VMware Cloud Foundation Introduction

VMware Cloud Foundation is a unified Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) platform for both public and private clouds. When deploying a private cloud VMware Cloud Foundation provides an easy and fast to deploy hybrid-cloud-ready solution for Virtual Infrastructure (VI) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). This unique natively integrated stack bundles leading compute, storage, and virtualization products with SDDC Manager; packaged as an enterprise cloud platform for the Software-Defined Data Center. SDDC Manager automates the deployment and configuration of the different SDDC components and manages the infrastructure with policy based provisioning and updates.

VMware public cloud offerings from IBM Bluemix and AWS are powered by VMware Cloud Foundation. This means IT enterprises utilizing the same solution in both public and private clouds are able to to unlock the benefits of a true hyrbid cloud, offering unprecedented scalability and mobility. By enabling the functionality to run any app any place any time IT departments have more flexibility around resource management and total cost of ownership.

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VMware Cloud Foundation Consumption Models

VMware Cloud Foundation for private cloud is available in two different consumption models. Integrated systems are available in the form of Dell EMC VxRack SDDC and Fujitsu Primeflex (Cisco UCS C Series coming soon), these arrive in your data center pre-assembled, imaged, ready to run, and scalable up to 8 racks of servers in a single instance. Each rack is installed with 2 top of rack switches providing uplinks to the rest of the infrastructure. As the solution scales interconnect switches are used to interconnect racks. It is possible to connect traditional IP attached storage (NFS / iSCSI) external storage if required, however this potentially goes against the design of the solution as a fully integrated stack.

Alternatively you can spec out one of the vSAN ready nodes from Dell, Fujitsu, HPE and others, along with qualified networking hardware from Cisco, Arista and others; with the help of your preferred partner or PSO. VMware Cloud Foundation can also be run as a service from a public cloud.

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VMware Cloud Foundation Deployment

VMware Cloud Foundation starts out from the Virtual Imaging Appliance (VIA) distributed as an OVA and running on a jump host. The VIA prepares racks for the bring up process, providing the initial configuration of switches and hosts by implementing a private network and installing ESXi. SDDC Manager is deployed along with software bundles for the rest of the Software-Defined Data Center products.

ESXi hosts installed in the rack(s) are carved up into management and workload domains. When a rack is provisioned the first 4 servers are used for the management domain. The management domain hosts the SDDC Management components such as vCenter Server, Platform Services Controller (PSC), NSX Manager, and the SDDC Manager layer VMs outlined in the next section. The rest of the capacity is used for true workloads in VI or VDI workload domains.

A workload domain must contain a minimum of 3 ESXi hosts. Each workload domain gets its own set of vSphere management tools (vCenter Server and NSX Manager) which run in linked mode using a shared SSO domain (with the Platform Services Controller VMs running in the management domain). When deploying workload domains the administrator specifies the initial capacity, performance, and availability parameters from tiered options. SDDC Manager then automatically configures the underlying components accordingly. Workload domains can be expanded as the infrastructure grows, with the functionality to quickly and easily add further capacity.

VMware Cloud Foundation includes the relevant licenses for ESXi, vCenter, vSAN, NSX, and SDDC Manager. Additionally vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations, vRealize Log Insight, vRealize Business for Cloud, Horizon, and App Volumes can be licensed separately.

You can view the VMware Cloud Foundation private cloud architecture reference poster here.

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VMware Cloud Foundation Components

The SDDC Manager layer is made up of Infrastructure Services, Workload Domain Management, and Life Cycle Manager. The Infrastructure Services component comprises of 3 Infrastructure Services VMs (ISVM) deployed across the 4 management hosts, providing High Availability. ISVMs are internal system level virtual machines tracking and coordinating activities providing a persistent storage location for configuration information. SDDC Manager itself is deployed as a Virtual Resource Manager (VRM) virtual machine responsible for discovery, monitoring, and and workload domain management.

A pair of Life Cycle Manager (LCM) VMs are also deployed to the management domain; a primary repository and a backup repository. LCM is responsible for storing and applying patches as well as holding a central database of update history and requirements. The automated life cycle management process guarantees no compatibility issues as products are always updated in sequence. Notifications alert an administrator when updates to VMware products are available that match the organisations entitlements authorized in their own My VMware account.

The SDDC Manager layer does not replace traditional vSphere, vSAN, and NSX management tools but provides a new layer of aggregated management of hardware and software components across the stack, able to abstract and aggregate resources into workload domains. The SDDC Manager can be accessed from a centralized, light-weight, web based UI. For more information on the web UI see the VMware Getting Started with VMware Cloud Foundation: SDDC Manager’s Dashboard blog.

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Additional Resources

At the time of writing the latest version of VMware Cloud Foundation is 2.1.3, review the release notes here, documentation page here, and install/user guides here.

For more information on the Dell EMC VxRack system with SDDC powered by VMware Cloud Foundation see the whitepaperspecification sheet, and data sheet.

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