Category Archives: VMware Cloud on AWS

Bridging the Gap Between NHS and Public Cloud with VMware Cloud on AWS

Following on from How VMware is Accelerating NHS Cloud Adoption, this post dives into more detail around how the UK National Health Service (NHS) can use VMware Cloud on AWS to bridge the gap between existing investments and Public Cloud.

Part 1: How VMware is Accelerating NHS Cloud Adoption

Part 2: Bridging the Gap Between NHS and Public Cloud with VMware Cloud on AWS

Example NHS VMware Cloud on AWS Use Cases

Modern Applications: The VMware strategy of late has seen a significant shift towards cloud agnostic software and the integration of cloud-native application development. VMware Cloud on AWS makes use of the full VMware Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC) stack; enhancing security of NHS applications with micro-segmentation, and future-proofing application development with Project Pacific (Understand VMware Tanzu, Pacific, and Kubernetes for VMware Administrators).

Data Centre Expansion or Disaster Recovery: VMware Cloud on AWS can reduce NHS data centre footprint on-premise, by expanding new capacity into VMware Cloud on AWS (Deploy and Configure VMware Cloud on AWS), or through the addition of a Disaster Recovery (DR) site accompanied with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM). Legacy Data Centre Evacuation: VMware Cloud on AWS can replace legacy data centres by facilitating the migration of VMware Virtual Machines (VMs) from end of life hardware to VMware Cloud on AWS (Migrate VMware Virtual Machines to VMware Cloud on AWS). In some cases, dependant on internal finance policies, NHS organisations may be able to capitalise the cost of reserved instances (dedicated physical hosts for 1 or 3 years) in VMware Cloud on AWS using recently introduced IFRS 16 Leases. For more information review the Capitalising Your Cloud Booklet.

Hosting NHS Patient Data: There are a number of security principles which should be implemented to host patient or sensitive data, further information is available on the NHS Digital website. Important detail on the shared security model of Public Cloud, and further VMware and AWS specific links, can be found in the How VMware is Accelerating NHS Cloud Adoption article. A summary excerpt is below:

“In January 2018 NHS Digital released guidance for NHS and social care data: off-shoring and the use of public cloud services, along with a toolset for identifying and assessing data risk classification. The NHS and social care data: off-shoring and the use of public cloud services guidance paper published by NHS Digital states; ‘NHS and social care organisations can safely put health and care data, including non-personal data and confidential patient information, into the public cloud’. The NHS and social care providers may use cloud computing services for NHS data, providing it is hosted in the UK, or European Economic Area (EEA), or in the US where covered by Privacy Shield.”

“Each individual data controller organisation is responsible for implementing and reviewing their own processes around data risk classifications, however to assist NHS Digital have provided a consistent health and social care data risk model. For organisations that do not yet have cloud governance in place NHS Digital have also provided guidance on the health and social care cloud risk framework.

Cloud services introduce a shared security model. NHS organisations can be compliant by implementing a cloud risk framework and proportionate controls outlined by NHS Digital; summarised in the health and social care cloud security one page overview. Security considerations for different data classifications are detailed in the health and social care cloud security – good practice guide.”

Moving to Internet First: As well as the Cloud First strategy outlined in the article referenced above, the UK Government also seeks to make public sector applications, systems, and services accessible over the Internet, with the Internet First strategy. VMware Cloud on AWS can utilise existing on-premise Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) connections, but can also offer the ideal opportunity to move services to Internet facing. This can be supported with the correct network design, and through making use of native AWS services. There is more information below on how VMware Cloud on AWS compliements Internet First, and further reading on the NHS Digital Internet First policy can be found here.

“Health and care services now have an Internet First policy that states new digital services should operate over the internet. Existing services should also be updated to do the same at the earliest opportunity and ideally by March 2021.”

Example Native AWS Service Integrations

In the example architecture below a Stretched Cluster has been deployed across 2 AWS Availability Zones in the London region (eu-west-2), providing VMware Virtual Machine (VM) availability across sites and fault domains. Amazon Direct Connect provides a private link from on-premise networks and should be deployed with resilience, a standby Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypted connection can also be used. To see these features in action review Watch VMware vSphere HA Recover Virtual Machines Across AWS Availability Zones, and Watch a Failover from Direct Connect to Backup VPN for VMware Cloud on AWS. Optional access to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is provided by the existing on-premise HSCN connection.

Example_VMC

Focusing on the VMware Cloud on AWS connectivity into native AWS services from the example architecture we can note the following:

  • Connectivity to native AWS services is provided using Elastic Network Interfaces (ENI), a 25Gbps link into Amazon’s backbone network.
  • Traffic traversing the ENI (ingress and egress) is not chargeable. Any deployed services in AWS are chargeable as normal against the connected AWS account.
  • Using a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) endpoint NHS organisations can make use of Regional Amazon services such as Simple Storage Services (S3), which offers a tiered approach to object storage and pricing, or Glacier for data archive.
  • Using the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) router NHS organisations can make use of services such as Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), or managed databases with Relational Database Service (RDS).

An example scenario could be an on-premise application with a large database which does not have the development resource or funding to refactor for native Public Cloud. It could also be that refactoring this application doesn’t offer any additional business benefit or functionality. In this case the database could be migrated to RDS, and the front end web / application servers could be migrated ‘as is’ to run on VMware Cloud on AWS. Using the 25Gbps ENI would, in most cases, remove any latency concerns between the application and the database.

It is important to remember that it isn’t only the consumption of traditional infrastructure services that is on offer. Opening up existing workloads to native AWS services drives innovation and modernisation of applications. One example is Amazon’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered voice assistant Alexa, which now gives health advice using information from the NHS website. In addition to AI and Machine Learning, AWS has a portfolio of data lakes and analytics services, enabling cost effective methods for NHS organisations to collect, store, analyse, and share data.

Example_Native

In the case of Internet First, VMware Cloud on AWS in conjunction with native AWS can help scale and consolidate publicly accessible applications, as documented in VMware Cloud on AWS Reference Architectures. In one such example, the following AWS services are used to facilitate public services hosted in VMware Cloud on AWS:

  • Amazon Route 53 is a highly available and scalable cloud Domain Name System (DNS) web service for name resolution.
  • Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets. The Application Load Balancer is best suited for load balancing of HTTP and HTTPS traffic operating at the individual request level (Layer 7).
  • AWS Certificate Manager is a service that lets you easily provision, manage, and deploy public and private SSL/TLS certificates for use with AWS services and your internal connected resources.

Additional optional services for performance and security:

  • Amazon CloudFront is a fast Content Delivery Network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers with low latency, high transfer speeds.
  • AWS Shield is a managed Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service that safeguards applications running on AWS.
  • AWS WAF is a Web Application Firewall that helps protect your web applications from common web exploits that could affect application availability or compromise security.
  • AWS CloudTrail is a service that enables governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account.

VMC_ELB

Further Reading: How to Deploy and Configure VMware Cloud on AWS (Part 1), How to Migrate VMware Virtual Machines to VMware Cloud on AWS (Part 2).

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How to Migrate VMware Virtual Machines to VMware Cloud on AWS

This post pulls together the workload migration planning and lessons learned notes made during a real life customer use case of evacuation an on-premise date centre to VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS (Amazon Web Services). The content is a work in progress and intended as a generic list of considerations and useful links for both VMware and AWS, it is not a comprehensive guide. Cloud, more-so than traditional infrastructure, is constantly changing. Features are implemented regularly and transparently so always validate against official documentation. This post was last updated on September 16th 2019.

Part 1: SDDC Deployment

Part 2: Migration Planning & Lessons Learned

1. Virtual Machine Migrations

The following points should help with the planning of Virtual Machine (VM) workload migrations to VMware Cloud on AWS. An assumption is made that the Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC) is stood up and operational with monitoring, backups, Anti-Virus, etc. in place. Review Part 1: SDDC Deployment for more information. I found the SDDC deployment and getting the environment available was the easy part. Internal processes and complexity of the existing environment are going to determine how quickly you can migrate workloads to the SDDC.

We started by exporting a list of Virtual Machines from each vCenter, from that we identified the service it was running and the service owner or business owner. The biggest surprise here was the amount of servers deployed by, or for, people who had left the organisation. These servers were still being hosted, maintained, patched, but no longer needed. We were able to decommission more workloads than expected due to years of VM sprawl. Whilst VMware Cloud on AWS isn’t directly responsible for this the project forced us to evaluate each server we hosted. For remaining workloads we put together a migration flow which identified the following criteria:

  • CPU, RAM, storage requirements: identified a baseline to automatically accept and then anything above our baseline would require a manual check.
  • Network dependencies: is there a large amount of data in transit, is IP retention required, is the VLAN stretched using Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX), load balancer requirements.
  • Data flows: used vRealize Network Insight to identify potential egress costs and additional service dependencies.
  • Additional application or organisation specific considerations: e.g. data classification, tagging / charge-back model, backups, security, monitoring, DNS, authentication, licensing or support.
  • Service Management considerations: is the service platinum/gold/silver/bronze or unclassified, do the platform Service Level Agreements (SLAs) fulfil the existing SLAs in place for each service, is the proposed migration type (i.e. amount of downtime) taking this into consideration. Involving Service Management right from the start was useful as they were able to advise on internal processes for Service Acceptance and Business Continuity.
  • Service Owner considerations: if the technical criteria above is met then the next step was to meet with service owners and get their buy-in for the migration. We migrated internal services we owned first, and then used that as a success story to onboard other services. This process involved meeting with various departments, presenting the solution and the benefits over their existing hosting, in our case DR and performance improvements, and migrating dev or test workloads first to build confidence.
  • Migration passport: one of our Senior Engineers came up with this concept as a one-pager for each service that was migrated, it consisted of migration details (change ID, date, status), migration scope (server names, locations, and notes), firewall rules, vRNI outputs, and other information such as associated documentation.

Each environment is different so these are provided as example considerations only. Use resources such as those outlined below, and , to develop your own migration strategy.

Workload_Mobility

2. Network Design

  • Research the differences and limitations around the different VMware on AWS connection types, especially under 1Gbps – Configuring AWS Direct Connect with VMware Cloud on AWS
    • Make sure you understand the terminology around a Virtual Interface (VIF) and the difference between a Standard VIF, Hosted VIF, and Hosted Connection: What’s the difference between a hosted virtual interface (VIF) and a hosted connection? It is important to consider that VMware Cloud on AWS requires a dedicated Virtual Interface (VIF) – or a pair of VIFs for resilience. If you have a standard 1Gbps or 10Gbps connection direct from Amazon then you can create and allocate VIFs for this purpose. If you are using a hosted connection from an Amazon Partner Network (APN) for sub-1G connectivity then you may need to procure additional VIFs, or a dedicated Direct Connect with the ability to have multiple VIFs on a single circuit. This is a discussion you should have with your APN partner.

  • The Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) provided by the shadow AWS account cannot be used as a transit VPC. In other words if you want to connect to private IP addressing of native AWS services you cannot hop via VMware Cloud. In this instance a Transit Gateway can be used.
  • At the time of writing a VPN attachment must be created to connect the SDDC to a Transit Gateway, if Direct Connect is in use then the minimum requirement is 1Gbps.
  • If there is a requirement to connect multiple existing AWS VPCs, or multiple SDDCs, with on-premise networks then definitely check out VMware Cloud on AWS with Transit Gateway Demo.
  • If a backup VPN is in use then you may be able to reduce failover time using Bidirectional Forwarding Detection (BFD) which is automatically enabled by AWS, in our case it was not supported by our third party provider.
  • Use vRealize Network Insight to get an idea of dependencies and data flows that you can use to plan firewall rules and estimate egress or cross-AZ charges. In general my experience with these charges is that they have been minimal, this depends entirely on your own environment but should be considered when calculating overall VMware on AWS pricing.
  • If you want to update your default route see How to Set the Default Route in VMware Cloud on AWS: Part 1 & Part 2.
  • VMware Cloud on AWS: NSX Networking and Security eBook

3. Load Balancing & Security

  • With the acquisition of Avi Networks we can expect Avi Networks services as a paid add-on for VMware Cloud: VMware Cloud on AWS: NSX and Avi Networks Load Balancing and Security.
  • Third party load balancers such as virtual F5 can be deployed in virtual appliance format. If you are planning on using AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) on a private IP address accessible on-premise ensure you have a connectivity method as outlined above.
  • The NSX Distributed Firewall (DFW) feature is included in the price of VMware Cloud, the paid for message is removed from SDDC v1.8 onwards, this was announced at VMworld 2019.
  • Another VMworld 2019 announcement was the inclusion of syslog forwarding with the free version of VMware Cloud Log Intelligence (SaaS offering for log analytics), although for troubleshooting NSX DFW logs you still need the paid for version.
  • If you are using HCX this product uses its own IPSec tunnel and therefore we could not get it working with the private IP address over a backup VPN. It was assumed that HCX would also not work with the private IP address via Transit Gateway either, due to the SDDC VPN requirement, and would need to be reconfigured to use the public IP address.
  • Another HCX migration consideration is that when you are stretching a network all traffic goes via the HCX Interconnects. This means you are encapsulating everything in port UDP 4500, and essentially bypassing your on-premise firewall rules while the network is stretched. It is important to double check all rules are correct before eventually moving the gateway to VMC.
  • Again if you are doing VMware HCX migrations, remember to remove stretched networks once complete. This involves shutting down the gateway on-premise, removing the L2 stretch, and changing the network in the SDDC to routed, for us the down time was around 30 seconds. The deployment of HCX in our environment, although covered by vSphere High Availability (HA), didn’t have resilience built in, therefore we decided to minimise the amount of time they were in use by planning a migration strategy around each subnet.
  • If you use NSX Service Deployments for Anti-Virus, i.e. Guest Introspection for agentless AV then you will need to deploy an agent on each VM, as this feature is still currently unavailable.

4. General

  • The Cloud Services Portal (CSP) can be integrated with enterprise federation, allowing you to control access using your organisational policies, hopefully therefore enforcing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and removing access as part of a leavers process. Federation will only work with a tenant, it will not work with a master organisation.
  • It is not possible at the time of writing to easily transfer an SDDC deployed in the root/master organisation into a tenant. The process currently is a redeploy and migrate.
  • Druva offer a product that will backup Virtual Machines from VMware Public Cloud direct into an S3 bucket they manage, for a greenfield deployment if you are not transferring any existing licenses this could be a good option as you only pay for the capacity you use. Having a backup environment setup in AWS has many benefits but also adds a management overhead and the consideration of replicating between Availability Zones.
  • In general internal support was good once teams were educated on the platform and the slightly different operating model we were implementing. In terms of external support we have not encountered any compatibility issues yet, there was one application vendor with a published KB article stating they support running the application on VMware Cloud on AWS,  then back tracked and said they wouldn’t support it as vSphere was a version not yet GA (6.8 at the time of writing).

 

Watch a Failover from Direct Connect to Backup VPN for VMware Cloud on AWS

This post demonstrates a simulated failure of Amazon Direct Connect, with VMware Cloud (VMC) on Amazon Web Services (AWS). In this setup the standby VPN has been configured to provide connectivity in the event of a Direct Connect failure. The environment consists of a 6 host stretched cluster in the eu-west-2 (London) region, across Availability Zones eu-west-2a and eu-west-2b.

In this instance a pair of hosted private Virtual Interfaces (VIFs) are provided by a Cloud Connect service from a single third party provider. A Route-Based VPN has been configured. Direct Connect with VPN as standby was introduced in SDDC v1.7. For more information see Nico Vibert’s post here.

AWS Direct Connect: “Using AWS Direct Connect, you can establish private connectivity between AWS and your datacenter, office, or colocation environment, which in many cases can reduce your network costs, increase bandwidth throughput, and provide a more consistent network experience than Internet-based connections.”

AWS VPN: “AWS Virtual Private Network (AWS VPN) lets you establish a secure and private tunnel from your network or device to the AWS global network.”

DX_VPN_Setup

Direct Connect Outage

Before beginning it is worth re-iterating that the following screenshots do not represent a process. Providing the backup VPN is configured correctly then the customer / consumer of the service does not need to intervene; in the event of a real world outage everything highlighted below happens automatically. You may also want to review further reading: How to Deploy and Configure VMware Cloud on AWS (Part 1), How to Migrate VMware Virtual Machines to VMware Cloud on AWS (Part 2), plus additional demo posts: Watch VMware vSphere HA Recover Virtual Machines Across AWS Availability Zones and Watch a Virtual Machine Live Migration to VMware Cloud on AWS.

Taking down the primary and secondary VIFs was carried out by the hosting third party, to help with providing evidence of network resilience. When we start out in this particular environment the VIFs are attached and available. Servers in VMware Cloud are contactable from on-premise across the Direct Connect. The backup VPN is enabled.

DX_VPN_1DX_VPN_2

Following disabling of the interfaces by our third party provider the BGP status changes to down, along with the Direct Connect status for both VIFs.

DX_VPN_3DX_VPN_5

This is confirmed in the AWS console as both the BGP status and therefore the VIF state are down.

DX_VPN_4

With the Direct Connect down routes are redistributed using the backup VPN. The Direct Connect BGP hold timer is 90 seconds and the BGP keep alive is 30 seconds. After 90 seconds the VIF(s) BGP hold time expires and traffic starts to flow through the VPN connection.

In the screenshot below you can see an on-premise monitoring solution reporting on a server hosted in VMware Cloud on AWS. The server is available over the Direct Connect, drops, and is then available over the backup VPN after we disable the interfaces to simulate a failure. The test was conducted twice.

VPN_Monitor