AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog

Migrating Workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS with Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX)

VMware Cloud on AWS_blueBy Faraz Rehman, Partner Solutions Architect at AWS

VMware Cloud on AWS provides a reliable, elastic, and highly scalable solution for VMware customers who want to extend their workloads into the cloud.

However, when it comes to migration or bi-directional workload mobility, software and network incompatibilities between on-premises and cloud environments can complicate your migration process.

VMware Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) helps overcome those challenges by building an abstraction layer on top of existing site-specific implementations, allowing customers to extend their networks and environments to the cloud seamlessly without the need for extensive reconfiguration and upgrades.

Here are some key benefits of HCX:

  • Ability to migrate workloads across different versions of vSphere (5.0 or later).
  • WAN optimization, compression, and de-duplication enable high throughput for faster migrations.
  • Network extension enables stretching layer 2 networks between on-premises and VMware Cloud on AWS without the need for complex network reconfiguration. Virtual machines (VM) can be moved between on-premises and cloud environments with no need the change or re-assign IP addresses.

In this post, I will discuss use cases for HCX with VMware Cloud on AWS and provide a quick overview of the solution, its components, and deployment architecture. VMware is an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner.

Overview of HCX Deployment

HCX is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, available at no extra cost for VMware Cloud on AWS customers.

Here’s a quick summary of the deployment process, and I have also provided a link to the detailed installation document at the end of this post.

  1. Deploy/enable HCX in the ‘destination’ software-defined data center (SDDC) where your workloads will be migrated to.
  2. Register your SDDC with the HCX online portal.
  3. Deploy HCX agent (OVA) on the source site (on-premises) and establish connectivity.
  4. Finish off the configuration.

The HCX solution is built out of several component services, each supporting a specific function within the overall solution.

  • HCX Enterprise Manager: System management component on the on-premises side, which is always deployed as “source.”
  • HCX Cloud Manager: System management component on the cloud side and is always deployed as “destination.”
  • HCX-IX Interconnect Appliance: Provides replication and vMotion-based migration capabilities.
  • HCX WAN Optimization Service: Provides improved network performance by using techniques such as de-duplication and compression to help speed up migrations.
  • HCX Network Extension Service: Provides layer 2 extension capabilities, enabling VMs to migrate between on-premises and cloud without the need for re-IP.

VMware Cloud on AWS HCX-1.1

Figure 1 – Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) deployment model.

Types of HCX-Assisted Migrations

There are several types of HCX-assisted migrations. The following factors play a role in deciding which migration type to use for a given scenario:

  • Time frame to complete migration.
  • Available network bandwidth.
  • Downtime and maintenance window availability.
  • Type of workload (production, dev/text, etc.).

Customers can choose one or a combination of the following migration types supported by HCX in order to build a comprehensive migration plan.

HCX vMotion

A live migration of a single VM at a time with no downtime. This is similar to standard vSphere vMotion, and is most useful when migrating production critical VMs that have high availability requirements and zero downtime is desired.

HCX Bulk Migration

Migrate hundreds of VMs in parallel on a predefined schedule. VMs are migrated in parallel and at scale, and this is a failover-based migration with downtime similar to a reboot. Scheduling is helpful when dealing with a large number of VMs to be migrated.

HCX Cold Migration

Used to migrate powered-off VMs using the network file copy (NFC) protocol.

HCX Replication-Assisted vMotion (RAV)

This is a relatively newer migration method currently available in preview for VMware Cloud on AWS. It combines the benefits of bulk migration (parallelism, scheduling, etc.) with the ability to migrate live workloads with no downtime.

HCX Use Cases and Migration Scenarios

Now that we’ve learned the basics of HCX, let’s talk about scenarios in which HCX can help you.

Older vSphere Versions

HCX allows migrating VMs from older versions of vSphere (5.0 or later) to VMware Cloud on AWS. Hosts are automatically patched and updated, and are thus likely to be running the latest (or near) version of vSphere software. This eliminates the need for customers to perform time-consuming system upgrades in order to prepare for migrations.

Bulk Migrations

In certain situations, customers may want to migrate workloads out of their current data centers in a “lift-and-shift” manner. An example of this is if you have an upcoming lease expiration on the hardware or data center facility. In this situation, when there’s not enough time for migration planning and execution, HCX can help customers migrate thousands of VMs simultaneously with no downtime. HCX, with WAN optimization services, can provide high throughput connection over which on-premises networks can be extended into the cloud.

Heterogeneous Network Environments

Typically, your current on-premises network environment is one of the most important considerations in the migration planning process. Whether you have VXLANs, NSX for vSphere, NSX-T, or No NSX at all, each of these factors can complicate your migration plan. The good news is that HCX works by abstracting out the underlying network implementation, extending your networks from on-premises to the cloud seamlessly without the need for complex and time-consuming network re-architecture.

Slow/Sub Optimal Network Connectivity

A live vMotion across WAN with vSphere is sensitive to network bandwidth. Typically, a connection speed greater than 250 Mbps is required, but with its advanced WAN optimization capabilities, HCX can migrate live VMs over much slower connection speeds of around 100 Mbps per migration.


In conclusion, HCX provides a rich set of capabilities that help simplify and expedite your migration into VMware Cloud on AWS without the need for extensive software upgrades and complex network re-architecture.

To learn more, check out these additional resources:


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