VMware vCloud Air research

vCloud Air is VMware’s version of Amazons AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud. I ran through the online lab “vCloud Air jumpstart for vSphere Admin’s” to learn about their competitor to AWS and Azure, these are my findings.

VCloud Air is hosted from multiple datacentres across multiple countries around the world and will be available through a local datacentre in Melbourne operated by Telstra, opening in the first quarter of 2015.

Please note this isn’t meant to be a step by step installation run through, more a demo of actually using vCloud air and how to create VM’s, run them, and move your local VM’s into the cloud. If you have any virtualisation experience you should be pretty comfortable reading and understanding all this.

Basically in vCloud air unlike AWS and Azure you, you purchase compute (CPU, Memory and storage) and carve it up into whatever VM’s you like, just like you do in your own private vSphere infrastructure. If you run out of any resource, you just purchase some more.

There are 2 vCloud air offerings ‘Dedicated cloud’ and ‘Virtual private cloud’.

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Logging into vCloud air, note this lab still shows vCloud Air’s old name “vCloud Hybrid Service”:

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Main vCloud Air Dashboard:

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Virtual Datacentre details:

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This is where you view and manage the vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS) Edge gateways that are deployed inside of your vDC. These gateways can serve as a firewall, NAT router, network load balancer, DHCP server, and VPN concentrator. Because this is a VPC, we have only 1 gateway here.  In a Dedicated Cloud, you have the ability to create multiple Edge Gateways per vDC:

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Networks view. When you create a new vDC, 2 networks are automatically created for you: a default-routed network which is connected to the Edge:

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and a default-isolated network, which is not connected to the net:

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Clicking on the “manage in vCloud Director” button will launch the vCloud Director user interface where you can perform advanced configuration things:

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Users view – list of the users that have permission to access this vDC, you can see my colleague Brad the Pink car guy has access!

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How to add a new user to vCloud Air:

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Deploying a new VM, Select the Destination Virtual Data Center:

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Select a VM template, these can be ones supplied by VMware (under the ‘VMware Catalog’ tab). The ones with $ signs are paid for templates:

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or ones you upload from your own vSphere infrastructure like the companies server SOE’s show up under the ‘My Catalog’ tab.

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Give your VM a name and assign it resources.  Unlike other public clouds that force you to use a VM of a particular size, vCloud Air allows you to allocate resources to a VM as you wish.  Moreover, if you decide later that you need to increase or decrease the amount of resources assigned to a VM, you can do so without having to destroy it.  You also have the option of attaching the VM to different network segments during this phase which is useful when specific network and application architectures are required.  

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Provisioning the VM can take between 1-5 minutes in the environment depending on load.

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All the usual VM basic options you’re used to:

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Copying an existing VM from your vSphere infrastructure to vCloud Air using the free vCloud Connector (vCC) plugin for vSphere

Just install the plugin on the vCenter server and then in the vSphere client go to the ‘vCloud Connector’ icon

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First add your local vCenter server:

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Next add your vCloud air datacentre. Behind the scenes you have to install a local ‘vCloud Connector Server’ but that’s all.

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Now we have both private and public VMware clouds!

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Ready to copy a VM to the cloud, select it and go to ‘Copy’:

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Select the target Cloud:

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Select the target VDC (Virtual Datacenter)

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As the copy to the cloud process is copying to the cloud catalog which is basically the cloud VM templates area, we can tick the ‘Deploy vApp after copy’ so it deploys the VM to the cloud not just as a VM template in the catalog.

As we are deploying the VM, use the ‘Remove temporary vApp template in destination vCloud catalog’ to clean up the VM template from the catalog after deployment.

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When the VM copies to the cloud it uses the fast UDT protocol for if you have a fast link or HTTPS is you have a slower link:

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Copying to the cloud progress, you will find it sits at 60% for a while then jumps up, don’t worry that’s normal for what I’ve read:

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Back on the vCloud air web interface the VM is now in the cloud and booting up:

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vCloud Air plug-in for vCenter

Differences between the 2 vCloud Air plugins:

· vCloud Connector for vCenter – lets you copy VM’s to and from your vCloud

· vCloud Air plugin for vSphere web client – lets you view and manage your Public vCloud Air resources alongside your local Private vSphere infrastructure in the vSphere Web Client.

After you install the plug-in on the vCenter server and register your vCloud Air account with it, you can view all your Dedicated Cloud and Virtual Private Cloud instances in the vSphere Web Client. You can browse each cloud instance and manage its inventory of virtual data centers, gateways, networks, and virtual machines:

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Our vCloud viewed in the vSphere web client, not very powerful this one! :

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And here are our virtual machines in the cloud:

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Now that we know how to navigate lets deploy a new VM using the vCloud Air Web Plug-in!

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Name your new VM:

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Select the VM template from the cloud catalog:

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Specify the VM’s resources, I’ve added some extra disks here:

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Select the network to attach to the VM

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Your virtual machine is now deployed on vCloud Air!

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All the VM actions are available for the vCloud Air VM like they are on your local VMware infrastructure:

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vCloud Air Gateways and Networks

Let’s run through the networking side of vCloud Air in a bit more detail. Here I have logged into the vCloud air web page and gone to my VDC (Virtual Datacenter) and looking at the Gateway tab of my network and shows it has 1 IP used and 1 free.

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There are two default networks created when a new Virtual Datacenter is created.

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And the other network:

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In order to perform any additional configuration on the Networks or Gateways, you will need to manage them within vCloud Director. This is what the same 2 networks looks like in vCloud director:

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Now let’s see what we can configure network wise through vCloud Director. These will all be familiar features if you’ve used AWS before.

Ability to setup DHCP for your network so no DHCP server needs to be installed:

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Source NAT’ing (SNAT) supported:

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And Destination NAT’ing (DNAT) supported:

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Creating firewall rules, by default everything is blocked for security. Here I’ve allowed all web traffic (port 80) through into the network from outside (the internet):

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Static routes allow to configure routes between networks within vCloud Air:

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VPN allows you to create a secure VPN back to your own corporation and internal network, It asks for a Public IP, unlike AWS which assigns you one automatically when you setup VPN, it looks like you have to go arrange a public IP yourself and add it here, possible VMware will assign one for you.

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Load balancing in vCloud air, you have 3 options:

1. Install a VM or vApp that is a load balancer, like a F5 load-balancer virtual appliance edition

2. Use the vCloud Air Pool Servers load balancer

3. Use the vCloud Air Virtual Servers load balancer

vCloud Air Pool Servers load balancer, read the description:

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vCloud Air Virtual Servers load balancer, read the description:

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More about NAT’ing as it’s how we get communication into the environment from the outside (the internet).

Let’s create a NAT Rule in the vCloud Air interface, Destination NAT Rules are for inbound traffic:

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Creating an inbound (Destination) NAT rule to enable a virtual web server (so that’s port 80) to communicate over an external network:

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You can see it’s created:

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Ok so we have the NAT’ing for our web server setup, now we need to allow port 80 through the vCloud Air firewall to our network:

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Firewall port 80 is now open, the web server will be accessible from the internet on the public IP 192.168.220.103

Conclusion

So I’ve had very little exposure to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform but quite a bit of exposure to AWS. From my perspective VMware’s vCloud Air supplies a lot of the functionality basics, the items you really need that AWS provides, but it does it in a way that is much more familiar to a vSphere administrator would feel comfortable with. And let’s face it, there is only a small amount of infrastructure guys in the world who don’t know the ins and outs of how to administer a vSphere environment nowadays.

I haven’t compared pricing as I’m sure this changes fairly often between the 3 big players but as of late 2014 VMware are currently boasting they are cheaper on CPU compute and storage compared to AWS’s EBS General Purpose (SSD) storage but I suggest you read between the lines and make your own cost comparisons.

I believe VMware vCloud Air’s main advantage over the other players its level of familiarity from the organisations existing Architects and Engineers with their knowledge from their existing private vSphere cloud into the public VMware vCloud Air. More familiarity equals less things to learn, equals less risk, which is a major decision factor of enterprise platform choice for any organisation.

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