AZURE Migration

We are currently running vSphere/vCenter on 3 Dell PoweEdge servers with 2 Dell EqualLogic storage boxes. In order to save money, would it make sense to replace this environment by using AZURE or a similar product? Has anyone done this? Do you have any concerns or recommendations? Any feedback is welcome.

Do you mean move to Hyper-V, or do you actually mean Azure, Microsoft’s Cloud Platform (hosted virtualization)? The later would make this an easy question to answer: it would certainly cost significantly more to move everything from on-prem to Azure. Additionally, I’m not convinced your end user experience would be very good if you did, and I am not sure that it would actually work like running a local network but in the cloud.

Moving to Hyper-V from ESXi/vSphere is a different beast altogether, and the answer depends on a goodly number of unknowns. If you have an experienced Hyper-V admin (or several) and are running Microsoft System Center already (SC is not required, but makes it feel a lot more like vCenter), and your environment is generally up to date with Server 2012 R2 guests, and you have the resources on hand to run the environment side by side for a staged cut-over migration, you can do alright for yourself.

Hyper-V is a steep learning curve, and while Hyper-V Server 2016 (the actual OS) is free and has all features enabled, getting multiple servers to work together isn’t as easy as it is in ESXi. Granted, you can’t use vMotion at all unless you want to pay for your vSphere license.

It’s really quite a lot to get in to, and generally you’re not going to save that much money except maybe paying for new vSphere licenses eventually. Each platform has it’s benefits and drawbacks, and if you’re really willing to spend the time learning, you can get out of paying those licensing fees to VMware by learning Hyper-V. And, to be honest, Hyper-V 2016 is worlds better than 2008 R2 was, and it will continue to get easier to manage and configure as time goes on.

I felt it was worth my time, and the company I work for has completely migrated ourselves and all our clients from ESXi/vSphere to Hyper-V save for a couple stubborn clients that just haven’t replaced their old hardware yet. If you decide to go through with the move, there’s loads of how-to’s and best practices out there to follow, and a lot of trial and error.

Good luck and godspeed.

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I’ll echo some of what Optimus Prime said. If cost savings is the driver, then “all Azure” will not be a winner for you. The ongoing costs of an “all Azure” infrastructure would far outweigh an on-prem migration to all new hardware. Obviously load and needs would determine the time to money ratio for you. But Azure is not a ‘cheaper’ solution than on-prem. It does bring a ton of benefits for DR, backups, scalability and flexibility. But public cloud IAAS isn’t currently built to be cheaper than doing things on-prem.

I also would echo that we find Hyper-V to be an incredible fit for churches. And we have clients today that are operating in a ‘hybrid’ scenario where some of their infrastructure is on-prem and other parts are in Azure. While that’s technically feasible with VMware, it’s much simpler to implement and manage with a Hyper-V on-prem stack.

I also agree that in a “SAN with multiple hosts” scenario, VMware is an easier solution to implement and administer. But with what I know of the changes in your environment (shifting to OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams), I highly suspect your on-prem hardware needs are far less today than they once were and I’m certain your server environment could benefit from some reduction in complexity whether in reducing host count, eliminating SAN storage, or migrating to Azure or a hybrid setup. Don’t you love options!!

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I wlll disagree with Hyper-V being difficult to learn/use. My experience has been just the opposite and in more that one organization with existing VMware I have dropped it completely to move to a totally Microsoft environment with Windows Server and Hyper-V and using just the tools provided with Hyper-V for management. The learning curve is very simple in my opinion, you are already familiar with Windows Server, you are just enabling another feature and then managing it. Obviously you will need to configure the appropriate network and storage infrastructure but it should really not be any different from what you are using with VMware.

I have also use Azure (not in my current position) and it has been incredibly freeing but you really need to look at your workload to determine what is appropriate. I am on track to eliminate most of Exchange server because we are migrating to Office365 and there will be no on premise Sharepoint because we are using Office365 and file server requirements will be much less because of the same reason.

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I was primarily a Xen and am now a KVM guy so I’ll stay out of the Hyper-V vs. VMWare part. ;-D

Anyhow, I do lift and shift to Azure public cloud and a couple other providers with some regularity for churches over here in Singapore and it’s usually much more economical for them to run things in the cloud. You’ll really need to tell us more about your environment though: what server models (3 R210s? 3 R730s? big power use differences between models), how many and what you are currently serving via vms, is there anything that has to stay on-site, how much data is being stored and how much bandwidth is used, how many staff/volunteers is the system serving at once, etc. Basically, it just comes down to how much your current setup is costing you to run or will cost you to run over the next few years vs. how much it would cost to lift & shift and then run the services from the cloud. Anyhow, you should have the nonprofit Azure credits so start running some of your services up there in hybrid and you’ll get an idea of the feasibility of moving more stuff up.

I agree with Larry on his points, but those points seem to focus around a single server environment with a very simple setup (maybe multiple servers with only local storage). Further, he is talking about Windows Server with a GUI, so it must be Standard or Enterprise with the Hyper-V roll installed.

In those configurations, setup and maintenance is rather simple, though there are a few things I do find more difficult (Teaming vs Assigning multiple NICs to the vSwitch in vSphere, for example). Generally, I think the learning curve for a simple setup like is is fairly shallow.

Given that you have shared storage, want to be able to migrate VMs between hosts, and manage the servers in a vCenter equivalent console, I stand by my statement that configuration has a steeper learning curve. Naturally, System Center has a lot of other services that you can tie into it too. I’ve not used vCenter in a long time, but when I did, it was very easy to configure it to work with everything I wanted it to work with. IDK, maybe it was just me, or maybe it was the fact that it was with 2008 R2, and it’s all easier now than it was then.

To reiterate, I do think huge improvements have made 2016 much easier, especially the push to hyper-converged services in networking and storage. Knowing how to move forward isn’t always clear cut, but I’ve felt like Hyper-V has been better overall for me and my clients, and find it worth the effort to learn.

Just and update, this discussion motivated me to apply for and receive $5000 credit for Microsoft Azure available annually. My previous corporate experience with Azure is it is fairly challenging to use this much benefit. I will update CITN in the future with my experience.

Concerning my Hyper-V experience in a corporate environment, I was using a mix of Dell 2950 and 3 generations (600, 610, 620) of blade server is a Dell blade chassis. It was previously a complete VMware environment that we migrated to mostly Hyper-V, no single point of failure implementation with redundant NICs, redundant switches connected to EMC and StorSImple iSCSI storage. All of this was managed using just the supplied tools with Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V Manager, Cluster Manager, teamed NICs and Server Manager. Hyper-V in a clustered environment allow you to live migrate VMs between host servers which we did as needed for patching and etc.