VMware makes cloud jumping easy

vCloud Connector simplifies moving virtual machines between clouds

VMware's vCloud Connector (VCC) is a free VMware virtual appliance and vSphere plug-in that makes it a snap to transfer VMware virtual machines, templates and vApps between clouds.

Private clouds: Not for the faint of heart

In a typical VMware cloud setup, if you assume that VMware ESX installations are clouds, one needs to export VMs to a temporary location, then import them to another cloud.

VCC does this in one pass, rather than two. VCC links clouds together as an appliance, and completes the task of moving a virtual machine (VM) from one cloud to another without an intermediate stop.

We installed the virtual appliance into our VMware cloud infrastructure, then added the plug-in. Without doing anything more than right-clicking "VM asset objects", we moved a bevy of VM assets from our network operations center (NOC) at nFrame to some handy vCloud instances that we'd provisioned at BlueLock, an cloud hosting service in Indianapolis.

BlueLock is a VMware vCloud affiliate and its vCloud "skies" (host platforms) are credit card-provisioned VMware vDirector-managed resources that can be used ad hoc. Organizations generally keep several instances in readiness until they need them, then turn them (and their cost) on and off as needs arise and expire.

We asked the BlueLock people if we could have four separate vClouds, each with instances supporting a standard provisioning of two vCPUs, some disk, some memory.

We right-clicked VMs, and sent them on their merry way to the target destination. The instances moved between BlueLock's facility and our NOC VMware cloud with nary a problem, as though they were there in the lab.

There are networking, DNS/instance-naming and other options provided through vDirector, which BlueLock uses as its admin console app. This is cloud like it should be: right-click, select, target, and go.

Net results

We then logged onto I-Land Internet Services, another vCloud provider and bought some more vCloud. We provisioned it identically. We logged on with the VCC plug-in. We started moving VMs around the clouds, once again as though they were inside the lab or at our hosting managed service provider, nFrame.

Sometimes in simplicity, there is bliss.

How we got there

Installation of VMware cloud connector is very simple. We needed a Windows PC with at least Internet Explorer 7 and our version of vSphere had to be 4.X (must be using vCenter). Secondly, we had import an OVF file which contained the VCC virtual appliance. Once that was imported into our infrastructure, we launched the VM, setup the network connection and user names and passwords.

Next, we had to connect the appliance to our vCenter by visiting a Web server running on the VCC virtual appliance, which allowed us to register the vSphere plug-in to use in the vSphere client.

But all was not entirely glorious. The GUI doesn't update well when outside changes are made to vCloud Director. For example, we created a new catalog in vCloud Director at BlueLock, and it didn't show up until we restarted the entire vSphere client rather than refreshed data about the object that had changed.

VMware says that's how it's supposed to work, but we're betting they change it because it's really inconvenient. The Reload Data command, used on objects to refresh the observation of their state, doesn't work either. OK, VCC is 1.0.

Overall, the vCloud Connector is seductively convenient. The limitations are: vSphere requires IE7+ only (other browser users: go fish as vSphere is oddly captive to Windows), it currently doesn't refresh object states easily — relegating it to quick-and-dirty movements, and finally, it doesn't work with other VMware VM movement tools, like High Availability clustering or vMotion.

But it's free. And it's got the very seductive quality of doing tricks that only command-line lovers can do.

Henderson is principal researcher and Allen is a researcher for ExtremeLabs in Indianapolis. They can be reached at thenderson@extremelabs.com.

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