Keeping up with the Cloud Foundations

I am currently helping a customer build a infrastructure platform to run a couple of
virtualized applications. The decision to use VMware products was already made before I joined the project, but at that stage (middle of the year) it was still uncertain whether the deployment / networking would both be “old school” (setting up everything by hand / VLANs seperated by physical firewalls) or if new approaches should be applied.
My experience with NSX and some articles I read about a new way of deploying VMware based SDDCs, namely the VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF), layed out the foundation (see what I did there…) for our new private cloud.

After continuing to dive into the VCF stack and its ideas (this free fundamentals course is great for starters) it quickly became clear that this could help reduce resources spent on deploying and operating the project’s infrastructure
drastically and also prevent human errors, as entire batches of tasks are automated, following the VMware Validated Designs

While planning the environment the latest VMware Cloud Foundation version available was 2.3.2. For this version the hardware compatibility list (both compute and networking equipment) was rather short, so for hardware selection Dell components were chosen. Until some more workshops were conducted an the boxes finally arrived some time passed, so a lot happened in the mean time…

During the VMworld US 2018 the new version 3.0 was announced and was released shortly after. The big difference introduced in this mayor update was focusing on VMware’s own products. When pre-3.0 versions also included the networking stack, supporting only certain models from a handful of vendors (Cisco, Juniper, QCT, Dell), now any underlay network supporting 1600 byte MTUs and 10 Gbps ethernet and all vSAN Ready Nodes (> 20 vendors) meeting the required/supported minimums could be used, making even brown-field scenarios possible.

More than a test deployment of the 3.0 Cloud Builder VM to download the deployment parameter spreadsheet and prerequisite checklist didn’t see the light of the day in the project, as by the time the hardware was installed 3.0.1 was already available to download. This minor version jump featured some bug fixes and improvements. For example it was no longer necessary to convert the Excel spreadsheet containing the 
deployment parameters (IP addresses/networks, license details, passwords) into JSON format with the included Python script on your own. The 3.0.1 Cloud Builder VM web GUI accepts the Excel file directly. Very nice!

The entire VCF 3.0.1 deployment took less than two hours from uploading the parameter spreadsheet to finishing the bring up, leaving us with a ready to use environment with vCenter, two Platform Service Controllers, vSAN, NSX, vRealize Log Insight cluster and, of course, the new SDDC manager.
The preparation of our hosts (Dell PowerEdge vSAN ReadyNodes) with ESX 6.5 was pretty easy. For DHCP (VXLAN transport VLAN), DNS & NTP I set up a HA cluster of OPNsense gateways. Some pictures from the deployment process will follow in a separate post.

Shortly after this another new version came out (3.0.1.1). As that only contains the current security patches for ESX 6.5 there only is a update bundle, not an OVA download.

Last week the next long awaited mayor release was published: 3.5. Again being available via upgrade or fresh OVA deployment it includes a log of changes. These were already announced at this year’s VMworld Europe, which I had the fortune to attend for the first time. Besides more bug fixes the jump to the current 6.7 releases of ESX, vCenter & vSAN is the biggest news (finally no need for Flash client – long live HTML5!), along with NSX 6.4.4 and updated version of vRLI, SDDC Manager and so on. Now also included is NSX-T 2.3.0, but only for workload domains – the management domain continues to rely on NSX(-V). This is supposed to pave the road for container based workloads like PKS/Kubernetes.

After the holidays I will continue the story with both results from upgrading the customer’s 3.0.1.1 site to 3.5 and also deploying 3.5 at my company’s lab on older hardware, so stay tuned…

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