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Microsoft Readies Azure VM Migration Tool for First Half of 2018

Microsoft is slated to release a new "Azure Migrate" solution within the next six months, a company executive said in a recent presentation.

Currently available as a no-cost preview, Azure Migrate is designed to move virtual machine (VM)-based applications, including VMware workloads, over to Azure datacenter infrastructure.

In Web presentation last Wednesday called "Running VMware on Azure" (available on demand here), Corey Sanders, director of program management for Azure Compute at Microsoft, said that Azure Migrate will reach "general availability" commercial status in "H1 of the next calendar year." He described and demonstrated Azure Migrate during the presentation.

Azure Migrate
Sanders characterized Azure Migrate as a big addition to the overall pipeline that lets organizations right-size their VMs, get an estimate of monthly Azure costs (compute, storage and disk cost comparisons), and assess any risks of moving VM workloads to Azure infrastructure. Azure Migrate can be used to assess moving VMware VMs to Azure. However, Microsoft also is planning to add migration support in the tool for moving Microsoft Hyper-V VMs next year, as well as migration support for other clouds, Sanders indicated.

Azure Migrate provides an agentless discovery tool for computing environments. Discovery is enabled by installing a virtual appliance that Sanders called the "Collector Appliance," which has read-only access. Information from the discovery tool can be exported to Excel, as well as tools built by Microsoft's partners.

During the Q&A portion of the talk, Sanders was asked if the Collector Appliance discovery tool of Azure Migrate was just a repackaged "Azure Site Recovery Config/Process server in OVA [open virtual appliance] form." In response, Microsoft suggested it is working on enabling both tools to perform Azure migrations:

At this point, there is loose coupling between ASR and Azure Migrate -- meaning post-assessment Azure Site Recovery is one of the tools you can use to migrate your servers to Azure. In the future, we will integrate the Configuration Server/Process server functionality into the appliance, so customers wishing to use Azure Site Recovery to migrate the discovered and assessed machines can initiate their migrations from the same console.

The Azure Site Recovery service had added VMware support over two years ago, but it was billed back then as a tool for replicating VMware workloads as part of disaster recovery scenarios.

Another question during the Q&A portion of the talk concerned the sensitivity of uploading information to Azure during the discovery process.

"If they are concerned about uploading data to Azure they can use the Deployment Planner and get similar data, but keep it locally," Microsoft indicated. Apparently, that's a reference to the Deployment Planner in Azure Site Recovery.

Sanders said that Azure Migrate will automatically build a map for "intelligent right-sizing" or it'll show the full dependencies involved when doing "live mapping." It lets the user select the things to move based on the applications used.

Azure Migrate works across more than just a single VM. It's possible to move groups of VMs. A VM group can have VMs with different operating system versions, Sanders said. The map produced by the discovery tool can be used to group the VMs, and IT pros can view the dependencies across a group to be sure nothing was missed, Sanders added.

Sanders claimed that the tool can move VMs without the risk of data loss. It permits a full test before failing over. The application's performance is tested first. Next, the application is taken offline, migrated to Azure and then resumed. The application will resume "like you'd expect a DR [disaster recovery] failover to happen," Sanders said.

VMware Virtualization on Azure Tool
While this talk focused on Azure Migrate, Microsoft also had controversially announced a preview last month of "VMware virtualization on Azure." This new tool, built in conjunction with unnamed VMware partners, permits "bare metal" VMware deployments on Azure datacenter infrastructure. The new VMware virtualization on Azure preview is designed to support workloads that may be more challenging to move to Azure cloud infrastructure, Microsoft has explained.

When asked during the talk which VMware partners currently supported these Azure bare-metal VMware migrations, Microsoft responded, "We will share the partner names at a later point."

Last month, Microsoft's Azure bare metal migration tool was roundly condemned by VMware. Ajay Patel, senior vice president for product development at VMware Cloud Services, described it as not having been developed in conjunction with VMware, and lacking VMware's engineering expertise.

"VMware does not recommend and will not support customers running on the Azure announced partner offering," Patel said in an announcement regarding the VMware virtualization on Azure tool.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.