed in competing solutions, Lab Manager will become increasingly obsolete.

5 5 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud 2 Upgrade the Existing Infrastructure to an On-Premises Cloud Management Solution Another option is to simply upgrade to an on-premises cloud management solution. Although vcenter Lab Manager is being discontinued, VMware will continue to provide VM Management functionality through vcloud Director, their on-premises solution. Since vcloud Director features similar capabilities to those found in vcenter Lab Manager and offers a free upgrade to existing Lab Manager users, this is likely the most appealing choice for an organization migrating from Lab Manager. However, system complexity and high costs means vcloud Director and other on-premises clouds may be overkill for all but the largest organizations. Benefits:» Ownership» Security Considerations:» Difficult Upgrade Path» Significant System Complexity» Ancillary costs can lead to high TCO vcloud Director includes roughly the same feature set found in vcenter Lab Manager, and can continue to be used in private cloud environments, but also adds multi-tenant capabilities that are similar to those used by commercial IaaS cloud providers. Like all on-premises solutions, it allows users to have full control over their VMs and host machines, and offers the security of a single, network-isolated environment. These benefits and capabilities come at a cost. An on-premises deployment is not cheap, with just the base license for 25 VMs costing thousands of dollars. However, VMware customers who are active on Support and Subscription are able to trade their existing vcenter Lab Manager licenses for vcloud Director Licenses without incurring any additional costs. vcloud Director will therefore be the obvious on-premises solution for most Lab Manager users looking to upgrade.

6 6 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud However, the upgrade path to vcloud Director can be difficult. There is currently no migration document or tools to aid in the transition from Lab Manager, and VMware recommends migrating only critical data. In fact, VMware suggests starting an entirely new virtual lab on vcloud Director rather than migrating at all. Migration is even more difficult with other on-premises options, and a complete migration of existing labs will simply not be an option. Additionally, there are indirect costs associated with the adoption of vcloud Director. For instance, an organization will likely have to dedicate budget to re-train their IT staff, as vcloud Director is more complex than vcenter lab Manager. For comparison, see the figures below. Figure A shows a simple Lab Manager deployment. The Lab Manager client communicates with a Lab Manager Server, which in turn communicates with vsphere by means of a vcenter Server. vsphere Lab Manager Client Lab Manager Server vcenter Server Storage ESX/ESXi Servers Figure A: A standard VMware Lab Manager deployment A VMware Lab Manager deployment is relatively straightforward.

7 7 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud In Figure B, you can see an example of a bare-bones vcloud Director deployment. Like Lab Manager, vcloud Director communicates with vsphere. However, you ll notice that the communications take place through the vcloud API. In the figure, the vcloud API is linked to an NFS Server, a vcloud Director Database, and the vcloud Director Web console. vcloud Director vcloud Director Web Console vsphere vcloud Director Database vcloud API vcenter Server NFS Server ESXi Servers Storage Figure B: A Basic vcloud Director Deployment Even a minimal vcloud Director deployment contains greater structural complexity than Lab Manager, due in large part to its use of modular components.

8 8 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud vcloud Director is designed so that a number of modular components can work together to provide the required functionality. For instance, the vcenter Chargeback module provides the ability to issue chargebacks to individual departments for the infrastructure resources that they have consumed. This allows the organization to customize their private cloud, but it also means there will be a lack of standardized documentation and numerous separate components to oversee. Organizations will typically incur costs associated with developing and deploying the vcloud Director infrastructure and training their employees to manage it, even if they obtain the vcloud Director licenses for free. vcloud Director s modular setup is designed to allow for highly complex workloads on sprawling VM deployments. While ideal for the largest enterprise operations, it may be overly complex for the typical Lab Manager use case, resulting in paying for unused functionality after the transition. In addition to the intangible costs outlined above, organizations might also incur additional licensing fees. Some of the modules are essentially free. For instance, vcenter Orchestrator is included with vcenter Server. However, there are additional costs associated with other modules. For example, the vcenter Chargeback module costs upwards of a thousand dollars for a license that covers 25 managed servers. 3 Transition to a different Virtual Lab Management Product Organizations wishing to retain the same functionality that they had with vcenter Lab Manager are not solely limited to using VMware products. Competing software vendors offer products that feature similar functionality. For instance, Microsoft s System Center Virtual Machine Manager includes a self-service portal that can be combined with Hyper-V to provide functionality similar to that of vcenter Lab Manager. Even so, transitioning to a competing product will likely be the least attractive option for most organizations.

9 9 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud Benefits:» Similar functionality to Lab Manager» Less re-training costs than on-premises cloud management solutions Considerations for Migration to another On-Premises Lab Management Offering:» Requires creating new infrastructure from scratch» Substantial hardware costs from overlapping deployments» Additional licensing fees» VMs will likely need to be rebuilt from scratch There are numerous issues associated with transitioning to a competing product, but most of these stem from the fact that there is no direct migration path between vcenter Lab Manager and its equivalents. Organizations wishing to migrate to Hyper-V or another competing product will find that because in place upgrades or automated migrations are not possible, they must create the infrastructure for their new deployment while their existing virtual lab is still up and running. This means that an organization would incur significant hardware costs prior to beginning the transition. Some of the existing virtual lab hardware may be able to be repurposed after the transition is complete, but the transition itself requires creating an entire virtual lab infrastructure from scratch. Although there are substantial hardware costs involved in transitioning to a competing product, these reflect only a small portion of the project s total expense. Other considerations include software licensing fees and the costs involved in retraining the IT staff and deploying the new infrastructure. It is also important to remember that your existing virtual machine images will most likely be incompatible with your chosen replacement product and will therefore need to be rebuilt from scratch.

10 10 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud 4 Move to the Cloud The most cost effective option for transitioning away from vcenter Lab Manager is typically going to be migrating the existing lab environment to a hybrid or public cloud. Cloud migration usually has a lower cost than switching to vcloud director or an equivalent product, and carries a number of distinct benefits and challenges. The challenges can generally be overcome by choosing a provider that fits your use case, and a good understanding of how to manage a virtualized environment in the cloud. The chief differences between cloud computing and traditional on-site virtual machines are explored below, as well as strategies for making the best of a migration. Benefits of Moving to the Cloud:» Lower Total Cost of Ownership» User Empowerment» Speed, Agility & Scalability» Rapid Innovation» New Cloud Collaboration Models Considerations:» Some effort required to find best-fit cloud provider» Permissions model will typically have to be rebuilt from scratch Lower Total Cost of Ownership On-premises environments typically use only 20%-30% of their hardware resources at any one time. Not only does the owner have to pay for the unused hardware, but they are responsible for maintenance and regular upgrades. In hybrid or public cloud environments, users only pay for the resources they use, leading to immediate TCO savings. In addition, quotas can be applied to users or groups to manage usage, allowing an organization to accurately estimate month-to-month cost and avoid over consumption.

11 11 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud User Empowerment Running virtual machines in the cloud allows users to have considerably more control and flexibility. Rather than having to wait on IT to assemble or reset virtual machines, users can directly create, access, and delete complete virtual environments without support. The best cloud providers come with an easy-to-use interface, so even users without extensive technical expertise can create and manage their virtual environments. Additionally, most cloud providers come with a preset or customizable user permissions model, allowing administrators to set the access and powers of other users once and then let them operate independently, without the need for constant oversight or requests for administrative intervention. The ease of use and flexible permissions model eliminates common hold-ups in the dev/test process, enabling users to complete projects with less time and less frustration. Speed, Agility, and Scalability Organizations that operate an on-premises virtual lab know all too well that their virtual lab has a finite capacity. When business demands require additional lab resources, administrators must scramble to add additional hardware capacity to the virtual lab. Often, this additional capacity comes at a great cost, and is used for a short duration project. Using a cloud-based virtual lab, additional resources can be added to the virtual lab with only a few mouse clicks. The fastest cloud providers can provision large multi-machine environments in less than a minute. Users don t need to wait on IT, and administrators do not have to be concerned with resource acquisition delays or with the amount of time that it takes to deploy those resources in their datacenter. Simply put, moving a virtual lab to the cloud allows an organization greater flexibility, enabling it to quickly respond to changing business needs.

12 12 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud Rapid Innovation The Software as a Service (SaaS) model bypasses traditional retail releases and the accompanying big release product cycle in favor of more regular releases; the standard Agile development model supports significant monthly updates, as well as weekly fix releases to ensure stability. As a result, cloud services evolve much more quickly than traditional software and can integrate customer feedback into the product on short notice. New Cloud Collaboration Models Moving virtual environments to the cloud breaks down traditional locational barriers, allowing for greater long-distance collaboration. By sharing access to environments between teams, users on opposite sides of the globe can work on the same environment simultaneously. Changes and fixes can be pushed to other teams in an instance, eliminating the waiting time associated with creating and sending clones of on-premises VMs. Additional Cloud Migration Considerations» Migration process» Security» Managing users, environments, and budgets Migrating a virtual lab to the cloud almost always results in the lowest TCO of all of the methods discussed in this paper. But deciding to migrate is only the first step; there are a number of issues that need to be considered prior to actually doing so. One of the first considerations that needs to be taken into account is the migration process. There is not an automated process that organizations can use to move their virtual labs off of vcenter Lab Manager and into a cloud environment. Depending on the cloud provider that you choose to use, it may be possible to upload your existing virtual machine images to the cloud without having to rebuild them. However, you will typically have to recreate your permissions model from scratch. This means establishing permissions with the cloud service provider to control who is allowed to create and/or access virtual machines.

13 13 Moving Lab Management Environments to the Cloud If you plan to use any of the hosted virtual machines as an extension to your production network, you must determine how your on-premises network will securely communicate with the hosted servers. This often means putting a proxy at your network perimeter so that you do not have to expose your on-premises network to the Internet. Traffic flowing between on-premises and off-premises servers should be encrypted, so you will need to determine which encryption protocol is best suited to the job. Finally, you must decide how your users will access environments and use resources in the virtual lab. Depending on how the virtual lab is being used, you might choose to provide Single Sign On capabilities for your users. In other situations it may be better to silo the virtual lab and require users to provide security credentials that are specific to the lab environment. You ll also need to define usage limits for users, whether you re on a subscription or pay-as-you-go payment model for your account. Usage limits prevent individual users from using a disproportionate number of VM resources, whether intentionally or inadvertently (such as when an environment is accidentally left running). Some cloud providers allow set up notifications for users or working groups, warning administrators when users or groups near their subscription limits. While setting this up requires additional effort, it can be a significant cost-saver. Conclusion Although it is possible to continue using vcenter Lab Manager indefinitely, doing so will eventually mean operating your virtual lab on an unsupported platform. Given the potential consequences of operating with an unsupported configuration and the cost of switching to another on-premises virtual lab solution, most organizations will ultimately be better off outsourcing their virtual labs to a cloud service provider. Migrating to the cloud presents various challenges, but most of these can be overcome by careful planning and choosing a good cloud provider, and the many benefits of a cloud environment means that the organization can easily end up spending less and doing more than they were when operating under VMware Lab Manager.

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