The big VMWorld 2011 event in Las Vegas is over – fortunately, my hotel room was not left with a goat, Mike Tyson, a lion sleeping on the bed or anything of the sort. Or, at least, that I’m aware of.  While it was a fantastic event, filled with a ton of excitement, the message from VMWare came into even sharper focus this year: Lab Manager is dead, vCloud Director is the de-facto replacement.

Anybody else worried about this? 

From what I heard directly at the event, along with out of band conversations with many of the friends I met there, I have found that this replacement strategy comes with more questions than answers.  In many cases, Skytap may be a much better replacement, but more on that later.  Here’s what I found out at the event. 

First and foremost, migrating from Lab Manager to vCloud Director is filled with red flags. Out of the gate, there is no upgrade path.  And, while there may be a migration path, it remains undocumented and unclear.  Take, for example, the unvarnished five-point migration strategy from Lab Manager to vCloud Director as presented at VMWorld. 

  1. Do not migrate – start net new in the cloud.
  2. If migration is a must, only migrate critical content.
  3. Create a stakeholder transition committee.
  4. Plan and test for success.
  5. Communicate effectively.

Let’s break down each of these points.  The first step in a migration strategy is to not migrate at all.  This raises some red flags for obvious reasons.  Combine this with the fact that SAP, a key contributor at the event, has gone through a migration recently and described it as “very, very challenging.”  This does not bode well and left me wondering if a move was worth the pain described.

Step two, only migrate critical content.  Much of the cloud, and the burst and agility that comes with it, is based not on critical production environments, but workloads associated with development, test, training, sales and support.  If vCloud Director is positioned as production oriented, this leaves a majority of cloud infrastructure users in the lurch.

Steps three, four and five; a transition committee, plan and test for success and communicate effectively, are even more telling.  I group these next three steps into one because each raises similar warning signs.  Intuitively, a migration strategy is going to be a lengthy and difficult transition if three of the five points revolve around emphasizing communication, testing and committee involvement.  How long will that take?  I would never argue against these steps on the surface, but including them as specific migration steps does make me question the complexity of the move itself.

A couple of other points I heard repeated. What’s the learning curve here if I’m familiar with Lab Manager? What do I lose? What do I gain? It seems, at this point, it’s too early to say and it has not been clearly laid out.  It’s been no secret there is limited feature parity when comparing Lab Manager to vCloud Director – and, as such, the learning curve will be steep and potentially change dramatically as vCloud versions shake out over the next couple of years.

Granted, I am biased toward Skytap – so, take my recommendation with a dose of skepticism.  Having said that, however, consider Skytap as a much more streamlined and easily adoptable replacement for some of your Lab Manager workloads as you look to a viable alternative.  Specifically, development, test, training, sales and support are perfect for the self-service agility that is the foundation of Skytap. In addition, if you’re familiar with Lab Manager, you’ll be at home in Skytap.  And finally, consider that Skytap’s 100% self-service model applies even at the level of the import of specific virtual machines.  When faced with the task of migration, you have the option in Skytap to hand pick a handful of templates, import those directly into Skytap and away you go – no transition committee, and no lengthy communication planning sessions.

My final tip: before making an all or nothing decision about moving from Lab Manager to vCloud Director – take Skytap for a test drive with an existing workload within Lab Manager today.  The migration alone will cement the differences and advantages of Skytap when looking at vCloud Director as a replacement.

George Stamos, Cloud Solutions Architect – Skytap

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