Tread carefully before you lift and shift to the Cloud

I've talked about VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS for a few weeks since the GA release during VMworld 2017. The solution is unique in that Amazon doesn't modify its data center design for any partner. VMC on AWS required the two companies to work together to make two very different data center designs work. The solution raises the question around lift and shift as a cloud migration strategy. 

Lift and shift is a popular strategy for cloud migrations. VMware on AWS provides an interesting alternative to EC2. How does the two compare in cost?

Data center migrations are not easy. Past a few dozen servers the entire process is ripe with pitfalls. I've participated or led many data center migrations. Companies invest a tremendous amount of time and money in the identification and mitigation of risk. Even with the investment, it's impossible to see and mitigate every pitfall. 

Greg Ferro of the Packet Pushers joined I and Mark Mark a VP of IT during the most recent CTO Advisor Podcast. Both I and Greg shared stories from the field. There's a temptation to undergo transformation during a data center migration. I'll call this a lift and plus. The challenge? Both are a high risk activities. Combining the two increases the risk by multiples. An example of a lift and shift plus is a migration that includes a data center migration that embraces software-defined networking.

The concept of lift and shift to the cloud is tempting. There are tools to convert workloads from on-premises formats to a format that runs native in IaaS public cloud services. This is the equivalent to a lift and shift plus transformation. Performing the conversion of the workload is simple. However, it is a complete change in technology and operations. For example, layer two networking is very different in the 3-major cloud providers vs. the private data center. 

Greg Ferro analyses the VMware on AWS announcement at VMworld 2017. Its harder and more complex than you think.

Companies should treat a lift and shift to the cloud with as much if not more care than a lift and shift plus in the data center. At minimum, it means moving from your current networking model to a software-defined migration. 

See More: Limit your data center migration risk. Migration vs. Transformation

So, what about VMC on AWS? Isn't the value that nothing changes? It would be naive to think this is the case. I suggest to treat a VMC on AWS lift and shift as your would any lift and shift plus. While not as drastic as a traditional cloud migration, there are enough differences in the operating model to raise risks. I.E. if you don't have NSX today, you are moving to an SDN model in VMC on AWS. Again, I've been on projects where millions of dollars were spent in preparation. To think I could identify every risk for your environment would again be naive. 

Bottom line is to not underestimate any migration. Whether you are looking at migrating your data center to a co-lo, cloud provider or a hybrid-IT solution such as VMC on AWS, the journey isn't as straight forward as some vendors would have you believe. It is a disruptive process that will stretch both your resources and your tolerance for risk.