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Comparing VMware solutions in the cloud: Oracle is "the most consistent experience"

Enterprises worldwide depend on VMware’s virtualized infrastructure platform. As these companies turn to public cloud for its elasticity, economics, and powerful services, many are investigating how their VMware workloads can be part of this transition. All the major public cloud providers have launched VMware Cloud verified services as part of their offerings. These solutions start with the same software, but cloud providers have taken different approaches to provisioning, connectivity, and management to integrate VMware into their platforms.

How similar are the VMware Cloud verified services in the public clouds, and what are their operational differences? If a company runs VMware on-premises and wants to expand or replace a data center, can they use the same skills, processes, and tools when their Software-Defined Data Centers (SDDCs) are part of a public cloud?

The CTO Advisor investigates

To answer these questions, analyst and consultant Keith Townsend, also known as The CTO Advisor, assembled a team to perform hands-on testing in three public cloud services based on the VMware Cloud platform—vSphere, vSAN, and NSX—and to document their experience.

The CTO Advisor team tested Oracle Cloud VMware Solution, VMware Cloud on AWS, and Google Cloud VMware Engine. (Azure VMware Solution was still in preview as they conducted this study.) The conclusion? Oracle offers a markedly different approach than the others, one that is closer to “just the VMware you already know” in the cloud.

“Oracle succeeds here by most closely replicating an on-premises VMware environment, enabling full transfer of skills, tools, and experience.” CTO Advisor, Comparison of VMware Cloud Options

As the Oracle Cloud team designed and built the Oracle VMware solution, a clear priority was the ability of a VMware team to use their existing skills and tooling. For more context about the solution and our design principles, see the Announcing the Global Availability of Oracle Cloud VMware Solution blog post.

The CTO Advisor report discusses how companies want to use public clouds for their VMware workloads. In particular, the report examines common enterprise uses, such as disaster recovery, data center expansion and migration, and hybrid cloud architectures that rely on both on-premises and cloud-based services. The scenario used in the report for this testing is based on real-world concerns: a pandemic response that requires a rapid shift of existing apps and desktops to the cloud, which in turn requires an expansion of capacity both in data center resources and wide-area connectivity.

The testing scenario

The members of the CTO Advisor team have deep experience as VMware admins and infrastructure architects. The CTO Advisor built an actual data center in Chicago, and filled it with servers, storage arrays, and switches. As a result, the report results are based on actual deployments and tests done by the CTO Advisor team, and not on theoretical architectures built out on paper.

The team designed and deployed a solution that connected their data center to each of the public clouds they were testing. They then provisioned an SDDC consisting of VMware vSphere, vSAN, and NSX installed on a cluster of three servers, and connected it to the VMware SDDC in their on-premises data center.

A diagram that shows the CTO Advisor Chicago data center connected to three public clouds.

Figure 1: The CTO Advisor hybrid infrastructure

In this scenario, the team immediately needed more capacity to accommodate a newly remote workforce using virtual desktops. Using the connection to each cloud, they quickly migrated and redirected portions of their existing virtual desktop infrastructure from the Chicago data center to the VMware cluster in each cloud. They also tested migrating on-premises VMware-based applications to the cloud. Along the way, they tested their existing operational procedures and tools in this new environment in areas like networking, management, compliance, and data protection.

How Oracle Cloud compared

When the team tested failover by bringing down an ESXi server with running workloads, that failover scenario highlighted the differences among the public cloud solutions because it worked only on Oracle Cloud, which is the only solution that gives full vSphere and vCenter access to VMware administrators. The other public clouds don’t give this kind of full access to the core VMware software and the bare metal servers it runs on. On Oracle Cloud, the team could also control the versions and patch levels of the VMware software they were using, and they could use other tools like VMware SRM in the same way they can on-premises.

Other differences appeared in testing on the cloud platforms, and the report explores how they could affect operations for teams who have been running VMware on-premises. Although the VMware platform was similar in every case, there were differences in how the VMware cluster interacted with the rest of the public cloud environment. Those differences had an impact on the operators in the tests, who had to adapt to the connectivity and management capabilities of each individual cloud.

The CTO Advisor report notes, “For example, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure highlights its ability to support existing enterprise applications and operations. Oracle Cloud VMware Solution carries this theme throughout the technical solution by providing bare-metal access to the user. We like to call it ‘Expert VMware Mode’ in the public cloud, because it allows experts to access all platform features.”

The report concludes, “The value of this solution is that there is a minimal learning curve. It’s a customer’s VMware implementation on top of Oracle’s hardware—gated, secured, managed, and controlled by your existing VMware staff, yet housed on OCI’s hardware. The flattened learning curve means the customer can be up and running as soon as the data pipe is in place. Wizards exist to build the SDDC implementation, the Horizon View architecture, and many other components of the required VMware solution, practically out of the box.”

The CTO Advisor team called out the strong networking capabilities of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), including the ability to dynamically scale data center connections up and down in capacity. OCI enables much simpler networking topologies both to connect to an external data center and to connect the VMware environment to other cloud services offered by OCI.

Security highlights

The report also highlighted security and compliance differences. Companies can extend existing compliance and certification requirements into the cloud with Oracle Cloud VMware Solution. They can do this because their existing operational processes remain consistent with the VMware environments in the cloud, and administrators can also control the exact software version and patch levels of their VMware software. Oracle’s approach lets companies extend their existing governance to the cloud, and then change it at a rate controlled by the company, not the cloud vendor.

With Oracle Cloud VMware Solution, access to the VMware environment—including the VMware software, its data, and the servers—is fully under administrator control. Unlike other vendors, Oracle Cloud gives full control to the customer after the automated provisioning steps, and no longer has access to the environment.

Also contributing to security is Oracle’s combined offering of VMware software and public cloud in a single account from a single vendor, which is not the case with all public clouds. This kind of simplicity is an example of how Oracle Cloud designs in security from the start, from its fundamental architecture up through its integrated solution portfolio.

Conclusion

The last area examined by the CTO Advisor report is the overall ease of use for teams that have existing expertise using VMware solutions. About the overall experience, the report says:

“The Oracle Cloud VMware solution is the most consistent experience with on-premises vSphere.” CTO Advisor, Comparison of VMware Cloud Options

Download the CTO Advisor report, Comparison of VMware Cloud Options.

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