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March 19, 2011

A 40,000 foot view of VMware vCloud Director

A-40000-foot-view-of-VMware-vCloud-Director 

It was almost seven months ago when VMware’s John Arrasjid (@vcdx001 on Twitter) contacted me about writing a new USENIX book. Together with four other senior VMware consultants, we co-authored Cloud Computing with VMware vCloud Director which should be published by the end of the month. As the only non-engineer among the authors, I nevertheless found the book quite helpful in explaining cloud computing and the benefits it provides. I struggled, on the other hand, to understand what vCloud Director really is, and more importantly, why an organization should embrace it – particularly at this juncture of a 1.0 release. While the answers can be discerned from reading the book, this post is geared toward my fellow non-techies who might appreciate a brief distillation.

Why the Need for a Cloud Computing Management Platform?

Many years ago, mainframe and mini users were commonly forced to wait in an MIS queue for months in order to get a report produced. The PC era brought computing power into the hands of the users, but left them still dependent upon IT to provision the back-end infrastructure – networks, servers, load-balancers, firewalls, etc.  Since applications tend to be driven by departmental budgets, IT infrastructures often end up as over provisioned mishmashes of equipment, processes and technology entailing excessive cost and huge inefficiencies.

Virtualization taken to its logical extreme results in a transformation of the traditional static data center to a monitored, metered, managed and automated environment where IT is dynamically provided as a service, otherwise known as Private Cloud. In the cloud model, computing not only becomes efficient, it makes another titanic shift to the user. Business units specify the levels of performance, reliability and security required for an application, and the required virtual infrastructure is automatically and very quickly provisioned and deployed. 

Accomplishing this transformation, though, is not by any means a simple task. A platform must be implemented that intelligently pools and provisions virtualized resources. Network isolation, enhanced storage requirements, new monitoring and chargeback capabilities, and increased requirements for scalability, resiliency and storage are just some of the challenges.

What Exactly is VMware vCloud Director?

The Glossary of Cloud Computing with VMware vCloud Director defines vCD as:  “A software solution providing the interface, automation, and management feature set to allow enterprise and service providers to supply vSphere resources as a Web-based service.”

VMware vCloud Director is a cloud computing management platform. It abstracts the virtualized resources to enable users to gain self-service access to them through a services catalogue. Tasks previously requiring significant IT staff resources and time to accomplish, such as configuring a network, are automatically executed in minutes with vCD.

Another aspect of vCD is its ability to utilize open standards and the vCloud API to enable federation between private and public clouds. Organizations can not only transform their own IT environments into a service, but they can move virtual machines back and forth to external cloud providers for purposes such as facilitating high resource demand or disaster recovery requirements.

From a product perspective, VMware vCloud Director is arguably the metamorphosis of Lab Manager into an enterprise platform. It is one component of the VMware vCloud family which also includes VMware vSphere, vShield Manager with vShield Edge, and vCenter Chargeback. Other VMware complimentary products such as VMware vCloud Connector, VMware Orchestrator, VMware vCenter Operations, and vCloud Request Manager add further useful functionality. Additionally, a whole ecosystem of hardware and software products is rapidly evolving to take advantage of the vCloud API including prominent infrastructure stacks such as VCE Vblock, NetApp FlexPod and HP Matrix.

 Helpful excerpts from Cloud Computing with VMware vCloud Director include: 

  •  “VMware vCloud Director is a platform that makes broad deployment of compute clouds possible by enabling self-service access to compute infrastructure through the ab­straction of virtualized resources.”
  • “Think of vCloud Director as a centralized landing point for end users to access infra­structure resources through the Web browser. VMware vCloud Director provides the self-service portal that accepts user requests and translates them into tasks in the vSphere environment.”
  • “VMware vCloud Director adds an additional layer of resource abstraction to enable multi-tenancy and provide interoperability between clouds that are built to the vCloud API standard.”

Who Should Purchase vCloud Director Version 1.0?

VMware vCloud Director at inception provides a starting point for vCloud – VMware is continuing to add capabilities. Right out of the gate, however, it is perfect for developers. Owners of VMware Lab Manager can exchange their licenses (which are based upon CPUs) for licenses of vCloud Director (which are based upon VMs). The product is also exceptional for organizations with requirements for building internal training or demo environments. Our Systems Engineers, for example, can use our internal deployment of vCloud Director to create an entire VMware View environment for demonstration purposes in about 10 minutes, and then blow away the environment when finished.

Caveats exist when using vCloud Director in production, but they do not seem to be slowing down its adoption. As an example, a current lack of integration with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) means that off-site VM replication and recovery needs to accommodate either manually or with other automation tools. Backup/recovery of the vCloud workloads can be accomplished, but some vendors require manual steps in the process. Other vendors are working on fully automated solutions by using the vSphere, vCloud, and VADP APIs.

On the very positive side, vCloud Director puts organizations firmly on the path to cloud computing where IT is provisioned as a service along with monitoring, metering, chargeback and a self-service portal for business units/end users.  The open API enables integration with other applications to quickly build a customized, automated and flexible environment.

Another interesting potential customer group for vCD is the emerging category of cloud integrators that is perhaps the next rung on the evolutionary ladder from Reseller to VAR to Solutions Provider. Cloud integrators can potentially customize vCD as an aggregation portal in order to provide an extremely versatile yet automated assortment of cloud-based services to their clients.

 

See Also:

Cloud Computing with VMware vCloud Director (Available soon on both Sage and Amazon)

Foundation for Cloud Computing with VMware vSphere 4.  Amazon

VMware vCloud Director. VMware Web Site

vShield Products Packaging Explained (with a focus on vCloud Director). 03/14/2011 Massimo. IT 2.0

vCloud Networking for Dummies. 09/14/2010. Massimo. IT 2.0

VMware Lab Manager is Dead. Long Live vCloud Director. 02/11/2011. David Marshall. InfoWorld.

Introducing VMware vCloud Datacenter, provided by BlueLock.

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to fellow vExpert, Mark Vaughn (@mvaughn25), of INX for his contributions to this article. And a special thanks to John Arrasjid (@vcdx001) and my other co-authors: Ben Lin (@blin23), Raman Verramraju (@ramantheman), Duncan Epping (@vcdx007), and Michael Haines (@michaelahaines).

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