This blog was co authored by Nicolas Vibert

HCX is the recommended migration tool for moving VMware workloads to and from the cloud. While HCX has been used from on-premises DC to the cloud (and vice-versa) and between DCs, it didn’t have the ability to offer workload migration within the cloud. The new Cloud-to-Cloud enables customers to bulk migrate workloads from their VMware Cloud on AWS Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) to another VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC.

Workload Portability in the Multi-Cloud World

As customers embrace the public cloud for its scale, elasticity and agility benefits, there is often a concern about getting locked-in with a specific cloud vendor. Customers want the ability to move workloads out of a cloud as swiftly as they migrate them in – and VMware is uniquely positioned to address those customer needs. As VMware is used across over 4,000 VMware Cloud Providers and VMware Cloud on AWS, we give customers choice, flexibility and total portability.
HCX is our recommended migration tool to move VMware workloads to and from the cloud.

It offers bi-directional application mobility and data center extension capabilities between any vSphere version. HCX includes vMotion, bulk migration, high-throughput network extension, WAN optimization, traffic engineering, load balancing, automated VPN with strong encryption (Suite B), and secured data center interconnectivity. While HCX has been used from on-premises DC to the cloud (and vice-versa) and between DCs, it didn’t have the ability to offer workload migration within the cloud.

Enter the Cloud-to-Cloud (C2C) Feature

The Cloud-to-Cloud (C2C) feature was recently introduced to HCX for VMware Cloud on AWS (remember that HCX is bundled with VMware Cloud on AWS). This enables customers to bulk migrate workloads from their VMware Cloud on AWS Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) to another VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC (in the same region or in a different one!).

While this feature is still in preview, some of its potential use cases allow you to:

  • Adopt VMware Cloud on AWS in a region and move workloads to another region (when VMware Cloud on AWS becomes available there). For example, a customer in Sweden might be using VMware Cloud on AWS in Frankfurt (Germany) for now but might decide to move all workloads to the Sweden region when VMware Cloud on AWS becomes available there.
  • Move operations from a region into a different one due to economical and geopolitical considerations. The most obvious example being Brexit! With customers moving operations out of the UK due to concerns over Brexit, they can lift-and-shift all their VMware workloads out of the AWS London region into a different region.
  • Move workloads from one instance type (such as i3 bare-metal) to another one (such as r5-bare metal).

With this feature providing intra-cloud portability, there’s nothing stopping us from enabling customers to have inter-cloud portability in the future! And guess what? We even gave a demo of cross-cloud vMotion between VMware Cloud on AWS and Azure Cloud Solution during the VMworld 2019 US Tuesday General Session!

HCX C2C in Action

In the video below, we spun up 100 VMs with PowerCLI in VMware Cloud on AWS and then migrate them from VMware Cloud on AWS (London Region) to VMware Cloud on AWS (Frankfurt Region).



How Does it Work?

HCX uses the following appliances to deliver its workload migration:

  • Hybrid Interconnect Appliance: This gateway provides a secure hybrid interconnect to the remote site with intelligent routing to avoid networking middle-mile problems.
  • WAN Optimization Appliance: This appliance improves performance by utilizing WAN optimization techniques such as data de-duplication and line conditioning.
  • Network Extension Service Appliance: This appliance extends L2 networks to the remote site. This enables VMs movement to the cloud without IP and MAC address changes.

How do I set it up?

As mentioned previously, HCX is included in VMware Cloud in AWS service. It is just an add-on to VMware Cloud on AWS that can be enabled with the click of a button.

Once enabled, an HCX plug-in appears in your vSphere web client. From there, you can go into the HCX service for what will be the source SDDC. Click on that plug-in will open HCX and give us a view of the HCX Dashboard. This is the place where we can get a brief overview of the service, like number of migrated VMs, any migrations in progress, number of extended networks and much more.

Go to the HCX Dashboard.

At this point, the first thing that we need to do is establish connectivity between our source SDDC and the destination SDDC. We do that through what we call Site Pairing. To pair two sites together in HCX, from the Dashboard, go to Site Pairings → New Site Pairing. Provide the second site’s HCX service FQDN, username and password and click Connect. A couple of minutes later, we have a new site pairing:

After we have the source and destination sites paired, again from the same (source) SDDC, we need to set up a Service Mesh.

The Multi-Site Service mesh is used to create a secure optimized transport fabric between the two sites managed by HCX. That would be established by the Interconnect appliances, described earlier in this post. The Multi-Site Service Mesh enables the configuration, deployment, and serviceability of these Interconnect virtual appliance pairs with ease.

To create a service mesh, we’d go to Interconnect → Multi-Site Service Mesh and Create Service Mesh. The process is very simple. We’d select the site pair, for which this service mesh applies (we can have more than one site pair, if required). And click Continue. The wizard will guide through the process.

Then we’d be asked to create a compute profile. A Compute profile is where we would define the compute, storage and networking settings that HCX uses to deploy the Interconnect virtual appliances and where Virtual Machines will be able to consume HCX services. In our case the system displays the already defined compute profiles for our SDDCs, which we can use.

Select HCX services which will be used, by clicking on the relevant icons. In out use case we have selected all available services.

A topology will start to build, as we go through the process.

In this step an Uplink Network profile needs to be selected. The HCX Interconnect appliances use this network for WAN communications. Chose externalNetwork for both the source and destination. In our case we’d need two free public IP addresses for each site, which will be used for the Hybrid Interconnect Appliance and Network Extension appliance. HCX will pick up the free public IP addresses available in the externalNetwork profile. If there aren’t enough free public IPs, there can be requested through the cloud console of the relevant SDDC and then added to the externalNetwork profile.

We can then proceed to configure the WAN Optimization Service bandwidth limit. If your Internet circuits have limited bandwidth, you might want to throttle the HCX bandwidth by using this option. Otherwise, press Continue.

Review topology of the Service Mesh and press Continue.

Give our Service Mesh a name and complete the process.

After a few minutes, you should see HCX services coming and status turning to green.

With a few simple clicks, we were able to establish secure, optimised connection between two VMware Cloud on AWS Software Defined Datacenters in two different AWS regions and enable workload mobility between the two.
Many thanks for reading and enjoy your multi-cloud workload portability!