• Abhishek Shukla

VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on Dell EMC VxRail

Well, we should agree that the pace of today's technology is way too fast and the modern organisations need faster yet reliable performance for their infrastructure than ever before. I discussed about the same in my article of hyperconvergence infrastructure and introduction to Dell EMC's VxRail. This article is somewhat related but this one is blend of VCF and VxRail.


Introduction to VCF on VxRail

You must be familiar with how enterprises worldwide are using virtualized platforms to significantly improve IT efficiency and performance but need of fast-growing infrastructure presents new challenges. To meet this challenge, IT organizations require to virtualize the rest of the data center, so all infrastructure services become as inexpensive and easy to provision and manage as virtual machines. The answer is the software-defined data center (SDDC): the ideal architecture for private, public, and hybrid clouds. The VMware vision of the modern data center is a software-defined, standardized architecture. It is a fully integrated hardware and software stack, simple to manage, monitor and operate. The VMware architecture for the software-defined data center (SDDC) empowers organisations to run hybrid clouds and to leverage unique capabilities to deliver key outcomes that enable efficiency, agility and security. The VMware SDDC is based on VMware vSphere, VMware vSAN and VMware NSX to provide compute, storage and networking virtualization to the SDDC, as well as the VMware vRealize Suite for additional cloud management, self-service, automation, intelligent operations and financial transparency. Dell EMC shares VMware’s vision of the modern data center and extends that to the infrastructure. For those that choose VMware as the primary technology for modernizing their data center or building a multi-cloud IT environment, Dell EMC offers both automated and guided paths to the VMware SDDC. VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on Dell EMC VxRail is a game changer and unique Dell Technologies differentiated solution.


VCF on Dell EMC VxRail provides the simplest path to the hybrid cloud. By deploying Cloud Foundation on VxRail you get full stack integration with both the HCI infrastructure layer and VMware cloud software stack. Automated lifecycle management is provided as a single, complete, turnkey hybrid cloud experience greatly reducing risk and increasing IT operational efficiency. As I mentioned that the platform delivers integrated cloud infrastructure (vSphere compute, vSAN storage, NSX networking, and security) and cloud management services (with the vRealize Suite) to run many types of enterprise applications, from traditional applications deployed as virtual machines and VMware Horizon virtual desktops, to Kubernetes powered containerized cloud native applications, in both private and public environments.


Components of VCF on VxRail

There are few important concepts which are inherited from VxRail and VCF concepts merged with them. I will try to explain few of them below


1. VxRail Manager

The VxRail HCI System Software is a suite of leading-edge software capabilities for VxRail engineered to deliver a highly-differentiated experience. The most used and most familiar feature of the VxRail HCI System Software is the VxRail Manager (available now as a vCenter plugin), which is the primary deployment and element manager for VxRail. VCF on VxRail uses VxRail Manager to deploy and configure vSphere clusters that are powered by vSAN. It is also used to execute the Life Cycle Manager (LCM) of ESXi, vSAN, and HW firmware using a fully integrated and seamless SDDC Manager orchestrated process. It monitors the health of hardware components and provides remote service support. This level of integration provides a truly unique turnkey hybrid cloud experience not available on any other infrastructure. VxRail Manager provides the glue for the HCI hardware and software and is all life cycle managed together. By focusing on the glue and automation across the deployment, updating, monitoring, and maintenance phases of product life cycle, VxRail Manager delivers value by removing the need for heavy operational staffing. This automation improves operational efficiency. It reduces LCM risk, and significantly changes the focus of staff by providing value back to the business rather than expending time on maintaining the infrastructure


2. SDDC Manager

SDDC Manager orchestrates the deployment, configuration, and (LCM) of vCenter and NSX above the ESXi and vSAN layers of VxRail. It unifies multiple VxRail clusters as workload domains (WLDs) or as multiple WLD. For multiple-availability zones (Multi-AZs), SDDC Manager creates the stretched cluster configuration for a dual-availability zone (AZ) WLD.


3. Network Virtualization

VMware NSX Data Center is the network virtualization and security platform that enables the virtual cloud network. It is a software-defined approach to networking that extends across data centers, clouds, endpoints, and edge locations. With NSX Data Center, network functions including switching, routing, firewalling, and load balancing are brought closer to the application and distributed across the environment. Similar to the operational model of virtual machines, networks can be provisioned and managed independent of underlying hardware. NSX Data Center reproduces the entire network model in software, enabling any network topology from simple to complex multitier networks to be created and provisioned in seconds. You can create multiple virtual networks with diverse requirements, leveraging a combination of the services that are offered by NSX. These services include micro-segmentation or from a broad ecosystem of third-party integrations ranging from next-generation firewalls to performance management solutions to build inherently more agile and secure environments. These services can then be extended to several endpoints within and across clouds


4. vRealize Suite

The vRealize Operation management components allow centralized monitoring of and logging data about the other solutions in the SDDC. The physical infrastructure, virtual infrastructure, and tenant workloads are monitored in real-time, collecting information for intelligent and dynamic operational management.

Another component of the VMware SDDC is VMware vRealize Log lnsight. It delivers heterogeneous and highly scalable log management with intuitive, actionable dashboards, sophisticated analytics, and broad third-party extensibility, providing deep operational visibility and faster troubleshooting.


5. Cloud Management

The Cloud Management Platform (CMP) is the main consumption portal for the SDDC. You use vRealize Automation to author, administer, and consume VM templates and blueprints. As an integral component of VCF, vRealize Automation provides a unified service catalog that gives IT or end-users the ability to select and execute requests to instantiate specific services.


6. WorkLoads Domain (WLDs)

a. Management Work Load Domain (WLD)

The VCF Management WLD cluster requires a minimum of four hosts on which the infrastructure components used to instantiate and manage the private cloud infrastructure run. For VCF on VxRail, the Management WLD cannot be used to host business workloads. This Management WLD is created during initial system install (or bring-up) using the VCF Cloud Builder tool. In the Management WLD cluster, vSphere runs with a dedicated vCenter server and a pair of PSCs in the same SSO domain. This cluster, backed by vSAN storage, hosts the SDDC Manager and VxRail Manager VMs, NSX-V, and vRealize Log Insight for Management domain logging. Other components such as vRealize Operations and vRealize Automation are optional. If a Horizon WLD is deployed, the management components will also be deployed in the Mgmt WLD. Because the management cluster contains critical infrastructure, consider implementing a basic level of hardware redundancy for this cluster. The management cluster must have a minimum of four hosts to provide vSAN FTT=1 during maintenance operations. While the deployment and configuration of the management cluster is fully automated, once it is running, and it can be managed just other VxRail cluster using the vSphere HTML5 client.


b. Virtual Infrastructure Work Load Domain (VI WLD)

The VI WLD can consist of one or more VxRail clusters. The VxRail cluster is the building block for the VxRail VI WLD. The first cluster of each VI WLD must have four hosts, but subsequent clusters can start with three hosts. The VI WLD can be either an NSX-V based WLD or an NSX-T based WLD. This can be selected when adding the first cluster to the WLD. The vCenter and NSX-V or NSX-T Manager for each VI WLD are deployed into the Mgmt WLD. For an NSX-V based VI WLD the controllers are deployed to the first cluster in the VI WLD added by the SDDC Manager. Each new VI WLD requires an NSX-V Manager to be deployed in the Mgmt WLD and the three controllers deployed into the first cluster of the VI WLD.For NSX-T based VI WLD, when the first cluster is added to the first VI WLD, the NSX-T Managers (3 in a cluster) are deployed to the Mgmt WLD. Subsequent NSX-T based VI WLDs do not require additional NSX-T mangers but each VI WLD VI is added as a compute manager to NSX-T. For both NSX-T based VI WLD and NSV-V based VI WLD, the first cluster can be considered a compute-and edge cluster as it contains both NSX and compute components. NSX virtual routers can be deployed to this first cluster. The second and subsequent clusters in a VI WLD can be considered compute-only clusters as they do not need to host any NSX routing virtual machines.


So this was brief introduction of VCF on VxRail. I am working on to set up lab for it and probably I will come up with "How to" deploy article in near future.


Till then, stay safe and healthy. Happy Reading !

"An investment in knowledge
always pays the best interest"
                      -             
Benjamin Franklin

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