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A couple of years ago, VMware made the decision to focus our vCloud Director development efforts on public cloud use cases and prioritize vRealize Automation (previously vCloud Automation Center) for private cloud use cases. As a result of this shift, we are using and leveraging vCloud Director to provide the compute service in vCloud Air, and our service provider partners in the vCloud Air Network are using the product to stand up compatible VMware-based public clouds. A side effect of this strategy is that vCloud Director is no longer available (since version 5.6) to our traditional customers buying perpetual licenses.

Ironically, not only is vCloud Director alive and prospering, but we are hearing many enterprise customers want to continue to use it to cover specific use cases around test/dev and lab management.

While we invite customers to continue to provide and voice their feedback to us to better understand their actual needs, vCloud Air provides lots of value to customers looking to support these use cases.

The idea is that if you like how vCloud Director works, what it delivers, and how it provides logically isolated pools of resources, you can keep the same experience by subscribing to vCloud Air. By leveraging “vCD-as-a-Service” with vCloud Air, you can avoid having the “low level plumbing” in your on-premises private cloud, while keeping the focus on your own workloads. In other words, it is possible (and sometimes convenient) to move a lab environment to vCloud Air and gain the benefits of an Opex cost model versus a Capex model.

Provided this solution isn’t a direct replacement for customers that have vCD on-premises and would like to keep it, we believe that the nature of the use cases fits perfectly within the characteristics of a public cloud delivery model.

At a very high level, this diagram shows how cloud resources are consumed in vCloud Air, while the role of admins managing the cloud and consumers using the resources remain the same:

vCloud Director comparison

Here are some reasons why this may be appealing:

  • The user experience in vCloud Air, from an end-user’s perspective (think Org Admin role), is going to be largely similar if not identical compared to what they had on-premises. The user will have access to the vCloud Director portal.
  • We have recently introduced features in vCloud Director that are only exposed via APIs. This may be a problem for customers that would like to use those features but don’t want to build a UI. The vCloud Air UI covers some of this out-of-the-box without any additional customer investment.
  • There is (almost) complete compatibility of APIs. If your internal users (think Org Admin role) wrote a tool to automate the resources in their Orgs, it will likely work completely un-modified against vCloud Air. There are some small caveats that apply, primarily because vCloud Air is actually ahead of delivery of new features into vCloud Director.
  • The migration of templates and vApps from on-premises to vCloud Air is highly simplified since we are using the very same stack and format in both endpoints.
  • Enterprise customers can get out of the business of curating the lifecycle of an on-premises setup. While this isn’t a problem unique to VMware, managing a private cloud is known to be a fairly time consuming task. By consuming vCloud Director online, the customer will no longer need to waste time on infrastructure upgrades and similar projects.
  • As a result of the above, people can focus on more meaningful tasks than (e.g.) checking compatibility matrixes to find out which version of product A works with which version of product B. We have teams of engineers working on this to deliver vCloud Air services (with uptime SLAs).
  • Similarly, this model is very much inline with the new role of IT being a broker of resources. The team currently in charge with managing the environment (think Cloud Admin role) can focus on what matters the most and how to best serve their “internal users” providing added value services instead of spending time fixing the infrastructure.
  • Security remains a top concern with public cloud computing. Placing your test/dev and lab environments in vCloud Air is a great way to begin your hybrid cloud journey without exposing your department to too much risk. As your comfort and exposure to public clouds increases, you will be able to make decisions about production workloads next.
  • We have proven this hosted model for lab environments to work very well in the past 7-8 years. Hands-On Labs anyone? Customers can also instantiate nested environments in vCloud Air.
  • In a vCloud Director-as-a-Service scenario, a customer has the option of choosing between a subscription model or a PAYGO (aka OnDemand) model depending on the commercial approach that best fits their consumption patterns. This provides a great deal of flexibility (particularly compared to a standard very rigid CAPEX model). This concept is particularly intriguing for test/dev and lab management scenarios where the consumption pattern may vary substantially over the course of the day, week, month, quarter and/or year.

What we have covered so far are the “pros” for making the move. There are clearly some caveats that need to be taken into account. Some of them are listed here:

  • Customers that have created vCloud Director extensions won’t be able to bring them to vCloud Air.
  • If your company considers your data/workloads unsuitable for public clouds, a true on-premises private cloud is the only solution.
  • Some typical cloud admin knobs are intentionally unavailable in vCloud Air. For example, customers won’t be able to configure the service to use Linked Clones.

There may be obviously other reasons but, for the large part, we think that a lot of vCloud Director customers could find this solution appealing and fitting.

Last but not least, to make it even more appealing, most of what we have discussed above applies to our hundreds of vCloud Air Network partners too.

I think this is exciting. What do you think?

For more information about vCloud Air OnDemand, visit vcloud.vmware.com, and keep an eye on the blog for upcoming tips and best practices for using vCloud Air.

Be sure to follow our social channels at @vCloud and Facebook.com/vmwarevcloud for the latest updates.