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Primer Series: VMware Cloud Foundation

This article is part of our WWT Primer Series, a collection of content focused on the fundamental understanding of complex technologies and solutions.

March 31, 2020 5 minute read

Have you ever sat in a meeting and the conversation turns to a technology with which you are unfamiliar? Suddenly, a bunch of acronyms are being thrown around. You have no idea what they mean, while everyone else is nodding their heads and seems to know exactly what is being discussed.

We’ve all been there, and to help our valued customers, we've decided to write a series of 'primer articles' to give the reader basic information on various products and technologies. This article is going to cover the basics of VMware's Cloud Foundation.

A little history

Prior to VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF), VMware product suites were mostly bundles of products that were managed individually. This wasn't a large issue when enterprises were only using VMware vSphere, but as the VMware product portfolio expanded, the difficulties in managing many different components became evident.  

Often times, these individual components only supported specific versions of other pieces of VMware software. This was inevitable, as complete backwards compatibility was impossible to guarantee.

Additionally, deploying all of these components was sometimes cumbersome. This was amplified because many of the base components were commonly used together and there was no simple system for deployment. Enterprises would perform the base installation and then install each additional component in a specific proper order, ensuring the proper versions were maintained along the way. This would often look like: 1) install component A, 2) install component B, 3) upgrade component A, 4) upgrade component B, 5) install component C, and so on.

Finally, the individual components were treated as independent environments with no real emphasis on a coherent use case. This meant that each 'cluster' (refer to the ESXi Primer for more info) was without a logical connection to the other clusters. Each cluster was treated as an independent environment, and the idea of sharing pooled resources between them wasn't easily possible. 

VMware vCloud Foundation
VMware Cloud Foundation

Introducing VCF

VCF provides the basic but necessary abstraction for the physical infrastructure (compute, storage, network). As such, VCF is the cornerstone of VMware's go-to-market approach. It underpins the VMW approach to on-premises data centers and edge locations, as well as the offerings in AWS (VMC on AWS) and Azure (AVS).

Lifecycle management is simplified with something called SDDC (software-defined data center) Manager. SDDC Manager is the primary tool used to interact with VCF, allowing user to create Workload Domains, manage versions of software and install marketplace packages. Workload Domains are groups of one or more vSphere clusters organized by common use case for management and lifecycle. Workload domains can also be scaled up and down using SDDC Manager.

Multiple Availability Zones (AZs) are supported with VCF reference architectures. This is similar to Availability Zone architectures in public clouds. Leveraging AZs allows a VCF environment to intelligently build resiliency into the private cloud infrastructure.

Put differently, VCF is an attempt to simplify Day 0 and Day 2 operations of a private cloud infrastructure, bring public cloud concepts to the private cloud and integrate all of the components needed to operate an intelligent SDDC by VMware.

VMware Cloud Foundation:

  • is the foundation for VMware's market strategy around data center;
  • provides foundation abstraction layer for physical infrastructure;
  • simplifies Day 2 management of software lifecycle;
  • supports Availability Zone architecture;
  • manages scale up/down activities; and
  • simplifies deployment of Day 2 components (such as vRealize).
vCF example domain layout
VCF example domain layout

Component technologies

SDDC Manager is a new lifecycle management and orchestration tool. It coordinates pooling of resources and handles updates of the various components of the VMware SDDC (listed below).

  • vSphere ESXi (vSphere, ESX, ESXi) is the virtualization platform. It provides virtualization of compute/memory on x86 servers and is the most widely adopted hypervisor available.
  • VMware vSAN is VMware’s virtualization of storage. It is a hyper-converged solution, so it requires storage to be deployed within the compute nodes.
  • VMware NSX provides the network abstraction for a modern VMware environment. It is a part of every VCF environment and provides both security functions as well as network automation capabilities.
  • vRealize Log Insight is included in all VCF versions. It provides logging capabilities for the management infrastructure and can be extend to the rest of the platform.
  • vRealize Suite components are optionally included in VCF. Depending upon the version of VCF, it may include vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations and vRealize Lifecycle Manager.

Learn more about it

Hopefully, this provides you with some basic context around VMware's vision for 2020. If you would like to learn more, please leverage our ATC to review some of our VMware SDDC labs: 

We also offer a 4-hour SDDC workshop. In this workshop, you'll learn how to leverage the principles of a software-defined data center to optimize your private cloud.

If you have any other questions, we'd love to hear directly from you.

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