Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE)

Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE)

In June 2020 VMware and Google made the announcement that Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE) is generally available. Almost exactly one year ago, the market received the information that VMware’s Cloud Foundation (vSphere, vSAN and NSX) stack will come to Google Cloud.

With this milestone VMware is now present on top of all the so-called “big three” hyperscalers.

GCVE has the same goals like the other similar offerings like VMware Cloud on AWS or Azure VMware Solution and belongs to the VMware multi-cloud strategy – to seamlessly migrate and run applications in the public cloud. In this case in Google Cloud! Run your applications in the public cloud exactly the same way as you already do now withh your on-premises VMware environment. With the very important addition, that you have high speed access to Google Cloud services like Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, big data or AI/ML services.

To be able to run VMware workloads on top of the Google Cloud global infrastructure, Google acquired CloudSimple (with which they partnered with already) last November 2019.

At the moment of writing, the VMware hybrid cloud experience on Google Cloud is sold, operated and supported by Google and their partners.

Many customers are already looking at this very interesting offer, which is going to be available in more regions until the end of 2020. But there are also already a few customers using the joint offering. Google just published a customer reference story about the “Deutsche Börse Group”, a large and international financial organization, which extended their on-premises environment to Google Cloud with Google Cloud VMware Engine. One of the reasons why Deutsche Börse went for this vSphere-based cloud approach, was, to keep migrations to the cloud easy. I expect we can hear more about this success story at VMworld 2020.

Cloud Migration and Workload Mobility

A lot of customers underestimate the amount of work, time and costs involved in refactoring or re-platforming applications and the overall challenges when it comes to migrations from on-prem to the cloud. To build this secure hybrid cloud extension with GCVE, you’ll need VMware HCX, which is included in the GCVE offering.

There are different options available to connect both worlds:

GCVE Connectivity Options

  • VPN Gateway for point-to-point connections, used for the secure admin access to vCenter. Useful for the initial setup of the GCVE environment.
  • Cloud VPN for site-to-site connections, a secure layer 3 connection over the internet. This is one of the lower cost options for use cases, that don’t require high bandwidth.
  • Dedicated Cloud Interconnect with a direct traffic flow to Google with 10Gbps or 100Gbps circuits with 50Mbps to 50 Gbps connection capacities. This direct connection is required for HCX and the preferable connectivity option for customers requiring high speed and low latency.
  • Partner (Cloud) Interconnect is another option of a Cloud Interconnect, where your traffic flows through one of the supported service providers (e.g. Colt, Equinix, BT, e-shelter, Verizon, InterCloud, Interxion, Megaport)

Note: One unique feature of GCVE is the ability to route between different GCVE environments in the same region, without the need for additional configuration. 

Use Cases

These use cases, if you made yourself already familiar with a hybrid cloud approach, shouldn’t be new to you.

Data Center extension or retirement. You can scale the data center capacity in the cloud on-demand, if you for example don’t want to invest anymore in your on-premises environment. In case you just refreshed your current hardware, another use case would be the extension of your on-premises vSphere cloud to Google Cloud.

Disaster Recovery and data protection. Here we’ll find different scenarios like recovery (replication) or backup/archive (data protection) use cases. You can also still use your existing 3rd party tools from Zerto or Veeam to replace or complement existing DR locations and leverage the Cloud Storage service. You can also use your GCVE private clouds as a disaster recovery (DR) site for your on-premises workloads. This DR solution would be based on VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) which can be also used together with HCX.

Cloud migrations or consolidation. If you want to start with a lift & shift approach to migrate specific applications to the cloud, then GCVE is definitely right for you. Maybe you want to refresh your current infrastructure and need to relocate or migrate your workloads in an easy and secure way? Another perfect scenario would be the consolidation of different vSphere-based clouds.

Application modernization. Re-architecting or refactoring applications is not that easy. Most customers start with a partial approach to modernize their applications and leverage cloud-native services (e.g. databases, AI/ML engines).

Interesting: Did you know that Google’s on-prem GKE (Google Anthos) is running on vSphere?

VMware Horizon on VMware Engine

The advantages of a public cloud like Google Cloud are the “endless” capacity, agility and high-bandwidth connections. These items are very important for a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and specially during disaster scenarios, when onboardings have to happen fast or if you look for on-demand growth.

Another regular example could be a merger & acquisition use case, where we the main infrastructure doesn’t have the necessary physical resources to onboard to new company and their employees.

Because something like this has always happen as easy and fast as possible. Running virtual desktops in Google Cloud VMware Engine can help in such situations. Together with VMware Horizon, organizations could install a VDI environment in GCVE and connect it to their Horizon on-premises infrastructure using the Cloud Pod Architecture (CPA). 

Note: When migrating applications to the cloud (GCVE), it is a best practice to keep the virtual desktop close to the application, which is a general use case we see when talking about application locality.

Horizon Global Pod GCVE

With the release of Horizon 2006 (aka Horizon 8) it is also possible to choose “Google Cloud” as deployment option during the connection server installation.

C:\Users\mrebmann\OneDrive - VMware, Inc\cloud13\2020 - Google Cloud VMware Engine\Horizon on GCVE.png

In case you need a load balancer (for your Horizon components and in general) for your on-premises environment and the public cloud, have a look at NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

GCVE Node Specs

When planning your GCVE resource needs, be aware of the following specifications and limits:

CPU: Intel Xeon Gold 6240 (Cascade Lake) 2.6 GHz (x2), 36 Cores, 72 Hyper-Threads

Memory: 768 GB

Storage (vSAN): 2 × 1.6 TB (3.2 TB) NVMe (Cache), 6 × 3.2 TB (19.2 TB) NVMe (Data)

Number of nodes required to create a private cloud: 3 (up to 64 hosts per private cloud)

Number of nodes allowed in a cluster on a private cloud: 16

3rd party tools compatibility: Yes, you can use existing tools (elevated privileges allow you to install 3rd party software)

Interesting facts: It only takes about a half hour to spin up your private cloud with three nodes! The addition of a new node takes approximately 15 minutes.

GCVE Elevated Privileges

Software License and Versions

Please find the current software versions and licenses below used for the GCVE offering (purchased with a 1- or 3- year commitment). The listed software versions are fixed and all updates are managed by Google. Google is responsible for the lifecycle management of the VMware software, which includes ESXi, vCenter and NSX.

Component Version License
vCenter 6.7 U3 vCenter Standard
ESXi 6.7 U3 Enterprise Plus
vSAN 6.7 U3 Enterprise
NSX Data Center (NSX-T) 2.5.1 Advanced
HCX 3.5.3 Advanced

Shared Responsibilities

Google Cloud VMware Engine is coming with all components you need to securely run VMware natively in a dedicated private cloud. Google takes care of the infrastructure (service) and their native service integrations. As a customer you only need to take care of your virtual machines or containers with your applications and data. Besides that, you also need to make sure that your configurations, policies, network portgroups, authentication and capacity management are properly configured.

GCVE Shared Responsibilities

If you want to know and learn more about Google Cloud VMware Engine, have a look at the following resources: 

VMware Multi-Cloud and Hyperscale Computing

VMware Multi-Cloud and Hyperscale Computing

In my previous article Cross-Cloud Mobility with VMware HCX I already very quickly talked about VMware’s hybrid and multi-cloud vision and strategy. I mentioned, that VMware is coming from the on-premises world if you compare them with AWS, Azure or Google, but have the same “consistent infrastructure with consistent operations” messaging. And that the difference would be, that VMware is not only hardware-agnostic, but even cloud-agnostic. To abstract the technology format and infrastructure in the public cloud, their idea is to run VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) everywhere (e.g. Azure VMware Solution), on-premises on top of any hardware and in the cloud on any global infrastructure from any hyperscaler like AWS, Azure, Google, Oracle, IBM, Alibaba. Or you can run your workloads in a VMware cloud provider’s cloud based on VCF. That’s the VMware multi-cloud.

The goal of this article is not compare any features from different vendors and products, but to give you a better idea why multi-cloud is becoming a strategic priority for most enterprises and why VMware could be right partner for your journey to the cloud.

To get started, let’s get an understanding what the three big hyperscalers are doing is when it comes to a hybrid or multi-cloud.

Microsoft

To bring Azure services to your data center and to benefit from a hybrid cloud approach, you would probably go for Azure Stack to run virtualized applications on-premises. Their goal is to build consistent experiences in the cloud and at the edge, even for scenarios where you have no internet connection. This would be by VMware’s definition a typical hybrid cloud architecture.

Multi-cloud refers to the use of multiple public cloud service providers in a multi-cloud architecture, whereas hybrid cloud describes the use of public cloud in conjunction with private cloud. In a hybrid cloud environment, specific applications leverage both the private and public clouds to operate. In a multi-cloud environment, two or more public cloud vendors provide a variety of cloud-based services to a business.

With the announcement of Azure Arc at MS Ignite 2019, Microsoft introduced a new product, which “simplifies complex and distributed environments across on-premises, edge and multi-cloud“. Beside the fact that you can run Azure data services anywhere, it gives you the possibility to govern and secure your Windows servers, Linux servers and Kubernetes (K8s) clusters across different clouds. Arc can also deploy and manage K8s applications consistently (from source control).

Azure Arc InfographicYou could summarize it like this, that Microsoft is bringing Azure infrastructure and services to any infrastructure. It’s not necessary to understand the technical details of Azure Stack and Azure Arc. More important is the messaging and the strategy. It’s about managing and securing Windows/Linux servers, virtual machines and K8s clusters everywhere and this with their Azure Resource Manager (ARM). Arc ensures that the right configurations and policies are in place to fulfill governance requirements across clouds. Run your workloads where you need it and where it makes sense, even it isn’t Azure.

Google Anthos

Google open-sourced their own implementation of containers to the Linux kernel in about 2006 or 2007. It was called cgroups, which stands for control groups. Docker appeared in 2013 and provided some nice tooling for containers. Over the next years, Microservices were used more often to divide monoliths into different pieces and services. Because of the growing numbers of containers, Google saw the need to make this technology easy to manage and orchestrate for everyone. This was six years ago when they released Kubernetes.

By the way, two of the three Kubernetes founders, namely Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie, are working for VMware since their company Heptio has been acquired by VMware in November 2018.

Today, Kubernetes is the standard way to run containers at scale.

We know by now that the future is hybrid or even multi-cloud, and not public cloud only. Also Google realized that years ago. Besides that, a lot of enterprises made the experience that moving to the cloud and re-engineering the whole application at the same time mostly fail. This means, that moving applications from your on-premises data center, refactoring the application at the same time and run it in the public cloud, is not that easy.

Why isn’t it easy? Because you are re-engineering the whole application, have to take care of other application and network dependencies, think about security, governance and have to train your staff to cope with all the new management consoles and processes.

Google’s answer and approach here is to modernize applications on-premises and then move them to the cloud after the modernization happened. They say that you need a platform, that runs in the cloud and in your data center. A platform, that runs consistently across different environments – same technology, same tools and policies everywhere.

This platform is called Google Anthos. Anthos is 100% software-defined and (hardware) vendor-agnostic. To deliver their desired developer experience on-prem as well, they rely on VMware. This is GKE running on-prem on top of vSphere:

Anthos vSphere on-prem

Amazon Web Services

The last solution I would like to mention is AWS Outposts, which is a fully managed service that extends their AWS infrastructure, services and tools to any data center for a “truly consistent hybrid experience”. What are the AWS services running on Outposts?

  • Containers (EKS)
  • Compute (EC2)
  • Storage (EBS)
  • Databases (Amazon RDS)
  • Data Analytics (Amazon EMR)
  • Different tools and APIs

AWS Outposts are delivered as an industry-standard 42U rack. The Outpost rack is 80 inches (203.2cm) tall, 24 inches (60.96cm) wide, and 48 inches (121.92cm) deep. Inside we have hosts, switches, a network patch panel, a power shelf, and blank panels. It has redundant active components including network switches and hot spare hosts.

If you visit the Outposts website, you’ll find the following information:

Coming soon in 2020, a VMware variant of AWS Outposts will be available. VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts delivers a fully managed VMware Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) running on AWS Outposts infrastructure on premises.

VMC on AWS Outposts is for customers, who want to use the same VMware software conventions and control plane as they have been using for years. It can be seen as an extension from the regular VMC on AWS offering which is now made available on-premises (on top of the AWS Outposts infrastructure) for a hybrid approach.

VMC on AWS Outposts

What do all these options have in common? It is always about consistent infrastructure with consistent operations. To have one platform in the cloud and on-premises in your data center or at the edge. Most of today’s hybrid cloud strategies rely on the facts, that migrations to the cloud are not easy, fail a lot and so it’s clear why we still have 90% of all workloads running on-premises. We are going to have many million containers more in the future, which need to be orchestrated with Kubernetes, but virtual machines are not just disappearing or being replaced tomorrow.

My conclusion here is, that every hyperscaler is seeing cloud-native in our (near) future and wants to provide their services in the cloud and on-prem. That customer can build their new applications with a service-oriented architecture or partially modernize existing monoliths (big legacy applications) on the same technology stack.

Consistent Infrastructure & Consistent Operations

All hyperscalers mention as well, that you have to take care of different management and security consoles, skills set and tools in general. Except Microsoft with Azure Arc, nobody else is having a “real” multi-cloud solution or platform. I want to highlight, that even Azure Arc is only here for some servers, Kubernetes clusters and takes care of governance.

Let’s assume you have a hybrid cloud setup in place. Your current project requirements tell you to develop new applications in the Google Cloud using GKE. That’s fine. Your current on-premises data centers run with VMware vSphere for virtualization. Tomorrow, you have to think about edge computing for specific use cases where AI and ML-based workloads are involved. Then you decide to go for Azure and create a hybrid architecture with Azure Stack and Arc. Now you are using two different public cloud providers, one with their specific hybrid cloud offering and also VMware vSphere on-premises.

What are you going to do now? How do you manage and secure all these different clouds and technologies? Or do you think about migrating all the application workloads from on-prem to GCP and Azure? Or do you start with Anthos now for other use cases and applications? Maybe you decide later to move away from VMware and evacuate the VMware-based private cloud to any hyperscaler? Is it even possible to do that? If yes, how long would this technology change and migration take?

Let’s assume for this exercise, that this would be a feasable option with an acceptable timeframe. How are you going to manage the different servers, applications, dependencies and secure everything at the same time? How can you manage and provision infrastructure in an easy and efficient way? What about cost control? What happens if you don’t see Azure as strategic anymore and want to move to AWS tomorrow? Then you figure out, that cloud is more expensive than you thought and experience yourself why only 10% of all workloads are running in the public cloud today.

VMware Multi Cloud Silos

I think people can pretty easy handle an infrastructure which runs VMware on-premises and have maximum one public cloud only – a hybrid cloud architecture. If we are talking about a greenfield scenario where you could start from scratch and choose AWS including AWS Outposts, because you think it’s best for you and matches all the requirements, go for it. You know what is right for you.

But I believe, and this is also what I see with larger customers, the current reality is hybrid and the future is multi-cloud.

VMware Multi-Cloud Strategy

And a multi-cloud environment is a totally different game to manage. What is the VMware multi-cloud strategy exactly and why is it different?

Unified Cloud with VMware

VMware’s approach is always to abstract complexity. This doesn’t mean that everything is getting less complex, but you will get the right platform and tooling to deal with this complexity.

A decade ago, abstracting meant providing a hypervisor (vSphere) for any hardware (being vendor-agnostic). After that we had software-defined storage (vSAN) followed software-defined networking (NSX). Beside these three major software pieces, we also have the vRealize suite, which is mainly known for products like vRealize Automation and vRealize Operations. The technology stack consisting of vSphere, vSAN, NSX, vRealize and some management components form the software-defined data center and is called VMware Cloud FoundationA technology stack that allows you to experience the ease of public cloud in your data center. Again, if wanted and required, you can run this stack on top of any hyperscaler like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, Oracle Cloud or IBM.

VMware Cloud Foundation

It’s a platform which can deliver services as you would expect in the public cloud. The vRealize suite can help you to automatically provision virtual machines and containers including the right network and storage (any vSphere-based cloud or cloud-native on AWS, GCP, Azure or Alibaba). Build your own templates or blueprints (Infrastructure as Code) to deliver services IaaS, DBaaS, CaaS, DaaS, FaaS, PaaS, SaaS and DRaaS, which can be ordered and consumed by your users or your IT. Put a price tag behind any service or workload you deploy, and include your public cloud spending as well (e.g. with CloudHealth) in this calculation.

You want to deliver vGPU enabled virtual machines or containers? Also possible with vSphere. Modern AI/ML based applications need compute acceleration to handle large and complex computation. vSphere Bitfusion allows you to access GPUs in a virtualized environment over the network (ethernet). Bitfusion works across any cloud and environment and can be accessed from any workload from any network. This topic gets very interesting if we talk about edge computing for example.

vSphere Bitfusion

Modern applications obviously demand a modern infrastructure. An infrastructure with a hybrid or multi-cloud architecture. With that you are facing the challenge of maintaining control and visibility over a growing number of environments. In such a modern environment, how do you automate configuration and management? What about networking and security policies applied at a cluster level? How you handle identity and access management (IAM)? Any clue about backup and restore? And what would be your approach for cost management in a multi-cloud world?

Modern Applications Challenges

To improve the IT ops and developer experience, VMware announced the Tanzu portfolio including something they call the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG). The promise of TKG is to provide developers a consistent and on-demand access to infrastructure across clouds and is considered to be the enterprise-ready Kubernetes runtime.

Since vSphere 7, TKG has been embedded into the control plane vSphere 7 with Kubernetes as a service. Finally, as Kubernetes is natively integrated into the hypervisor, we have a converged platform for VMs and containers. IT ops now can see and manage Kubernetes objects (e.g. pods) from the vSphere client and developers use the Kubernetes APIs to access the SDDC infrastructure.

There are different ways to consume TKG beside “vSphere 7 with Kubernetes“. TKG is a consistent and upstream compatible Kubernetes runtime with preintegrated and validated components, that also runs in any public cloud or edge environments.

If you have to run Kubernetes clusters natively on Azure, AWS, Google and on vSphere on-premises, how would you manage IAM, lifecycle, policies, visibility, compliance and security? How would you manage any new or existing clusters?

Tanzu Mission Control

Here, VMware’s solution would be Tanzu Mission Control (TMC). A centralized management platform (operated by VMware as SaaS) for all your clusters in any cloud. TMC allows you to provision TKG workload clusters to your environment of choice and manage the lifecycle of each cluster via TMC. To date, the supported deployments are in vSphere and AWS EC2 accounts. The deployment on Azure is coming very soon.

Existing Kubernetes clusters from any vendor such as EKS, AKS, GKE or OpenShift can be attached to TMC. As long as you are maintaining CNCF conformant clusters, you can attach them to TMC so that you can manage all of them centrally.

The Tanzu portfolio is much bigger and includes more than TKG and TMC, which only address the “where and how to run Kubernetes” and “how to deploy and manage Kubernetes”. Tanzu has other solutions like an application catalog, build service, application service (previously Pivotal Cloud Foundry) and observability (monitoring and metrics) for example.

VMware Tanzu Products

And this Tanzu products can be complemented with cloud-scale networking solutions like an application delivery controller (ADC) or software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). To deliver the “public cloud experience” to developers for any infrastructure, we need to provide agility. From an infrastructure perspective we’ll find VMware Cloud Foundation and from application or developer perspective we learned that Tanzu covers that.

For a distributed application architecture, you also need a software-defined ADC architecture that is fully distributed, auto scalable and provides real-time analytics and security for VMs or containers. VMware’s NSX Advanced Load Balancer (formerly known as Avi Networks) runs on AWS, GCP, Azure, OpenStack and VMware and has a rich feature set:

AVI Networks Features

Hypervisor versus Public Cloud

What I am trying to say here, is, that cloud-native at scale requires much more than containers only. While hypervisors are obviously not disappearing and getting replaced by containers from the public cloud very soon, they will co-exist and therefore it is very important to implement solutions which can be used everywhere. If you can ignore the cost factor for a moment, probably the best solution would be using the exact same technology stack and tools for all the clouds your workloads are running on.

You need to rely on a partner and solution portfolio that could address or solve anything (or almost anything) you are building in your IT landscape. As I already said, VCF and Tanzu are just a few pieces of the big puzzle. Important would be an end-to-end approach from any layer or perspective.

Therefore, I believe, VMware is very relevant and very well-positioned to support your journey to the multi-cloud.

The application you migrate or modernize need to be accessed by your users in a simple and secure way. This would lead us for example to the next topic, where we could start a discussion about the digital workspace or end-user computing (EUC).

Talking about EUC and the future-ready workplace would involve other IT initiatives like hybrid or multi-cloud, application modernization, data center and cloud networking, workspace security, network security and so on. A discussion which would touch all strategic pillars VMware defined and presented since VMworld 2019.

VMware 5 Strategic Pillars

If your goal is also to remove silos, provide a better user and admin experience, and this in a secure way over any cloud, then I would say that VMware’s unique platform approach is the best option you’ll find on the market.

And since VMware can and will co-exist with the hyperscalers, and even run on top of all them, I would consider to talk about the “big four” and not “big three” hyperscalers from now on.

Cross-Cloud Mobility with VMware HCX

Cross-Cloud Mobility with VMware HCX

Update 10th Septemeber 2020: vSphere 7.0 (VDS 7.0) and NSX-T 3.0.1+ are supported since the HCX R143 release which has been made available on September 8, 2020

https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-HCX/services/rn/VMware-HCX-Release-Notes.html 

Most people think that VMware HCX is a only migration tool that helps you moving workloads to a vSphere based cloud like VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Solution or Google Cloud VMware Engine. But it can do so much more for you than only application or workload migrations. HCX is also designed for workload rebalancing and business continuity across data centers or VMware clouds. Why I say “across VMware clouds” and not only “clouds”?

A few years ago everyone thought or said that customers will move all their workloads to the public cloud and the majority of them don’t need local data centers anymore. But we all know that this perception has changed and that the future cloud operation is model hybrid.

A hybrid cloud environment leverages both the private and public clouds to operate. A multi-cloud environment includes two or more public cloud vendors which provide cloud-based services to a business that may or may not have a private cloud. A hybrid cloud environment might also be a multi-cloud environment.

We all know that the past perception was an illusion and we didn’t have a clue where the hyperscalers like AWS, Azure or GCP would be in the next 5 or 7 years. And I believe that even the AWS and Microsoft didn’t expect what is going to happen since we observed interesting shifts in the last few years.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been launched 14 years ago (2006) to provide web services from the cloud. At AWS re:Invent 2018 the CEO Andy Jassy announced AWS Outposts because their customers have been asking for an AWS option on-premises. In the end, Outpost is just an extension of an AWS region into the own data center, where you can launch EC2 instances or Amazon EBS volumes locally. AWS already had some hybrid services available (like Storage Gateway) but here we talk about infrastructure and making your own data center part of the AWS Global Infrastructure.

Microsoft Azure was released in 2010 and the first technical preview of Azure Stack has been announced in 2016. So, Microsoft also realized that the future cloud model is a hybrid approach “that provides consistency across private, hosted and public clouds”.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers cloud computing services since 2008. Eleven years later (in 2019) Google introduced Anthos that you can “run an app anywhere –  simply, flexibly and securely”.

All the hyperscalers changed their cloud model to provide customers a consistent infrastructure with consistent operations and management as we understand now.

VMware is coming from the other end of this hybrid world and has the same overall goal or vision to make a hybrid or multi-cloud reality. But with one very important difference. VMware helps you to abstract the complexity of a hybrid environment and gives you the choice to run your workloads in any cloud infrastructure with a cloud-agnostic approach.

As organizations try to migrate their workloads to the public, they face multiple challenges and barriers:

  • How can I migrate my workload to the public cloud?
  • How long does it take to migrate?
  • What about application downtime?
  • Which migration options do I have?
  • Which cloud is the best destination for which workloads?
  • Do I need to refactor or develop some applications?
  • Can I do a lift and shift migration and modernize the application later?
  • How can I consistently deploy workloads and services for my multi-cloud?
  • How can I operate and monitor (visibility and observability) all the different clouds?
  • What if tomorrow one the public cloud provider is not strategic anymore? How can I move my workloads away?
  • How can I control costs over all clouds?
  • How can I maintain security?
  • What about the current tools and 3rd party software I am using now?
  • What if I want to migrate VMs back from the public cloud?
  • What if I want to move away/back somewhen from a specific cloud provider?

In summary, the challenges with a hybrid cloud are about costs, complexity, tooling and skills. Each public cloud added to your current on-premises infrastructure is in fact a new silo. If you have the extra money and time and don’t need consistent infrastructures and consistent operations and management, you’ll accept the fact that you have a heterogeneous environment with different technology formats, skill/tool sets, operational inconsistencies and security controls.

If you are interested in a more consistent platform then you should build a more unified hybrid cloud. Unified means that you provide consistent operations with the existing skills and tools (e.g. vCenter, vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations) and the same policies and security configuration over all clouds – your data center, public cloud or at the edge.

To provide such a cloud agnostic platform you need to abstract the technology format and infrastructure in the public cloud. This is why VMware built the VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) platform that delivers a set of software-defined services for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management for any cloud.

VMC on AWS, Azure VMware Solution, Google Cloud VMware Engine and all the other hybrid cloud offerings (IBM, Oracle, Alibaba, VCPP) are based on VMware Cloud Foundation. This is the underlying technology stack you would need if your goal is to be independent and to achieve workload mobility between clouds. With this important basic understanding we can take a closer look at VMware HCX.

VMware HCX Use Cases

HCX provides an any-to-any vSphere workload mobility service without requiring retrofit as we use the same technology stack in any cloud. 

VMware HCX Use Cases

HCX enables you to schedule application migrations of hundreds or thousands of vSphere VMs within your data centers and across public clouds without requiring a reboot or a downtime.

If you would like to change the current platform or have to modernize your current data center, HCX allows you to migrate workloads from vSphere 5.x and non-vSphere (Hyper-V and KVM) environments.

VMware HCX Migration

Workload rebalancing means providing a mobility platform across cloud regions and cloud providers to move applications and workloads at any time for any reason.

Workload mobility is cool and may be the future but is not possible today as the public cloud’s egress costs would be way too high at the moment. Let’s say you pay $0.05 per GB when you move data away from the public cloud to any external destination, this would generate costs of $2.50 for a 50GB virtual machine.

Not that much, right? If you move away 500 VMs, the bill would list $1’250 for egress costs. Evacuating VMs from one public cloud to another one is not so expensive if it happens three or four times a year. But if the rebalancing should happen at a higher cadence, the egress costs would get too high. But we can assume that this fact will change in the future as the public cloud computing prices will come down in the future. 

HCX Components and Services

HCX is available with an Advanced and Enterprise license. The Advanced license services are standard with HCX and are also included in the HCX Enterprise license. The Enterprise license is needed when you migrate non-vSphere workloads into a vSphere environment. This capability is called OS Assisted Migration (OSAM).

HCX Services

The HCX Advanced features are included in a NSX Data Center Enterprise Plus license. With a managed service like VMware Cloud on AWS or Azure VMware Solution HCX Advanced is already be included.

HCX Connector Advanced License

If you want to move workloads from a vSphere environment to a vSphere enabled public cloud, you don’t need the complete VMware Cloud Foundation stack at the source site:

  • On-premises vSphere version 5.5 and above
  • Minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth between source and destination
  • Virtual switch based on vDS (vSphere Distributed Switch), Cisco Nexus 1000v or vSphere Standard Switch
  • Minimum of virtual machine hardware version 9
  • VMs with hard disks not larger than 2TB

Depending on the HCX license and services you need, you have to deploy some or all of the HCX components. HCX comprises components and appliances at the source and destination sites.

HCX Manager Destination

The HCX Connector services and appliances are deployed at the destination site first before you are going to deploy the virtual appliances at the source site (HCX Interconnect appliance).

HCX Interconnect Appliance Download Link

After you deployed the appliances at the source site, you can create the site pairing.

HCX Site Pairing

As soon as you have installed HCX in both sites, you can manage and configure the services within the vSphere Client.

HCX in vSphere Client

After a successful site pairing, you can start to create the HCX Service Mesh.

The Multi-Site Service mesh is used to create a secure optimized transport fabric between any two sites managed by HCX. When HCX Migration, Disaster recovery, Network Extension, and WAN Optimization services are enabled, HCX deploys Virtual Appliances in the source site and corresponding “peer” virtual appliances on the destination site. The Multi-Site Service Mesh enables the configuration, deployment, and serviceability of these Interconnect virtual appliance pairs.

HCX Service Mesh

In the HCX site-to-site architecture, there is notion of an HCX source and HCX destination environment. Depending on the environment, there is a specific HCX installer:

HCX Connector (previously HCX Enterprise) or HCX Cloud. HCX Connector is always deployed as the source. HCX Cloud is typically deployed as the destination, but it can be used as the source in cloud-to-cloud deployments. In HCX-enabled public clouds, the cloud provider deploys HCX Cloud. The public cloud tenant deploys HCX Connector on-premises.
The source and destination sites are paired together for HCX operations. 

In both the source and destination environments, HCX is deployed to the management zone, next to each site’s vCenter Server, which provides a single plane (HCX Manager) for administering VMware HCX. This HCX Manager provides a framework for deploying HCX service virtual machines across both the source and destination sites. VMware HCX administrators are authenticated, and each task authorized through the existing vSphere SSO identity sources. VMware HCX mobility, extension, protection actions can be initiated from the HCX User Interface or from within the vCenter Server Navigator screen’s context menus.

In the NSX Data Center Enterprise Plus (HCX for Private to Private deployments), the tenant deploys both source and destination HCX Managers.

The HCX-IX service appliance provides replication and vMotion-based migration capabilities over the Internet and private lines to the destination site whereas providing strong encryption, traffic engineering, and virtual machine mobility.

The VMware HCX WAN Optimization service appliance improves performance characteristics of the private lines or Internet paths by applying WAN optimization techniques like the data de-duplication and line conditioning. It makes performance closer to a LAN environment. It accelerates on-boarding to the destination site using Internet/VPN- without waiting for Direct Connect/MPLS circuits.

The VMware HCX Network Extension service appliance provides a late Performance (4–6 Gbps) Layer 2 extension capability. The extension service permits keeping the same IP and MAC addresses during a Virtual Machine migration. Network Extension with Proximity Routing provides the optimal ingress and egress connectivity for virtual machines at the destination site.

 

Using VMware HCX OS Assisted Migration (OSAM), you can migrate guest (non-vSphere) virtual machines from on-premise data centers to the cloud. The OSAM service has several components: the HCX Sentinel software that is installed on each virtual machine to be migrated, a Sentinel Gateway (SGW) appliance for connecting and forwarding guest workloads in the source environment, and a Sentinel Data Receiver (SDR) in the destination environment.

The HCX Sentinel Data Receiver (SDR) appliance works with the HCX Sentinel Gateway appliance to receive, manage, and monitor data replication operations at the destination environment.

HCX Migration Types

VMs can be moved from one HCX-enabled data center using different migration technologies or types.

HCX Migration Types

HCX cold migration uses the VMware NFC (Network File Copy) protocol and is automatically selected when the source VM is powered off.

HCX vMotion

  • This option is designed for moving a single virtual machine at a time
  • There is no service interruption during the HCX vMotion migration
  • Encrypted vMotion between legacy source and SDDC target
  • Bi-directional (Cross-CPU family compatibility without cluster EVC)
  • In-flight Optimization (deduplication/compression)
  • Compatible from vSphere 5.5+ environments (VM HW v9)

HCX Bulk Migration

  • Bulk migration uses the host-based replication (HBR) to move a virtual machine between HCX data centers
  • This option is designed for moving virtual machines in parallel (migration in waves)
  • This migration type can set to complete on a predefined schedule
  • The virtual machine runs at the source site until the failover begins. The service interruption with the bulk migration is equivalent to a reboot
  • Encrypted Replication migration between legacy source and SDDC target
  • Bi-directional (Cross-CPU family compatibility)
  • WAN Optimized (deduplication/compression)
  • VMware Tools and VM Hardware can be upgraded to the latest at the target.

HCX Replication Assisted vMotion

VMware HCX Replication Assisted vMotion (RAV) combines advantages from VMware HCX Bulk Migration (parallel operations, resiliency, and scheduling) with VMware HCX vMotion (zero downtime virtual machine state migration).

HCX OS Assisted Migration

This migration method provides for the bulk migration of guest (non-vSphere) virtual machines using OS Assisted Migration to VMware vSphere on-premise or cloud-based data centers. Enabling this service requires additional HCX licensing.

 

  • Utilizes OS assisted replication to migrate (conceptually similar to vSphere replication)
  • Source VM remains online during replication
  • Quiesce the source VM for final sync before migration
  • Source VM is powered off and the migrated VM is powered on in target site, for low downtime switchover
  • VMware tools is installed on the migrated VM

Cross-Cloud Mobility

Most customers will probably start with one public cloud first, e.g. VMC on AWS, to evaluate the hybridity and mobility HCX delivers. Cross-cloud monility is maybe not a requirement today or tomorrow but gets more important when your company has a multi-cloud strategy which becomes reality very soon.

If you want to be able to move workloads seamlessly between clouds, extend networks and protect workloads the same way across any cloud, then you should consider a VMware platform and use HCX.

HCX Cross-Cloud Mobility

Let’s take network and security as an example. How would you configure and manage all the different network, security, firewall policies etc. in your different clouds with the different infrastructure and security management consoles?

If you abstract the hyperscaler’s global infrastructure and put VMware on top, you could in this case use NSX (software-defined networking) everywhere. And because all the different policies are tied to a virtual machine, it doesn’t matter anymore if you migrate a VM from host to host or from cloud to cloud.

This is what you would call consistent operations and management which is enabled by a consistent infrastructure (across any cloud).

And how would you migrate workloads in a very cost and time efficient way without a layer 2 stretch? You would have to take care of re-IPing workloads and this involves a lot of changes and dependencies. If you have hundreds of applications then the cloud migration would be a never ending project with costs you could not justify.

In the case you need to move workload back to your own on-premises data center, HCX also gives you this advantage.

You have the choice in which cloud you want to run your applications, at any time.

 

HCX and vSphere 7

At the time of writing HCX has no official support for vSphere 7.0 yet. I tested it in my home lab and ran into an error while creating the Service Mesh. At least one other colleague had the same issue with vSphere 7 using NSX-T 3.0 and VDS 7.0.

HCX vSphere 7 Error

I would like to thank Danny Stettler for reviewing and contributing. 🙂 Big kudos to you, Danny! 🙂

I hope the article has helped you to get an overview what HCX and a hybrid cloud model really mean. Drop a comment and share your view and experience when it comes to cloud strategies and migrations.