Carl Eschenbach, VMware’s COO, lead today’s general session. He started by recapping the announcements of vSphere 5.5 and vCloud Suite 5.5 from yesterday. Carl then talked about VMware’s goal to virtualize 100%, reiterated the NSX announcements and the three imperatives Pat talked about yesterday (1. Virtualization must extend to ALL of IT, 2. IT Management gives way to automation, and 3. Compatible hybrid cloud(s) will be ubiquitous).
Carl introduced Kit Colbert (Principal Engineer, VMware). Together they took us, layer at a time, through the magic of vCloud Automation Center and all the underlying technology. They started with a very classic, well known video clip from “I Love Lucy” – the infamous chocolate factory scene (if you haven’t seen this – stop reading this and watch it now!). Think of Lucy and Ethel as today’s IT staff and the chocolates in need of wrapping like the requests and demands coming from application areas. Eventually at scale, without automation, they run out of hand power. It was a great analogy. Incidentally, VMware had a Lucile Ball look-alike handing out chocolates and taking photos in the lobby after! Carl and Kit then took us through a sample application – Carl called it Project Vulcan. The demo started with vCloud Automation Center (vCAC). With vCAC Carl initiated his request for the application, and vCAC gave him some deployment choices and costs associated with those choices. Carl also had the ability to auto-scale his Project Vulcan application. It showcased the freedom for the application area to choose, but the control the IT area can still keep. After the request was submitted, Kit took us a step deeper on how this all works.
Complimenting vCAC is vCloud Application Director. vCloud Application Director coordinates the deployment of applications, including multi-tier applications. You create a full end-to-end application definition with policies, dependencies and so on. What this does is abstract the application, in its entirety, from infrastructure. Once the application definition is created, vCloud Application Director takes care of coordinating the infrastructure components. This does three major things: streamline application provisioning, decouple applications and infrastructure, uses automation to reduce steps, cost, and errors.
As we peeled back the layers of what vCAC was doing during the deployment, VMware NSX was up next. Kit and Carl walked us through how NSX layers on top of an existing physical network, similar to how we virtualized compute. Services such as firewall, layer 2 switching, layer 3 routing, and load balancing can be tied to the application definition itself, using the existing network as a fabric. Logical switches, routers, and firewalls can be created immediately. The classic hairpin problem is gone. The hairpin problem is this: let’s say you have two guests on different segments but the same host. In a traditional networking model, even with vDS, that traffic must go out to a router and back. If you draw that pattern on paper it looks like a hairpin. So, when you move that layer 3 routing to the hypervisor, you eliminate the hairpin problem all together. Interesting note: they stated that up to 70% of a datacenter’s traffic is from VM to VM. That’s up to 70% of traffic which could fall into that inefficient traffic pattern in your datacenter. Also, Kit was talking about how the firewall capability at the host level, in the hypervisor, actually provides a more secure (zero trust) environment because policies and rules prevent certain types of traffic from ever going on a physical network link.
Carl and Kit played a video clip from West Jet out of Canada. They had a great use case for NSX in their environment. West Jet needed to keep their existing network investments but realized they had a problem. Their network did a great job with north/sound traffic – basically from client to server. The problem was that as their applications got more complex, there was more east/west traffic happening than north/south. They needed a new way of doing things. With their current physical network investment, they realized the benefits of software-defined networking when the east/west traffic was now efficient and optimized, accommodating both the north/south and east/west traffic patterns.
Great. So how does one get there? Well – Kit demonstrated a zero downtime migration to VMware NSX. Assuming it’s already setup on a host, it’s as simple as a vMotion for the guest. Simple. No downtime. Easy.
So, what about storage? Carl and Kit dug into VMware’s Virtual SAN (VSAN). Basically Virtual SAN keeps copies (you can control how many) of your VMDKs on local storage. It doesn’t seem to do anything fancy like network RAID. It was literally two clicks to turn Virtual SAN on, for the cluster and begin consuming that local storage as a datastore. It supports policies and intelligence such as SSD vs. non-SSD. You want to add capacity? Add another host and the VSAN datastore automatically grows. (It sounds really similar to how Exchange with DAGs work – for the Exchange people). Now people can further use local disk as production SAN. (VMware Virtual SAN is now available for Public Beta – I’ll be kicking the tires on it back at Kelser).
Carl and Kit effectively showed how vCAC and underlying infrastructure can deliver on the promise of automated and intelligent application delivery. Great – we have the application up; now let’s give people access to it. Enter vCloud Automation Center’s integration with Horizon (View) Workspace. Just as Carl requested an application with vCAC, a user can request a desktop or application access. This integration gives your users a “launch pad” for the software-defined datacenter. It all came back to I Love Lucy … Kit had a video for Carl. He played the scene from When Harry Met Sally, where Meg Ryan orders the most complicated chef salad and apple on Earth. “But I'd like the pie heated, and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla, if you have it, if not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it's real, if it's out of a can, then nothing.” It was the perfect juxtaposition to the chocolate wrapping scene. Business requests have more attributes, complexity, and come at us faster than ever before. The hands-on [wrapping] approach is not scalable and we need the tools to make IT happen.
Carl invited Joe Baguley up for a few minutes, to talk about IT Operations. Joe is intimately familiar with IT Operations and talked about how most companies still have silos in their Operations groups. Basically the network people have a network workflow, their own tools, and such for managing the environment. When something goes wrong enter the “War Room”. Now, I’m not sure how many people remember these – but I certainly do from my previous life in the enterprise space. There is literally a room or rooms reserved for the purpose of arguing and pointing fingers when something bad happens. Inevitably, the team would figure the major problem out and it was never usually just one component that caused a problem. As environments get faster and more complex, the “war room” model just doesn’t scale. Enter vCenter Operations that integrates with vCloud Application Center, to automatically determine the baseline and health of an application, taking acting when necessary to fix an issue or predict an issue might happen. Back to the Vulcan application, we could see that it dramatically took off and throughput was going way up. Because of the auto-scale we turned on, vCenter Operations and vCloud Application Center can respond, automatically, and scale the application out. Joe also talked about just the massive amount of log and performance data that must be collected to properly manage the environment. VMware actually recognized this as a big data play and developed the recently released VMware Log Insight. In the example, we saw Log Insight quickly sift through 65 million data points and pull out the 7 or so relevant issues related to the performance problem on the Vulcan application. Folks who attend VMworld and follow @vmloginsight on Twitter will get 5 free licenses!
That wrapped up general session day 2. It was a great presentation that really peeled back the layers of vCloud Automation Center and showcased the power of NSX, VSAN, and vCAC itself. It seems like VMware is very well positioned to move people and applications to the automated, software-defined datacenter. The cloud vision of a few years ago is really taking shape, and taking off.