Amazon currently permits VMware users to import their existing VMware images and convert them into AWS-compatible AMIs. There are only three caveats: (a) the machine must be shut down before importing, (b) it must have less than 1TB of virtual harddrive, and (c) it must be running Windows Server 2008.
That last caveat is the big stumbling block for most people in biotech at present as most server-hosted bioinformatics solutions are *nix-based. Still, Amazon says it is working on supporting the import of VMware images containing other operating systems and versions in the future. We can only hope that this is sooner rather than later and will encompass the majority of the major Linux flavours (RedHat, Ubuntu, Debian, etc.) in order to cover a sensible number of use-cases.
Secondly, the process is currently one-way - you can import VMware images into AWS, but you can't export AMIs to VMware. Again Amazon say they are working on this but no timeline has been given yet. Fingers crossed - it would be a massively useful feature to have.
At Eagle this is of concern to us because 90% of our projects fall into one of two categories - VMware, or Amazon. The VMware element means we have to maintain a (relatively) expensive VMware ESXi server in a data centre in London to develop and test our VMware images, and pay for the (relatively) expensive bandwidth to bundle up and ship completed VMware images to customer sites (in truth this is usually done by burning them onto a DVD). If we were able to virtualise our VMware environment into Amazon it would not only reduce our IT hardware overheads but it would also simplify the process of distributing images (customers could download direct from AWS). In addition, and perhaps more importantly, it would put 90% of our development work into a single common environment using a single well-defined and documented underlying OS from which we could either generate VMware images or AMIs, or both, from the same single development base depending on the project.
So come on Amazon, let's see the fully implemented VMware import/export features as soon as possible. Not only will you make money from the import/export service and the associated shift of VMware development into the cloud, but you'll save your customers (and their customers) plenty of time and money too!