By John Ellis, Chief vCloud Architect at BlueLock


I recently grabbed lunch with a friend of mine whose company had just moved their data center several states away.

Physical Data Center Migrations such as these are truly epic quests: one hopes that servers come off the trunk in roughly the same shape they possessed when they were placed on the truck. Once the gear is brought into the new data center you try to re-assemble all the building blocks in the same manner as the original datacenter.

Carefully and in the proper order, one powers on servers one-by-one hoping that disks haven't been jostled and all networks were reconstructed correctly. Of course the data center reconstruction didn't go entirely to plan and the poor guy spent most of his holiday trying to get his services to start up once again. Physical servers and networks can be very delicate items that require a good deal of precision to move, no matter if it is three yards or three states.

Virtual Datacenter Migrations

In October I had to perform a similar, albeit smaller, move migrating the infrastructure for our development team into our brand new datacenter. Forty servers running our collaboration environment, testing environment, quality assurance, pre-production and rapid prototyping needed to move along with the independent networks and firewalls for each. While there were many dependencies to manage between servers and a long list of LAN restrictions and security policies, I was still able to perform the entire migration within four hours. When I was ready to power everything up I didn't have to reconfigure a single application.

What made my October migration so smooth was not based on any planning or forethought at all – I had not performed much of either. The migration I managed dealt entirely with cloud-based infrastructure while my friend was dealing with bare-bones physical hardware. While he moved disks and chassis, I just moved bits and bytes.

There are several facets of vCloud Datacenter that afforded organizations greater IT agility, but the function that has saved me the most sweat and tears has been the portability between vCloud Datacenters. I can now organize all my inter-dependent servers together as virtual applications, bound by their networks and the security policies that define them.

VMware vCloud Director in Action

These vApps reside as the primary components of vCloud Director and can easily be exported in a standard Open Virtualization Format (OVF). If I ever need to move my QA environment to a new data center (or a new country) I can easily freeze-dry my virtual machines, networks, firewall rules, guest customization rules, hardware definitions and even end-user licensing agreements into a readily portable format and transfer it wherever I wish. No more loading trucks with servers, no more plugging in CAT5e cables. I now move only virtual server files to a new home whenever I feel the need. I can even move servers onto my local laptop for testing by loading the OVFs into VMware Workstation. Portability is just one requirement of agile IT. A nimble infrastructure requires rapid provisioning and flexible management. vCloud Datacenter enables this flexibility through two interfaces: the vCloud Director management console and the vCloud API.

For my next post, let's walk through an example of how much more quickly one can have new hardware running within vCloud Datacenter.