Migrating Virtual Desktops between Clouds : AWS to Azure Migration

Key Takeaways

  • In order to move a VM from AWS to Azure, you have to migrate two main components – the virtual machine and configuration data
  • Three key tools that can assist in moving virtual desktops from AWS to Azure – Azure Migrate, FSLogix, Dynamic Environment Manager
  • If your virtual desktops contain complex configurations, expertise is necessary to implement the migration approaches

One of the many advantages of hosted virtual desktops in the cloud is that doing so maximizes the flexibility of your desktop infrastructure. Not only can you easily modify the configurations of the virtual machines that host your desktops, but you can even move the virtual desktops to a new cloud platform if desired — a change that may be advantageous if the other cloud offers lower costs or better performance, for example.

This article explains three approaches for efficiently migrating VMs that host virtual desktops from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Azure.

Basics of AWS-to-Azure VM migration

In order to move a VM from AWS to Azure, you have to migrate two main components:

  • The virtual machine, which includes an operating system and any applications that you’ve installed on it.
  • Configuration data for the virtual machine and any applications or user accounts associated with it. Most of this data is typically stored inside the virtual machine, although as we’ll see below, it’s possible to export it in order to simplify migration.

Three tools for VM migration

There are three key tools that can assist in moving virtual desktops from AWS to Azure. These tools are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Depending on your needs, you may choose to use just one tool, or more than one at the same time.

Three tools for AWS to Azure Migration

Three tools for AWS to Azure Migration

Azure Migrate

Microsoft provides a tool called Azure Migrate to help users move a variety of different workloads into the Azure cloud from other clouds (as well as from on-premises data centers). Azure Migrate automatically assesses virtual machines hosted on other platforms and builds equivalent VM configurations that can be deployed on Azure.

To prepare to migrate virtual machines from AWS, Azure Migrate requires that you first install a special appliance (called a replication appliance) in your AWS environment. You also have to install an agent on each AWS VM that you want to migrate. For full details, refer to Microsoft’s documentation on moving VMs from AWS to Azure using Azure Migrate.

Azure Migrate Architectural diagram

Azure Migrate Architectural components – Microsoft

Once these tools are set up, Azure Migrate will analyze your AWS VMs and make recommendations for setting up an equivalent set of VMs in Azure. It also attempts to detect the necessary network settings for the VMs based on the configuration you have in AWS.

After reviewing the tool’s configuration recommendations and making any desired changes, you can start the migration process. Azure Migrate will then automatically move your VM images and data from AWS.

Azure Migrate is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t always replicate every part of every VM perfectly. It is able to recreate persistent VMs perfectly, but in the case of non-persistent VMs, you will need to capture the profile data separately and apply it manually after the migration.

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FSLogix, which was formerly an independent platform but was acquired by Microsoft in 2018, is a set of tools that make it possible to export user and configuration data from a Windows-based desktop environment to a file share (called a “container” by FSLogix) that is accessible from the network.

FSLogix Architecture diagram

FSLogix Architecture diagram – Microsoft

Teams performing a migration between one cloud and another can use FSLogix to convert a local profile from a given VM into an FSLogix container, then apply the profile to a different VM running in a different cloud. They would need to set up new VM instances in the target cloud separately (and for that, a solution like Azure Migrate is useful), but FSLogix makes the migration of user data a smooth process.

The major drawback of FSLogix is that it only supports Windows, not Linux — although given that most virtual desktops are Windows-based, this is unlikely to be an issue for most users.

Migrating virtual desktops between clouds requires some effort, but the process is easy to automate and scale.

VMware Dynamic Environment Manager

VMware’s Dynamic Environment Manager (DEM) tool, which was formerly called User Environment Manager (UEM), is similar to FSLogix in that it makes it possible to store configuration data independently from virtual machines and import it into VMs when desired.

That said, DEM is not an alternative to or replacement for FSLogix as much as it is a complement to it. DEM can handle a wider array of settings data than FSLogix, which is designed mostly for managing configuration data related to user accounts and certain major Microsoft applications.

VMware Dynamic Environment Manager Infrastructure

VMware Dynamic Environment Manager Infrastructure – VMware

Note that businesses need to purchase a separate license for DEM unless they are already using VMware Horizon (on which DEM is supported by default).

As a rule of thumb, FSLogix makes most sense as the basis for your migration if you don’t need extensive control over configuration options during the migration. On the other hand, DEM provides more configuration options, and is generally more dynamic and flexible.

Keep in mind that you can use FSLogix and DEM at the same time, relying on each tool to handle different parts of your configuration data migration.

DEM supports both Linux and Windows VMs.

Virtual desktop migration with Anunta

A variety of tools exist to help migrate virtual desktops from one cloud to another. But the tools can be complicated to use, especially if your virtual desktops contain complex configurations.

Anunta, which has been providing managed windows virtual desktop services for over a decade, has the expertise necessary to ensure a smooth and efficient migration process for virtual desktops between any cloud platforms. Anunta’s team can implement any of the migration approaches described above, as well as others that may make more sense if your virtual desktops are hosted on a specific platform (such as Citrix).

For expert help on planning and carrying out your virtual desktop migration, contact Anunta.


Manvinder Sandhu
Manvinder Sandhu

Manvinder Sandhu is Senior Vice President - Global Sales and CEO - North America at Anunta. He is a technology-sales leader with a global experience of over 25 years in Infrastructure sales. His expertise lies in sales and technical post implementation in the infrastructure space. As a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), he has designed and delivered many complex inter-networking projects in the past.