VMware Cloud on AWS – TMCHAM – Part 4 – VM Resource Management

In this episode of Things My Customers Have Asked Me (TMCHAM), I’m going to delve into some questions around resource management for VMs running on the VMware-managed VMware Cloud on AWS platform, and what customers need to know to make it work for them.

Distributed Resource Scheduler

If you’ve used VMware vSphere before, it’s likely that you’ve come across the Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) capability. DRS is a way to keep workloads evenly distributed across nodes in a cluster, and moves VMs around based on various performance considerations. The cool thing about this is that you don’t need to manually move workloads around when a particular guest or host goes a little nuts from a CPU or Memory usage perspective. There are cases, however, when you might not want your VMs to be moving around too much. In this instance, you’ll want to create what is called a “Disable DRS vMotion Policy”. You configure this via Compute Policies in vCenter, and you can read more about the process here.

If you don’t like reading documentation though, I’ve got some pictures you can look at instead. Log in to your vSphere Client and click on Policies and Profiles.

Then click on Compute Policies and click Add.

Under Policy type, there’s a dropdown box where you can select Disable DRS vMotion.

You’ll then give the policy a Name and Description. You then need to select the tag category you want to use.

Once you’ve selected the tag category you want to use, you can select the tags you want to apply to the policy.

Click on Create to create the Compute Policy, and you’re good to go.

Memory Overcommit Techniques

I’ve had a few customers ask me about how some of the traditional VMware resource management technologies translate to VMware Cloud on AWS. The good news is there’s quite a lot in common with what you’re used to with on-premises workload management, including memory overcommit techniques. As with anything, the effectiveness or otherwise of these technologies really depends on a number of different factors. If you’re interested in finding out more, I recommend checking out this article.

General Resource Management

Can I use the resource management mechanisms I know and love, such as Reservations, Shares, and Limits? You surely can, and you can read more about that capability here.

Conclusion

Just as you would with on-premises vSphere workloads, you do need to put some thought into your workload resource planning prior to moving your VMs onto the magic sky computers. The good news, however, is that there are quite a few smart technologies built into VMware Cloud on AWS that means you’ve got a lot of flexibility when it comes to managing your workloads.

Random Short Take #71

Welcome to Random Short Take #71. A bit of home IT in this one. Let’s get random.

VMware Cloud on AWS – TMCHAM – Part 3 – SDDC Lifecycle

In this episode of Things My Customers Have Asked Me (TMCHAM), I’m going to delve into some questions around the lifecycle of the VMware-managed VMware Cloud on AWS platform, and what customers need to know to make sense of it all.

 

The SDDC

If you talk to VMware folks about VMware Cloud on AWS, you’ll hear a lot of talk about software-defined data centres (SDDCs). This is the logical construct in place that you use within your Organization to manage your hosts and clusters, in much the same fashion as you would your on-premises workloads. Unlike most on-premises workloads, however, the feeding and watering of the SDDC, from a software currency perspective, is done by VMware.

Release Notes

If you’ve read the VMware Cloud on AWS Release Notes, you’ll see something like this at the start:

“Beginning with the SDDC version 1.11 release, odd-numbered releases of the SDDC software are optional and available for new SDDC deployments only. By default, all new SDDC deployments and upgrades will use the most recent even-numbered release. If you want to deploy an SDDC with an odd-numbered release version, contact your VMware TAM, sales, or customer success representative to make the request.”

Updated on: 5 April  2022

Essential Release: VMware Cloud on AWS (SDDC Version 1.18) | 5 April 2022

Optional Release: VMware Cloud on AWS (SDDC Version 1.17) | 19 November 2021

Basically, when you deploy onto the platform, you’ll usually get put on what VMware calls an “Essential” release. From time to time, customers may have requirements that mean that they qualify to be deployed on an “Optional” release. This might be because they have a software integration requirement that hasn’t been handled in 1.16, for example, but is available for 1.17. It’s also important to note that each major release will have a variety of minor releases as well, depending on issues that need to be resolved or features that need to be rolled out. So you’ll also see references to 1.16v5 in places, for example.

Upgrades and Maintenance

So what happens when your SDDC is going to be upgraded? Well, we let you know in advance, and it’s done in phases, as you’d imagine.

[image courtesy of VMware]

You can read more about the process here, and there’s a blog post that covers the release cadence here. VMware also does the rollout of releases in waves, so not every customer has the upgrade done at the same time. If you’re the type of customer that needs to be on the latest version of everything, or perhaps you have a real requirement to be near the front of the line, you should talk to your account team and they’ll liaise with the folks who can make it happen for you. When the upgrades are happening, you should be careful not to:

  • Perform hot or cold workload migrations. Migrations fail if they are started or in progress during maintenance.
  • Perform workload provisioning (New/Clone VM). Provisioning operations fail if they are started or in progress during maintenance.
  • Make changes to Storage-based Policy Management settings for workload VMs.

You should also ensure that there is enough storage capacity (> 30% slack space) in each cluster.

How Long Will It Take?

As usual, it depends. But you can make some (very) rough estimates by following the guidance on this page.

Will My SDDC Expire?

Yes, your SDDC version will some day expire. But it will be upgraded before that happens. There’s a page where you can look up the expiration dates of the various SDDC releases. It’s all part of the lifecycle part of the SDDC lifecycle.

Correlating VMware Cloud on AWS with Component Releases

Ever found yourself wondering what component versions are being used in VMware Cloud on AWS? Wonder no more with this very handy reference.

 

Conclusion

There’s obviously a lot more that goes on behind the scenes to keep everything running in tip-top shape for our customers. All of this talk of phases, waves, and release notes can be a little confusing if you’re new to the platform. Having worked in a variety of (managed and unmanaged) service providers over the years, I do like that VMware has bundled up all of this information and put it out there for people to check out. As always, if you’ve got questions about how the various software integrations work, and you can’t find the information in the documentation, reach out to your local account team and they’ll be able to help.

VMware Cloud on AWS – TMCHAM – Part 2 – VCDR Notes

In this episode of “Things My Customers Have Asked Me” (or TMCHAM for short), I’m going to dive into a few questions around VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery (VCDR), a service we offer as an add-on to VMware Cloud on AWS. If you’re unfamiliar with VCDR, you can read a bit more about it here.

VCDR Roles and Permissions

Can RBAC roles be customised? Not really, as these are cascaded down from the Cloud Services hub. As I understand it, I don’t believe you have granular control over it, just the pre-defined, default roles as outlined here, so you need to be careful about what you hand out to folks in your organisation. To see what Service Roles have been assigned to your account, in the VMware Cloud Services, go to My Account, and then click on My Roles. Under Service Roles, you’ll see a list of services, such as VCDR, Skyline, and so on. You can then check what roles have been assigned. 

VCDR Protection Groups

VCDR Protection Groups are the way that we logically group together workloads to be protected with the same RPO, schedule, and retention. There are two types of protection group: standard-frequency and high-frequency. Standard-frequency snapshots can be run as often as every 4 hours, while high-frequency snapshots can go as often as every 30 minutes. You can read more on protection groups here. It’s important to note that there are some caveats to be aware of with high-frequency snapshots. These are outlined here.

30-minute RPOs were introduced in late 2021, but there are some caveats that you need to be aware of. Some of these are straightforward, such as the minimum software levels for on-premises protection. But you also need to be mindful that VMs with existing vSphere snapshots will not be included, and, more importantly, high-frequency snapshots can’t be quiesced.

Can you have a VM instance in both a standard- and high-frequency snapshot protection group?  Would this allow us to get the best of both worlds – e.g. RPO could be as low as 30 minutes, but with a guaranteed snapshot of 4 hours?  Once you do a high-frequency snap on a VM, it keeps using that mechanism thereafter, even if it sits in a protection group using standard protection. Note also that you set a schedule for a protection group, so you can have snapshots running ever 30 mins and kept for a particular period of time (customer selects this). You could also run snapshots at 4 hours and keep those for a period of time too. While you can technically have a VM in multiple groups, what you’re better off doing is configuring a variety of schedules for your protection groups to meet those different RPOs.

Quiesced Snapshots

What happens to a VM during a quiesced state – would we experience micro service outages? The best answer I can give is “it depends”. The process for the standard, quiesced snapshot is similar to the one described hereThe VM will be stunned by the process, so depending on what kind of activity is happening on the VM, there may be a micro outage to the service.

Other Considerations

The documentation talks about not changing anything when a scheduled snapshot is being run – how do we manage configuration of the SDDC if jobs are running 24/7?  Seems odd that nothing can be changed when a scheduled snapshot is being run? This refers more to the VM that is being snapped. i.e. Don’t change configs or make changes to the environment, as that would impact this VM. It’s not a blanket rule for the whole environment. 

Like most things, success with VCDR relies heavily on understanding the outcomes your organisation wants to achieve, and then working backwards from there. It’s also important to understand that this is a great way to do DR, but not necessarily a great way to do standard backup and recovery activities. Hopefully this article helps clarify some of the questions folks have around VCDR, and if it doesn’t, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

VMware Cloud on AWS – TMCHAM – Part 1 – PCI DSS

I’m starting a new series on the blog. It’s called “Things My Customers Have Asked Me” (or TMCHAM for short). There are frequently occasions where the customer collateral I present on VMware Cloud on AWS doesn’t cover every single use case that my customers are interested in, or perhaps it doesn’t dive deeply enough into some of the material people would like to know more about. The idea behind these posts is that if I have one customer asking about this stuff, chances are another one might like to know about it too. I won’t be talking about internal-only stuff, or roadmap details in these posts (or anywhere publicly, for that matter), but hopefully these articles will be a useful point of information consolidation for folks who are into that sort of thing.

 

PCI DSS?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is the security standard adhered to by organisations handling credit card information from the major card vendors. You can find the official Attestation of Compliance (AoC) in the VMware Cloud Trust Center, and there’s also a comprehensive whitepaper here.

Getting Started on VMware Cloud on AWS

The capability was covered in March 2021, and you can see some of the details in the VMware Cloud on AWS Release Notes. You can also read my learned colleague Greg Vinton’s take on it here, and there’s a YouTube video for people who prefer that sort of thing. To enable PCI compliance on your Organization, you need to request the capability via your VMware account team. It’s not just something that’s configured by default, as some of the requirements around PCI DSS might be considered an unnecessary overhead by some folks. The account team will get it enabled on your Organization, and you can then deploy your SDDC. It’s important to note that your Organization needs to be empty – PCI DSS can’t be enabled on an Organization with SDDCs that are already deployed.

Configuration Changes

There are a number of configuration changes needed to ensure that your SDDC is PCI-compliant too. This includes disabling add-on services like HCX and Site Recovery. To do this, go to Inventory – Settings, and scroll down to Compliance Hardening.

Note that you’ll only see the “Compliance Hardening” section if your Organization has been configured for PCI DSS compliance. You’ll need to finish your HCX migrations before your Organization is compliant. You’ll also need to change your NSX configuration (Network & Security Tab Access). There is some more info on that here and there’s a blog post that also runs through it step by step that you can read here. Note that you’ll need to use the API to change the local NSX Manager user password every 90 days. Information on that can be found here.

Other Considerations

One final thing to note is that this process doesn’t automatically make your Virtual Machines PCI compliant. You’ll still need to ensure that you’ve done the work in that respect. And I can’t repeat this enough – your Organization will only pass a PCI audit if you’ve done these additional steps. Merely requesting that VMware enable this at an Organization level won’t be enough.

Random Short Take #69

Welcome to Random Short Take #69. Let’s get random.

VMware Cloud on AWS – A Few Notes

If you’ve been following along at home, you may have noticed that the blog has been a little quiet recently. There were a few reasons for that, but the main one was that I joined VMware this year as a Cloud Solutions Architect focussed on VMware Cloud on AWS. It’s an interesting role, and an interesting place to work. I’ve been busy onboarding and thought I’d share some brief notes on VMware Cloud on AWS. I still intend to talk about other things on this blog too, but figured this has been front of mind for me recently, and it might be useful to someone looking to find out more. If you have any questions, or want to know more about something, I’m happy to help where I can. And it doesn’t need to be a sales call.

 

Overview

In short, VMware Cloud on AWS is “an integrated cloud offering jointly developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware.” The idea is that you run VMware’s SDDC stack on AWS bare metal hosts and enjoy the best of both worlds – VMware’s software and access to a broad range of AWS services. I won’t be covering too much of the basics here, but you can read more about it on the product website. I do recommend checking out the product walkthroughs, as these are a great way to get familiar with how the product behaves. Once you’ve done that, you should also check out the solutions index – it’s a great collection of information about various things that run on VMware Cloud on AWS, including things like SQL performance, DNS configuration, and stuff like that. Once you’ve got a handle on the platform and some of the things it can do, it’s also worth running through the Evaluation Guide. This will give you the opportunity to perform a self-guided evaluation of the platform’s features and functionality. There’s also a pretty comprehensive FAQ that you can find here.

 

Hardware

Node Types

There are 2 types of nodes available at this time: i3.metal and i3en.metal. The storage for nodes is provided by VMware vSAN.

i3.metal i3en.metal
Intel Xeon Broadwell @ 2.3GHz, 36 Cores (Hyper-Threading Disabled) Intel Xeon Cascade Lake @ 2.5GHz, 48 Cores (Hyper-Threading enabled providing 96 Cores)
512 GiB RAM 768 GiB RAM
10 TiB NVMe (RAW) 45 TiB NVMe (RAW)
High IOPS High IOPS, High Bandwidth

Custom Core Counts

One of the neat things is support for custom core counts on a per-cluster basis. You still pay full price for the hosts, but the idea is that your core licensing for BigDBVendor, or whatever, is under control. Note that you can’t change this core count once your hosts are deployed.

Other Cool Features 

Elastic DRS lets you expand your SDDC as required, based on configured thresholds for CPU, RAM, and storage. You can read more about that here.

 

Configuration Backups

If you’re using HCX, you might want to back up your HCX Manager. You can read more on that here. There’s also a VMware Fling that provides a level of SDDC import / export capability. You can check that out here. (Hat tip to my colleague Michael for telling me about these).

 

Sizing It Up

If you’re curious about what your current on-premises estate might look like from a sizing perspective, you can run it through the online sizing tool. This has a variety of input options, including support for RVTools imports. It’s fairly easy to use,  but for complex scenarios I’d always recommend you get VMware or a partner involved. Pricing for the platform is also publicly available, and you can check that out here. There are a few different ways to consume the platform, including 1-year, 3-year, and on-demand options, and the discounting levels vary according to the commitment.

Note that there are a number of other capabilities sold separately, including:

  • VMware Site Recovery
  • VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery
  • VMware NSX Advanced Firewall
  • VMware vRealize Automation Cloud
  • VMware vRealize Operations Cloud
  • VMware vRealize Log Insight Cloud
  • VMware vRealize Network Insight Cloud
  • VMware Tanzu Standard

 

Lifecycle

One of the things I like about VMware Cloud on AWS is that the release notes for the platform are publicly available, and provide a great summary of new features as they get rolled out to customers.

 

What Now?

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I’d like to talk about with VMware Cloud on AWS, and I hope in the future to post articles on some of the stuff that gets me excited, like migration options with HCX, and using VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery. In the meantime, the team (it’s mainly Greg doing the hard work, if I’m being honest) is running a series of webinars next week. If you’re interested in VMware Cloud on AWS and want to know more, you could do worse than checking these out. Details below, and registration is here.

Design and Deploy a VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC
28 February 2022, Monday
9:30am IST | 12:00pm SGT | 1:00pm KST | 3:00pm AEDT
Join us as we walk through the process of Architecting and Deploying a VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC. We will cover: SDDC sizing for an application, sizing of the management CIDR block, connectivity design, VPN vs direct connect, basic networking and dependencies
Application Migration to VMC on AWS

1 March 2022, Tuesday
9:30am IST | 12:00pm SGT | 1:00pm KST | 3:00pm AEDT
In this session we will demonstrate the process of migrating a live application. Topics include: walk through the HCX architecture, HCX deployment process, HCX configuration, extending an L2 network, mobility (location) aware networking, migration types – conversation
Disaster Recovery – Protecting VMC on AWS or On-Prem Based Applications

2 March 2022, Wednesday 
9:30am IST | 12:00pm SGT | 1:00pm KST | 3:00pm AEDT
Listen to experts demonstrate the process of Architecting and Deploying a VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery (VCDR), with VMC on AWS to protect an application. We will cover: walk through the VCDR architecture, VCDR deployment process, considerations around VCDR, building a protection group, building a DR plan, executing DR and discuss failback options