Multi-Cloud Load Balancing and Autoscaling with NSX Advanced Load Balancer (formerly Avi Networks)

Multi-Cloud Load Balancing and Autoscaling with NSX Advanced Load Balancer (formerly Avi Networks)

Do you want to build your private cloud like a hyperscaler is doing it? You know that VMware Cloud Foundation is becoming the new vSphere, but still wonder how you can implement software-defined load balancing (LB) or application services and features like autoscaling or predictive scaling? Then this article about multi-cloud load balancing and autoscaling with NSX Advanced Load Balancer aka Avi Networks is for you!

My Experience with a Legacy ADC

A few years ago, I was working on the customer side for an insurance company in Switzerland as a Citrix System Engineer. My daily tasks included the maintenance and operation of the Citrix environment, which included physical and virtual Citrix NetScaler Application Delivery Controller (ADC) appliances. The networking team owned a few hardware-based appliances (NetScaler SDX) with integrated virtualization capability (XenServer as hypervisor) to host multiple virtual NetScaler (VPX) instances.

The networking team had their dedicated NetScaler VPX instances (for LDAP and HTTP load balancing mostly) and deployed my appliances after I filed a change request. Today, you would call this multi-tenancy. For a Citrix architecture is was best practices to have one high availability (HA) pair for the internal and one HA pair for the external (DMZ) network access. A HA pair was running in a active/passive mode and I had to maintain the same setup for the test environment as well.

Since my virtual VPX appliances were hosted on the physical SDX appliance, I always relied on the network engineers, if I needed more resources (CPU, RAM, SSL, throughput) chips allocated to my virtual instances. Before I could upgrade to a specific firmware version, I also had to wait until they upgraded the physical NetScaler appliances and approved my change request. This meant, we had to plan changes and maintenance windows together and had to cross fingers, that their upgrade went well, that we could upgrade all our appliances after.

NetScaler SDX

It was also possible to download a VPX appliance, which could run on top of VMware vSphere. To be more independent, I decided to install four new VPX appliances (for the production and test environment) on vSphere and migrated the configuration from the appliances running on the physical SDX appliance.

Another experience I had with load balancers was when I started to work for Citrix as a consultant in Central Europe and had to perform a migration of physical NetScaler MPX appliances, which had no integrated virtualization capability. I believe I had two sites with each two of these powerful MPX appliances for tens of thousands of users. Beside the regular load balancing configuration for some of the Citrix components, I also had to configure Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) in active/passive mode for the two sites.

NetScaler GSLB Active Passive

There were so many more features available (e.g. Web Application Firewall, Content Switching, Caching, Intrusion Detection), but I never used anything else than the NetScaler Universal Gateway for the remote access to the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), load balancing, HTTP to HTTPS redirections and GSLB. In all scenarios I had a HA pair where one instance was idling and doing nothing. And the active unit was in average not utilized more than 15-20%. It was common to install/buy too large or powerful instances/licenses, because you wanted to be on the safe side and have enough capacity to terminate all your SSL sessions and so on.

It (load balancing) was about distributing network traffic across multiple servers by spreading the requests and work evenly, and do add some intelligence (health monitoring) in case an application server or a service would fail or be unavailable for any reason. If one more application server was needed, I ordered a new Windows Server, installed and configured the Citrix components and added the necessary load balancing configuration on the NetScaler. These were all manual tasks. The same work has been done by the network engineers when the application team requested a new application server, which then had to be added to the load balancing configuration on their NetScaler appliances.

This was my personal experience from 2017. Since then applications became more complex and distributed. The analysts and market are focusing on containerized and portable apps running and more and more in multiple clouds. The prediction is also that the future is multi-cloud.

Multiple Clouds vs. Multi-Cloud

There are different definitions and understandings out there what multi-cloud means. In my understanding, using a private cloud, AWS, Microsoft Office 365 and Azure are a typical setup with multiple clouds. There are simple scenarios where you migrate workloads from the private to the public cloud (e.g. Azure) or having applications with services lying on the private on the public cloud. The latter would be an example of a hybrid cloud architecture.

The reasons for which services and resources are needed or distributed on multiple clouds (on-prem, Azure, AWS, GCP etc.) are various:

  • Avoid dependence on only one cloud provider
  • Consume different specific services that are not provided elsewhere
  • Optimize costs for different workloads and services
  • React to price changes by the providers

That is why we are seeing also the trend to break up big legacy applications (monoliths) in smaller pieces (segments), which is a best practice and design principle today. The goal is to move to a loosely coupled and more service-oriented architecture. This provides greater agility, more flexibility and easier scalability, because of less inter-dependencies.

And, if we take the second example from the list before, a segmented application is much easier to run in different clouds (portability). Running one application over multiple clouds is in my understanding the right definition of multi-cloud.

Multiple Clouds versus Multi-Cloud

Let’s assume that most probably all the four reasons above apply to larger enterprises. If we take another angle, we can define some business and technical requirements for multi-cloud:

  • Application or services need to be cloud vendor-agnostic
  • Provide or abstract control and management interface of multiple clouds
  • Support application portability/relocation between clouds
  • Combine IaaS and services from different clouds
  • Possibility to deploy components of applications in multiple clouds
  • (Cloud) Broker service needed
  • Policy and governance over multiple clouds
  • Network connectivity for migration scenarios with partially modernized applications
  • Automated procedures for deployments
  • Application monitoring over different clouds
  • Costs management
  • Lifecycle management of deployed applications in multiple clouds
  • Self-adaption and auto scaling features
  • Large team with various expertises needed

How can you deliver and manage the different applications services like load balancing, web application firewalling, analytics, automation and security over multiple clouds?

Another important question would be, how you want to manage the deployment on the various clouds. But cloud management or a cloud management platform is something for another article. 🙂

The requirements for the developers, operations and the business are very complex and it’s a long list (see above).

It is important, that you understand, based on the requirements for multi-cloud, that it is mandatory to implement a modern solution for your modernized application architectures. Enterprises have become more application-centric and everyone is talking about continious integration, continuous delivery and DevOps practices to automate operation and deployment tasks. A modern solution implicits a software-defined approach. Otherwise you won’t be able to be agile, adapt to changes and meet future requirements.

My past experience with Citrix’ NetScaler is a typical example that “virtualized” and “software-defined” are not the same thing. And this is very important if we want to have a future-ready solution. If we look at VMware’s software-defined data center (SDDC), beside the virtual compute, also includes software-defined storage and networking. Part of the software-defined networking portfolio is “NSX Advanced Load Balancer“, the software-defined application services platform, which was also known as “Avi Networks” before VMware bought them in June 2019.

Unlike a virtualized load-balancing appliance, a software-defined
application services platform separates the data and control planes
to deliver application services beyond load balancing, real-time
application analytics, security and monitoring, predictive autoscaling,
and end-to-end automation for Transport (Layer 4) to
Application (Layer 7) layer services. The platform supports multicloud
environments and provides software-defined application
services with infrastructure-agnostic deployments on bare metal
servers, virtual machines (VMs), and containers, in on-premises
data centers and private/public clouds.

Autoscaling became famous with AWS as it monitors your applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain availability and performance at the lowest possible costs. It automatically adds or removes application servers (e.g. EC2 instances), load balancers, applies the right network configuration and so on.

Can you achieve the same for your on-premises infrastructure with VMware? Yes.

Is there even a solution which can serve both worlds – on-prem and cloud? Yes.

And what about predictive scaling with real-time insights? Yes.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer (NSX ALB)

Why did VMware buy Avi? Because it follows the same architecture principles like NSX: A distributed platform with a separate control and data plane built on software-defined principles for any cloud.

Avi High Level Architecture

Traditional ADCs or load balancers are mostly configured in active/standby pairs, no matter if physical or virtual. Typically you would see around 15% utilization on the active node where the secondary standby node is just idling and doing nothing. Each pair is its own island of static capacity which shares the management, control and data plane.

You have to decide where to place the virtual IP (VIP) and how much you want to overprovision the physical or virtual appliances, because there is no capacity pooling available. This leads to operational complexity, especially when you have hundreds of such HA pairs running in different clouds. Therefore, legacy and virtualized ADCs are not the ideal choice for a multi-cloud architecture. Let’s check NSX ALB’s architecture:

Control Plane – This is the brain (single point of management) of the whole platform that can be spun up in your on-prem environment or in the cloud (also available as a managed SaaS offering), typically as a three-node cluster. Within this cluster, all configuration is done, this also where the policies reside and the decisions are made. It is the controller’s duty to place virtual services on SEs to load balance new applications or increase the capacity of running applications.

The control plane comprises the three pillars that deliver the key capabilities of the Avi platform:

  • Multi-Cloud – Consistent experience for any cloud, no lock-in
  • Intelligence – The machine learning based analytics engine enables application performance monitoring, troubleshooting, and operational insights (gathered by the SEs)
  • Automation – Elastic and predictive auto scaling & self-service without over-provisioning through a complete set of REST APIs

Data Plane –  The Service Engines (SEs) handle all data plane operations by receiving and executing instructions from the controller. The SEs perform load balancing and all client- and server-facing network interactions. It collects real-time application telemetry from application traffic flows. 

As already mentioned, NSX ALB can be deployed in multiple cloud environments like VMware vCenter, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud, IBM Cloud, VMC on AWS, Nutanix, OpenStack or bare-metal.

Use Cases

Most customers deploy Avi because of:

  • Load Balancer refresh
  • Multi-Cloud initiatives
  • Security including WAF, DDoS attack mitigation, achieve compliance (GDPR, PCI, HIPAA)
  • Container ingress (integrates via REST APIs with K8s ecosystems like GKE, PKS (TKGI), OpenShift, EKS, AKS, TKG)

Advanced Kubernetes Ingress Controller Avi Networks

  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (Citrix, VMware Horizon)

Consistent Application Services Platform (Features)

Avi/NSX ALB is an enterpise-grade solution. So, everything you would expect from a traditional ADC (e.g. F5), layer 4 to layer 7 services, SSL, DDoS, WAF etc. is built-in without the need for a special license edition. There is also no NSX license requirement even the product name would suggest it. It can be deployed as a standalone load balancer or as an integrated solution with other VMware products (e.g. VCF, vRA/vRO, Horizon, Tanzu etc.).

Avi Networks Features

Below is a list with the core features:

  • Enterprise-class load balancing – SSL termination, default gateway, GSLB, DNS, and other L4-L7 services
  • Multi-cloud load balancing – Intelligent traffic routing across multiple sites and across private or public clouds
  • Application performance monitoring – Monitor performance and record and replay network events like a Network DVR
  • Predictive autoscaling Application and load balancer scaling based on real-time traffic patterns
  • Self-service – For app developers with REST APIs to build services into applications
  • Cloud connectors – VMware Cloud on AWS, SDN/NFV controllers, OpenStack, AWS, GCP, Azure, Linux Server Cloud, OpenShift/Kubernetes
  • Distributed application security fabric – Granular app insights from distributed service proxies to secure web apps in real time
  • SSO / Client Authentication – SAML 2.0 authentication for back-end HTTP applications
  • Automation and programmability – REST API based solution for accelerated application delivery; extending automation from networking to developers
  • Application Analytics – Real-time telemetry from a distributed load balancing fabric that delivers millions of data points in real time

Load Balancing for VMware Horizon

NSX ALB can be configured for load balancing in VMware Horizon deployments, where you place SEs in front of Unified Access Gateways (UAG) or Connection Servers (CS) as required.

Avi Horizon High Level Architecture

For a multi-site architecture you can also configure GSLB if needed. With GSLB, access to resources is controlled with DNS queries and health checking.

Note: If you are using the Horizon Universal Broker, the cloud-based brokering service, there is no need for GSLB, because the Universal Broker can orchestrate connections from a higher level based on different policies.

Automation

With NSX Advanced Load Balancer there are two parts when we talk about automation. One part is about infrastructure automation, where the controller talks to the ecosystem like a vCenter, AWS or Azure to orchestrate the Service Engine. So, when you configure a new VIP, the controller would talk to vCenter to spin up a VM, put it in the right portgroup, connect the front and the back-end, download the policy and service engine, and starts receiveing traffic.

The second piece of automation focuses more on the operational automation which is through the REST API (the UI and CLI don’t offer all the configuration, 100% can be done via REST API). But, on top of that you can also run Ansible playbooks, Terraform templates, Go and Python SDKs, have integrations with Splunk or other tools like vRealize Automation. This is the built-in automation in the product.

Avi Networks Automation

VMworld 2020 Sessions

This year VMworld is going to be for free and virtual. Take this chance and register yourself and learn more about Avi aka NSX ALB:

  1. Making Your Private Cloud Network Run Like a Public Cloud – Part 2 [VCNC2918]
  2. Modern Apps and Containers: Networking and Security [VCNC2920]
  3. Prepare for the New Normal of Work from Anywhere [VCNC2919]

Expectations and Current Approaches

There is the general understanding and need for hybrid or multi-cloud architectures. Different people will tell different stories and give different advices. The result are different architectures and different approaches. Some people will tell you, that you can use a cloud serially, so moving from one cloud to another. Or, simultaneously, when using different services from different clouds.

My last article focused on hybrid cloud, the architecture with some services lying on the private infrastructure, while other services are hosted on a public cloud. A public cloud providers tells you, that you can buy all services from them and tries to give you a better discount than the competition (to avoid multiple clouds). Enterprises see the need for multiple (public) clouds to avoid a vendor lock-in instead of going all-in with just one of them.

VMware is about multi-cloud and workload mobility, with the vision, that their VCF stack is running everywhere in the future. Now, some people would now say that this is also a vendor lock-in. Depending on your strategy and technology choices and preferences (e.g. databases, AI/ML services, virtual desktops), you have to decide somewhen which (cloud) vendor, approach and operation model is the right one for you.

It may not true for every large environment, but if you go for multiple clouds, multiple technologies, management and security consoles, architecture and so on, you’ll spend a lot of time and money on engineering and keeping your environment “integrated” and functional.

VMware offers you choice. The choice to run your workloads today and tomorrow wherever you want.

If you have the same vision and strategy like VMware, then you are looking for solutions which run in or on top of every cloud. Because of that it’s very important to understand the different between multiple clouds and multi-cloud.

In this case, NSX ALB brings you multi-cloud load balancing and auto scaling features for any cloud and for multi-cloud enabled applications and services.

Don’t forget: Some people are also saying,  that multi-cloud is not needed and doesn’t exist in reality. Nobody is saying multi-cloud is a piece of cake, but VMware can definitely help you to abstract this complexity. And part of this abstraction can be handled with vRealize Automation for example, which can act as a cloud broker to deploy your application and services.

 

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 briefly touched 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.

Multi-Cloud Reality

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?

Consistent VMware Multi-Cloud

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 from 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.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid

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.