Ravello's nested virtualization solution: VMware ESXi on AWS and Google Cloud

Ravello's InceptionSX nested virtualization solution brings VMware ESXi to Amazon's Web Service and to Google Cloud.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

Ravello Systems recently announced its new nested virtualization solution that runs VMware ESXi (ESXi) virtual clusters on popular cloud infrastructure like Amazon's AWS and on Google Cloud. Following a four-month beta period during which more than 1,250 VMware users put the solution through its paces -- logging more than one million ESXi CPU hours and 25,000 ESXi labs published -- Ravello released its InceptionSX product.

There are several business applications and use cases for creating ESXi environments in the cloud -- development and test, demonstrations, training, and labs, to name a few. But one of the best reasons for doing it is that you can have an entire ESXi cluster up and running in a few hours and for pennies an hour. Try that with traditional infrastructure, provisioning, purchasing, racking and stacking, and the red tape required to deploy a complex virtual environment.

For development and test scenarios, the applications are obvious. An "Etch-A-Sketch" virtual environment that can be built, torn down, and rebuilt in short time spans is a valuable tool for developers and for those testing out new concepts in a virtual infrastructure. Building specialty virtual machines for distribution when resources in the production lab are in short supply? A setup like Ravello's InceptionSX is invaluable. Temporary virtual labs make it easy and inexpensive for companies to test a new concept without investing tens of thousands (or more) of dollars in hardware that will likely sit dormant for weeks or months between projects.

Product demonstrations that go anywhere are a salesperson's dream situation. To have a ready-made environment that showcases your best work as it will look for your customer without having some elaborate webinar or video conference is a whole new definition of agile business.

If you've ever taken or taught online, web-based, even remote instructor-led training, you know that the initial build-out of a student environment is expensive and cumbersome. Ravello's nested virtualization makes deploying a training environment extremely easy and inexpensive to boot. On AWS and Google Cloud, you pay as you go, which can be as little as $0.14 per hour for a 2 vCPU/4GB RAM ESXi system.

The concept of a home lab isn't far-fetched. I have one. In fact, I have more than one. I have a garage lab and a lab in my office that's used for testing new products, for creating oddball virtual machines, for trying out new configurations, and for using them as a demonstration tool for writing about virtualization.

I have asked, in the past, for a virtual environment like this for testing. No one was able to provide one to me. But now that Ravello has made it easy, there are no excuses for not having a lab that is always available, costs very little to maintain, and can grow or shrink as needed. And who wants to create a lab now that in two or three years is barely usable and is mostly outdated? I personally can't afford to maintain expensive infrastructure, so this concept will enable me to spend less and get more out of a lab. For example, you can setup an eight-node VMware cluster on AWS or Google Cloud for as little as $1.12 per hour.

Ravello offers a free trial to get you started. You can use up to 2,880 CPU hours for free--that's 14 days for those of us who are calculator deprived.

If you sign up for Ravello's InceptionSX, let me know what you think in the comments section. If you are a current user, please provide some feedback. I'm interested to know what you think of the nested virtualization service. Talk back and let me know.

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