Tag Archives: VMware Cloud

Migrate to Microsoft Azure with Azure VMware Solution

VMware and Azure sessions available free at VMworld 2020 29 Sept – 1 Oct

Breakout Session: Run VMware natively on Azure with the latest from Azure VMware Solution

Breakout Session: Enable Secure Remote Work: Windows Virtual Desktop & Horizon Cloud on Azure

On-Demand: Deep Dive on the Latest Updates from Azure VMware Solution

On-Demand: Optimize for the End User: Windows Virtual Desktop & Horizon Cloud on Azure

Roundtable: Expert Roundtable: Microsoft Azure VMware Solution

Introduction

Azure VMware Solution (AVS) is a private cloud VMware-as-a-service solution, allowing customers to retain VMware related investments, tools, and skills, whilst taking advantage of the scale and performance of Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft announced the latest evolution of Azure VMware Solution in May 2020, with the major news that AVS is now a Microsoft first party solution, endorsed and cloud verified by VMware. Microsoft are a VMware strategic technology partner, and will build and run the VMware Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC) stack and underlying infrastructure for you. The latest availability of Azure VMware Solution by region can be found here.

If you have looked at AVS by Cloud Simple before this is a new offering, consistent in architecture but now sold and supported direct from Microsoft, providing a single point of support and fully manageable from the Azure Portal. Cloud Simple were acquired by Google in late 2019.

Azure VMware Solution Explained

Azure VMware Solution is the VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) software stack built using dedicated bare-metal Azure infrastructure, allowing you to run VMware workloads on the Microsoft Azure cloud. AVS is designed for end-to-end High Availability with built in redundancy. Microsoft own and manage all support cases, including any that may need input from VMware.

Microsoft are responsible for all the underlying physical infrastructure, including compute, network, and storage, as well as physical security of the data centres and environments. As well as hardware failure remediation and lifecycle management, Microsoft are also responsible for the deployment, patching, and upgrade of ESXi, vCenter, vSAN, NSX-T, and Identity Management. This allows the customer to consume the VMware infrastructure as a service, and rather than spending time fire fighting or applying security updates; IT staff can concentrate instead on application improvements or new projects. Host maintenance and lifecycle activities such as firmware upgrades or predictive failure remediation are all carried out with no disruption or reduction in capacity.

Microsoft’s data centres meet the high levels of perimeter and access security you would expect, with 24×7 security personnel, biometric and visual sign-in processes, strict requirements for visitors with sufficient business justification including booking, location tracking, metal detectors and security screening, security cameras including per cabinet and video archive.

The customer is still responsible for Virtual Machines and everything running within them, which includes the guest OS, software, VMware Tools, etc. Furthermore the customer also retains control over the configuration of vCenter, vSAN, NSX-T, and Identity Management. VMware administrators have full control over where their data is, and who has access to it by using Role Based Access Control (RBAC), Active Directory (AD) federation, customer managed encryption keys, and Software Defined Network (SDN) configuration including gateway and distributed firewalls.

Elevated root access to vCenter Server is also supported with AVS, and that helps to protect existing investments in third party solutions that may need certain vCenter permissions for services like backup, monitoring, Anti-Virus or Disaster Recovery. By providing operational consistency organisations are able to leverage existing VMware investments in both people skills and licensing across the VMware ecosystem, at the same time as reducing the risk in migrating to the cloud.

Connectivity between environments is visualised at a high level in the image below from Microsoft’s AVS documentation page. The orange box symbolises the VCF stack, made up of vSphere, vSAN, and NSX-T.

AVS Overview

Some example scenarios where AVS may be able to resolve IT issues are as follows:

  • Data centre contract is expiring or increasing in cost:
  • Hardware or software end of life or expensive maintenance contracts
  • Capacity demand, scale, or business continuity
  • Security threats or compliance requirements
  • Cloud first strategy or desire to shift to a cloud consumption model
  • Local servers in offices are no longer needed as workforces become more remote

Azure Hybrid Benefit allows existing Microsoft customers with software assurance to bring on-premises Windows and SQL licenses to AVS. Additionally Microsoft are providing extended security updates for Windows and SQL 2008/R2 running on AVS.

There is a clear and proven migration path to AVS without refactoring whole applications and services, or even changing the VM file format or network settings. With AVS a VM can be live migrated from on-premises to Azure. Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) is included with AVS and enables L2 networks to be stretched to the cloud. The Azure VMware Solution assessment appliance can be deployed to calculate the number of hosts needed for existing vSphere environments, full details can be found here.

AVS Technical Specification

Azure VMware Solution uses the customers Azure account and subscription to deploy Private Cloud(s), providing a deep level of integration with Azure services and the Azure Portal. It also means tasks and features can be automated using the API. Each Private Cloud contains a vCenter Server, NSX-T manager, and at least 1 vSphere cluster using vSAN. A Private Cloud can have multiple clusters, up to a maximum of 64 hosts. Each vSphere cluster has a minimum host count of 3 and a maximum of 16. The standard node type used in Azure is the AV36, which is dedicated bare metal hardware with the following specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Xeon Gold 6140 2.3 GHz x2, 36 cores/72 hyper-threads
  • Memory: 576 GB
  • Data: 15.36 TB (8 x 1.92 TB SSD)
  • Cache: 3.2 TB (2 x 1.6 TB NVMe)
  • Network: 4 x Mellanox ConnectX-4 Lx Dual Port 25GbE

AVS uses local all-flash vSAN storage with compression and de-duplication. Storage Based Policy Management (SBPM) allows customers to define policies for IOPS based performance or RAID based protection. Storage policies can be applied to multiple VMs or right down to the individual VMDK file. By default vSAN datastore is encrypted and AVS supports customer managed external HSM or KMS solutions as well as integrating with Azure Key Vault.

An AVS Private Cloud requires at least a /22 CIDR block on deployment, which should not overlap with any of your existing networks. You can view the full requirements in the tutorial section of the AVS documentation. Access to Azure services in your subscription and VNets is achieved using an Azure ExpressRoute connection, which is a high bandwidth, low-latency, private connection with automatically provisioned Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing. Access to on-premises environments is enabled using ExpressRoute Global Reach. The diagram below shows the traffic flow from on-premises to AVS using ExpressRoute Global Reach. This hub and spoke network architecture also provides access to native Azure services in connected (peered) VNets, you can read the full detail here.

On-Prem to AVS

AVS Native Azure Integration

A great feature of AVS is the native integration with Azure services using Azure’s private backbone network. Although the big selling point is of course operational consistency, eventually applications can be modernised in ways that will provide a business benefit or improved user experience. Infrastructure administrators that no longer have to manage firmware updates and VMware lifecycle management are able to focus on upskilling to Azure.

Deployment of a Private Cloud with AVS takes as little as 2 hours, and some basic Azure knowledge is required  since the setup is done in the Azure Portal, and you’ll also need to create a Resource Group, VNets, subnets, a VNet gateway, and most likely an ExpressRoute too.

Screenshot 2020-09-10 at 11.28.32

To get the full value out of the solution native AWS services can be used alongside Virtual Machines. Some example integrations that can be looked at straight away are; Blob storage offering varying tiers of cost and performant object storage, Azure Files providing large scale SMB file shares with AD authentication options, and Azure Backup facilitating VM backups to an Azure Recovery Services Vault. Additional services like Azure Active Directory (AAD), Azure NetApp File Services, and Azure Application Gateway may also help modernise your environment, along with Azure Log Analytics, Azure Security Center, and Azure Update Manager.

VMware customers using, or interested in, Horizon will also note that the Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure service is available, and if configured accordingly will have network line of sight to your VM workloads in AVS, and native Azure services.

For more information on Azure integration see the Azure native integration section of the AVS document page, and the AVS blogs site by Trevor Davis. Further detail on Azure VMware Solution can be found at the product page, FAQ page, or on-demand webinar.

Google Cloud VMware Engine Explained

Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) has launched in the UK. This post has been updated now that more service information is available.

esxsi.com

Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) is a fully managed VMware-as-a-Service solution provided and managed by Google, or a third-party VMware Cloud Provider, that can be deployed in as little as 30 minutes. VMware Engine runs VMware Cloud Foundation on dedicated Google Cloud bare metal servers, with native cloud integrations including Google’s innovative big data and machine-learning services. The VMware Cloud Foundation stack is made up of VMware vSphere, vCenter, NSX-T, and vSAN. The platform is VMware Cloud Verified and includes Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) to facilitate data centre extension or migration. You can read the full Google announcement from May 2020 here.

Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers a wide variety of services from Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) running on the same infrastructure Google uses to provide global end-user services. Google’s cloud services are built on data centres designed to save water and electricity, they have…

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Google Cloud VMware Engine Explained

Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) is a fully managed VMware-as-a-Service solution provided and managed by Google, or a third-party VMware Cloud Provider, that can be deployed in as little as 30 minutes. VMware Engine runs VMware Cloud Foundation on dedicated Google Cloud bare metal servers, with native cloud integrations including Google’s innovative big data and machine-learning services. The VMware Cloud Foundation stack is made up of VMware vSphere, vCenter, NSX-T, and vSAN. The platform is VMware Cloud Verified and includes Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) to facilitate data centre network extension and migration. You can read the full Google announcement from May 2020 here.

Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers a wide variety of services from Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) running on the same infrastructure Google uses to provide global end-user services. Google’s cloud services are built on data centres designed to save water and electricity, they have been carbon-neutral since 2007, powered data centre operations with 100% renewable energy since 2017, and have a target of 2030 to run on carbon-free energy, 24/7.

As an organisation, Google is all about big data at huge scale. Google has one of the largest most advanced private Software-Defined Networks in the world, stretching across thousands of miles of fibre optic cable through over 200 countries, with 140 network edge locations.

Google-Global-Locations

Perhaps the key differentiator for Google as a cloud services provider is the commercialisation of some innovative big data and machine-learning tools they use internally to serve billions of search results and billions of YouTube videos every day. Google’s focus is really to allow developers to think about the code and applications they develop, and not about operations.

Of course, like all the major cloud providers, Google provides you with the functionality to spin up Virtual Machines, and this is a completely different service to Google Cloud VMware Engine. Google Compute Engine (GCE) supplies the raw building blocks for Virtual Machine instances and networks. GCE enables performance-optimised fast-booting instances in an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model, similar to AWS’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). In addition to standard pre-configured instance types, GCE allows you to customise CPU/RAM metrics and save money on ‘always-on’ VMs with sustained usage discounts. GCE is part of the Google Cloud compute suite of services alongside Platform-as-a-Service offerings like Google App Engine and Google Kubernetes Engine. The comprehensive list of Google Cloud products can be found here, VMware Engine is categorised as compute.

GCP-Example

You can try out Google Cloud here with certain always free products and $300 free credit.

Google Cloud VMware Engine

Google Cloud VMware Engine runs on high-performance bare metal hosts in Google Cloud locations. At the time of writing the service is available from Los Angeles, Virginia, Frankfurt, Tokyo, with London just launched and Sydney to follow. Further regions Montreal, Netherlands, Sao Paulo, and Singapore are due in 2020 Q4. The full VMware Cloud Foundation stack is utilised to provide a secure, scalable, consistent environment for VMware workloads with Google managing the lifecycle of the VMware stack and all related infrastructure.

By running VMware Cloud Foundation in Google Cloud customers are able to migrate workloads to the cloud without having to refactor applications, replace third-party integrated products, or reskill teams. The existing vSphere network design can be migrated or extended with minimal re-architecture using HCX, and taking advantage of Google Cloud’s edge network security and advanced DDoS protection. The dedicated VMware stack in Google Cloud can be linked back to the on-premises VMware environment using a VPN or high-speed, low-latency private interconnect, with HCX adding hybrid-connectivity for seamless workload and subnet migration.

VMware Engine enables deep integration with third-party services for backup and storage such as Veeam, NetApp, Dell, Cohesity, and Zerto. Infrastructure administrators can leverage the scale and agility of the cloud whilst maintaining operational continuity of tools, policies, and processes.

The Google Cloud console has a built-in VMware Engine User Interface (UI) that integrates with billing and Identity and Access Management. VMware workloads in the VMware Engine environment can connect into native Google Cloud services like BigQuery, Anthos, and Cloud Storage using a private interconnect into Google’s 100Gbps backbone network. While the Google Cloud UI integration provides unified management of VMware workloads and native cloud services, access to vCenter Server enables consistent operations and investment protection for IT support personnel. The familiar vCenter and ESXi host model also helps with licensing through the VMware partner ecosystem.

As with other VMware Cloud platforms, the customer retains control of their  Virtual Machines; deciding upon the data location, authorisation and access policies, and the networking and firewall configuration of both north-south traffic and east-west with separate Layer-2 networks within a private cloud environment. With VMware Engine Google also allows 24-hour privilege elevation for installing and managing tools requiring vCenter administrative access.

Google-Cloud-VMware-Engine

Technical specification for Google Cloud VMware Engine:

VMware Cloud Foundation in Google Cloud is built on isolated single-tenancy bare-metal infrastructure. All-flash NVMe storage in a hyper-converged setup provides the speed and performance required for most demanding workloads like Oracle, VDI, Microsoft Exchange and SQL. Data is encrypted at rest using vSAN, with support for customer-managed keys. Google Cloud Storage or third party solutions can be leveraged for lower-cost and secondary storage tiers. The standard node size is Google’s ve1-standard-72 with the following specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Xeon Gold 6240 (Skylake) 2.6 GHz (3.9 GHz Turbo) x2, 36 cores/72 hyper-threads
  • Memory: 768 GB
  • Data: 19.2 TB (6 x 3.2 TB NVMe)
  • Cache: 3.2 TB (2 x 1.6 TB NVMe)
  • Network: 100 Gbps throughput (4 x Mellanox ConnectX-4 Lx Dual Port 25 GbE)

Screenshot 2020-09-07 at 08.59.31

The minimum configuration is 3 hosts, up to 16 in a cluster, with a 64 host maximum per private cloud (soft limit) and any number of private clouds. A private cloud can be deployed in around 30 minutes while adding hosts to an existing cloud can be done in 15 minutes. Hosts can be purchased as a 1 or 3-year commitment or using on-demand per-hour pricing with all infrastructure costs and associated licenses included.

VMware administrators can use Storage Policy-Based Management (SPBM) to set policies defining RAID or protection configuration, and IOPS based performance, using the vCenter Server interface. Storage policies can be applied to many objects or as granular as an individual VMDK file. GCVE enables the bring your own Key Management Service (KMS) model, allowing the customer to maintain and manage vSAN encryption keys.

Access to the NSX-T Manager means customers can make use of the full suite of L2-L7 services available, including load balancing, perimeter and distributed firewalls, and full control over private networks.

With Google’s backbone 100 Gbps network taking care of GCVE private cloud to VPC connectivity (in the same region or between regions, without a VPN), there are a couple of options for on-premises connectivity. Hybrid cloud connectivity is achieved using either a private interconnect or a secure VPN over the Internet. The interconnect is a low latency, typically high bandwidth connection; available in 10 Gbps or 100 Gbps, or 50 Mbps to 10 Gbps through a partner.

Google sell and support VMware Engine, the customer’s contract is with Google while the VMware Cloud Verified accreditation gives existing VMware customers peace of mind that hybrid environments are supported end to end. Google provide 24×7 support with a 99.99% SLA on the network and storage infrastructure, and 99.9% for the management components.

Example use cases for Google Cloud VMware Engine:

  • Data Centre Extension or Migration: extend data centre boundaries and scale to the cloud or additional regions quickly with guaranteed compatibility of existing workloads. Achieve true workload mobility between VMware environments for high availability and demand-based scalability. Migrate Virtual Machines to the cloud, and back if needed, without refactoring applications or even changing network settings.
  • Disaster Recovery (DR): backup and DR targets can be moved to the cloud to improve availability options and reduce total cost of ownership. By taking advantage of Google’s global infrastructure organisations can improve system availability by deploying across multiple zones or regions. Business-critical applications can be scaled on-demand, either through native services or SDDC expansion in minutes. VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) can automate failover for use cases where the customer data centre is the primary site, and GCVE is the DR site.
  • Global Expansion and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): expansion of business and services into new regions without having to commission new data centres and hardware. Burst capacity in the locations needed and provide low latency, local content delivery at a global scale. This use case is highlighted further with the need for many organisations to provide remote working, often in the form of virtual desktops. VMware Horizon 7 can provide a highly available pod architecture deployment using GCVE infrastructure, with customer managed desktops.
  • Data Analytics and Innovation: access to Google’s internal big data services for querying massive data-sets in seconds, with actionable insights from serverless and machine-learning data analytics platforms. IT staff can concentrate on new projects, or improving systems and processes, whilst Google maintains upgrades, updates, and security patches for all the underlying infrastructure.
  • Hybrid Applications: high-speed, low-latency (<2 ms) access to native Google Cloud Services with Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) peering enables hybrid application across platforms. For example, front end web and application servers migrated from on-premises data centres to Google Cloud VMware Engine and large databases in a dedicated VPC with millisecond response times.

Google Cloud VMware Engine provides secure and compliant ready infrastructure; globally with ISO 27001/27017/27018, SOC1/2/3, PCI DSS, CSA STAR, MPAA, GxP, and Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) Audit. In the UK & Europe the platform is also compliant with NCSC Cloud Security Principles, GDPR, Privacy Shield, and EU Model Contract Clauses. By implementing a shared security model, the above is caveated with compliant ready, since the necessary processes and controls have been implemented but a customer could implement poor security controls and governance in their own environment.

If you’re interested in learning more about Google Cloud VMware Engine take a look at the useful links below, along with the GCVE documentation page, and the GCVE product page; which lists features, reference architecture, and pricing. VMware Engine is also listed in the Google Cloud pricing calculator.