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Cloud Expo: Blog Post

Image Conversion and VM Imports in Amazon

Enterprises do not want large engineering projects to be required as a step to the cloud

Amazon has announced another important tool in their ongoing platform innovation for EC2 – the VM Import tool. This converter allows you to “bring your VMware images to the cloud.” As we’ve seen extensively at CloudSwitch, this is a primary use case for most enterprises – the ability to take images you’ve already built (likely in VMware) and migrate them into the cloud. It’s great to see Amazon continue to innovate around these gaps in their offering, as this continues to drive the overall market growth and enterprise adoption. But it’s important to understand what this means for enterprises as they begin to move their workloads.

Enterprises do not want large engineering projects to be required as a step to the cloud. They want solutions that “just work” and allow them to focus on their applications and business – NOT their VM’s. They also need their cloud-based resources to remain completely unmodified in terms of the application stack (down to the lowest level of operating system) because their fundamental goal is for all the business processes around the application to continue to run independent of location.

Here are some critical requirements for image migration that we address TODAY at CloudSwitch – that can’t be addressed by simple image conversion:

  • Maintaining the fundamentals of your operating system:
    - No changes to the content of your operating system or applications
    - No changes to the system registry
  • Full system security:
    - Automatic encryption of all data and communications
    - No disabling of anti-virus, intrusion detection, or other protection systems
    - No enabling of remote services (e.g., RDP) that potentially expose your apps to attackers
  • Simple, enterprise-standard management:
    - Management of all VM attributes (e.g., VMX, OVF, vApp…)
    - No additional software in your OS images
    - No changes to internal processes for building and managing VM’s
    - No re-architecting of your networking or storage configurations
    - No dependence on a cloud provider for your operating system selection, upgrades and patches

So where does this position the new VM Import converter from Amazon? It’s an important step along a much larger process of making EC2 become “enterprise-class,” or at the least, “enterprise-viable.” What’s needed is for the partner ecosystem around EC2 to build out the missing elements based on a deep, long-standing knowledge of enterprise needs and processes. At CloudSwitch, given our intense focus on enterprise requirements and team of experts in enterprise complex systems and software, we believe there is a very high bar to truly meeting the needs of the enterprise in the cloud. Beyond the underlying physical security, compliance and legal/procurement processes that cloud providers must address to be widely adopted, there are “tactical” issues around things like image migration that turn out to be far more complex than you’d think at first glance.

The key understanding of true enterprise needs is this: even small changes at the VM level can have major implications for application deployment, management, security and compliance. Enterprises care deeply about these issues and don’t want to adapt their processes to the cloud – they want the cloud to adapt to their needs. The Amazon VMware converter broadens the platform for developers in the cloud – this is good for the entire cloud industry. But if you want to run your enterprise applications in the cloud securely and without any modification or changes to your internal processes then you need CloudSwitch.

By John Considine

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More Stories By John Considine

John Considine is Co-Founder & CTO of Cloudswitch. He brings two decades of technology vision and proven experience in complex enterprise system development, integration and product delivery to CloudSwitch. Before founding CloudSwitch, he was Director of the Platform Products Group at Sun Microsystems, where he was responsible for the 69xx virtualized block storage system, 53xx NAS products, the 5800 Object Archive system, as well as the next generation NAS portfolio.

Considine came to Sun through the acquisition of Pirus Networks, where he was part of the early engineering team responsible for the development and release of the Pirus NAS product, including advanced development of parallel NAS functions and the Segmented File System. He has started and boot-strapped a number of start-ups with breakthrough technology in high-performance distributed systems and image processing. He has been granted patents for RAID and distributed file system technology. He began his career as an engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems, and holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.