Almost every single one of the larger VMware customers I’ve worked with has, at some point or the other, needed additional capacity. Before Ravello entered the scene to run VMware workloads unmodified on AWS/Google Cloud, the most common approach was to use a VMware hosting provider to access additional capacity.
If you’re looking to choose a VMware hosting provider, take a look at the vCloud Air service provider network which lists 4000 service providers who run a vSphere based cloud. You could also look at vCloud Air as an option and compare it with more specialized providers like Skytap and Cloudshare. In fact, if you are looking to compare different hosting providers, many of them offer a test drive or free trial as well. But it’s not an easy decision. Hosting providers come in all sizes and each of them offers different flavors of hosting: dedicated servers, public cloud, virtual private cloud. Over the years I’ve had customers say that in hindsight they made this mistake or that when choosing their hosting provider. Below I’m listing the top 5 mistakes to avoid as you choose your VMware hosting provider:
Often times, the smaller hosting providers providers seem more attractive because of the personalized attention and trusted relationship you can build. However, one of the reasons you are choosing a hosting provider is that you need additional capacity. Know that most of the other customers that they service also have bursty, unpredictable demand patterns. Be sure to assess the size of the hosting provider, understand how many customers they service. The smaller providers may be oversubscribed at the same time that your own demand peaks. Look for clauses in the contract that may allow for your reserved capacity to be used by others when in need. Also, look for options to deploy in other regions in the world if you need to. It may not be a priority today, as you grow you might benefit from having that option handy. In general, the bigger the hosting cloud, the higher the probability that it will be able to absorb variations in demand patterns and not let that variability hurt you, especially when you need that capacity.
It’s fairly common for customers to say that they don’t have access to their VM or vmdks or data when they need it because they are using a hosting provider with a managed service. Also, most providers have some level of built-in automation and depending on their level of sophistication they may be able to provide you additional benefits like cloning entire environments on-demand. Know that it is possible to retain full control over your environment even when using a managed service provider. Always read the fine print. Look for clauses that prevent you from downloading a VM or moving an environment in-house easily.
Very few service providers, and this includes Skytap and Cloudshare will publish their prices online. By contrast public clouds like AWS/Google tend to be very transparent and publish prices on their website. This is the philosophy we chose here at Ravello as well. But in the case of hosting providers there is often a long intense negotiation that occurs for every deal, on a yearly basis. Depending on your negotiation skills you might be able to get a really good deal or you might end up paying a lot more than the other customers. There’s just no way to know what the best price is when you are signing that contract and that’s often an unpleasant experience. So watch out for this one and be sure to negotiate when prices are not publicly listed on the website.
Given the very nature of their business, hosting providers will require that you pay them some monthly fee or commit to a monthly minimum usage. Note that large cloud providers such as AWS and Google Cloud are able to provide truly on-demand access where you only pay for usage - primarily because they have such large scale that they can count on having enough usage in a given month. You may think that you are committing to a low monthly minimum but it can add up very quickly if things happen to change and you aren’t using that capacity for a few months. The monthly fees may also relate to services rendered, access to support or reserved capacity.
The other side of the capacity equation are the overage charges. Since hosting providers need to plan for capacity across a number of customers, they try to estimate and control the variability by having overage charges when a customer’s usage exceeds the planned usage either in the month or during the year. It is very difficult to predict usage patterns so many customers tend to underestimate usage at the beginning of the year and end up paying huge amounts in overage charges due to this simple mistake.
On a different note, Ravello uses nested virtualization technology to run existing VMware workloads or even ESXi hosts themselves in AWS/Google Cloud. It’s very different from a VMware hosting solution because it’s a SaaS solution where customers deploy and manage their own VMware workloads, and use all the built-in automation to save/share environments Ravello prices are fully transparent and similar to AWS pricing models than hosting providers - which also means you only pay for usage without any monthly fees or overage charges.