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We all like the idea running virtual machines at the service providers’ data centers. What happens when you want to move those virtual machines back behind the enterprise firewall? You need to consider that case when you consider using public cloud services. It’s much harder today than it should be. Service providers should make this much easier.

Certainly there are cases where we want the flexibility to move virtual machines back to the enterprise. For example, say a research and development team starts a new pilot project externally on a public cloud. When the project is almost done they may want to move it back to the enterprise because they don’t want sensitive company data in a public cloud.

Is it possible? And how?

There are two possible technical challenges here: how to move the virtual machines out of the service provider’s cloud? And, how to convert it to your hypervisor if it’s different from the service provider’s?

Like any other vendor, service providers would love you to come and stay with them – preferably for a very long time. Most of the time, it’s very easy and cheap to create your new virtual machines and move things into the service provider’s cloud. When you try to move things in the other direction it may be not that straight forward and almost certainly it will be more expensive than moving your virtual machines to the cloud in the first place.

Let’s take a look at moving your VM in the case of EC2. There is no known API or tool with which you could wrap up a virtual machine and send it back to your enterprise.

VMware just published a KnowledgeBase article illustrating five steps to moving your Windows VM from EC2 back to your enterprise. The basic idea is to install vCenter Converter in your Windows VM first, and then convert the instance to VM files before uploading the VM files to the S3 repository. Then you can download the files from your enterprise and import these files to vSphere.

Easier said than done. In general, moving your VMs should be easier than things stand today. One click sending of your VM back home is something most enterprise users would love to see.

Last but not least, when you develop applications, you want to move up to the higher software stack so you don’t need to move the whole virtual machines around. Check out this blog series for the Top 10 Best Practices Architecting Applications for VMware Cloud .