VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF), which is the heart of the VMware on AWS deal. In this post, we'll have a look at some of its details and what its advantages and disadvantages are for the datacenter admin.

Vladan Seget

Vladan Seget is an independent consultant, professional blogger, vExpert 2009-2019, VCAP-DCA/DCD and MCSA. He has been working for over 20 years as a system engineer.

What is VCF? ^

VCF runs the core of the VMware services. It has all the software components you need to manage your infrastructure in the cloud. VCF has vSphere, vSAN, NSX, and vRealize Suite for automation and monitoring. There are five different VCF editions (Basic, Standard, Advanced, Enterprise, and Platinum).

VCF is supported on certified vSAN Ready Node server hardware from a variety of vendors, including Cisco, Dell EMC, Cisco, Fujitsu, Hitachi Vantara, HPE, and QCT, and on certified hardware switches from Cisco and Arista.

VMware Cloud on AWS ^

For Amazon AWS, VCF is used and deployed on Amazon's infrastructure using Amazon's datacenter, along with certified hardware by VMware. The offer is simplified for admins as VMware provides support, maintenance, and provisioning. The admin simply subscribes to the service and VMware manages the environment for the admin, including the deployment. This means that if a host fails, VMware will replace that host for the admin.

The VMware Cloud on AWS runs on bare metal in AWS availability zones. For now, there is only a single zone, but the service is expanding rapidly and is now present in 15 regions.

What are the advantages of VCF on AWS? ^

Handling spikes with Elastic DRS – Imagine you have a business that has a spike on a regular basis, such as once every two months. It is much more cost effective not to purchase the hardware, but rather to use a “pay-on-demand” option that enables you to add additional hardware temporarily when you need more power during this spike period. When the spike drops, you can simply decommission these new hosts automatically, as specified within an Elastic DRS policy. If you bought those hosts to cover the spikes, those hosts would stay unused and idle for a long time. With this offer, you can earn significant cost savings.

Your current datacenter is capacity-limited – You might be running vSphere at 100% of capacity and have no room to expand. You can expand your on-prem workloads into the AWS and keep running your datacenter as well as have a portion of your VMs at Amazon.

Deployment options ^

I assume you are managing your vSphere on-prem environment with vCenter, locally. You can deploy vSphere on AWS either using Enhanced Linked Mode (ELM) or Hybrid Linked Mode (HLM).

HLM allows you to use two different SSO domains, while ELM can have only a single SSO domain. HLM maintains separate permissions for on-premises, and in VMware Cloud on AWS. There are two possibilities for different security scenarios.

HLM advantages ^

  • Single pane of glass – Use a single view and manage on-premises and VCF on AWS vSphere environments from a single "pane of glass" while maintaining separate SSO domains.
  • Share – Share tags and categories across vCenter servers.
  • Move VMs – Migrate workloads back and forth between vCenter servers.

The deployment and installation of vSphere on AWS starts with the deployment of the Cloud Gateway Appliance, which is used as a bridge to establish the HLM connection.

Deploy vCenter Cloud Gateway

Deploy vCenter Cloud Gateway

We won't go into the deployment details in this post, but if you're interested, there are many free guides you can consult.

How about cost? ^

VCF on AWS is priced according to the number of hosts and resources you purchase. You will be billed by VMware. You may purchase one-year or three-year subscriptions. If you already have an AWS account and you provision workloads directly through the AWS console, you will be billed directly through your AWS account.

You can start small to grow bigger. In fact, there is a Single Host SDDC starter configuration, which allows you to purchase only a single host for a limited 30-day period. It gives you all the tools and installation options you want (need) to test for 30 days to see how it goes. It's really a low-cost entry, which starts at $7/host/hour. Obviously, not all features will be functional. There is no magic. For instance, you can't use VMware High Availability (HA) between two AWS datacenter locations. It is also not possible to have a copy of your data in two different locations, so if the host fails, your data most likely won't be recovered.

VMware does not currently offer patching or upgrades to a Single Host offer. It is really a basic option for testing and onboarding. You should always back up the VMs running in those environments. If you decide to keep this environment before the end of the 30 days, you can scale it to a three-host environment and retain all your data.

Conclusion ^

VCF on AWS runs directly on AWS elastic bare metal infrastructure, which has very high bandwidth and low-latency connectivity to AWS services. Your environment must run at least vSphere 6.0 U3 patch C or later, which is most likely quite an old environment.

I see a real benefit in hybrid scenarios, as they can be useful for DR scenarios and in terms of cost, with a more granular increase for IT.

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