IT Operations Management (ITOM)

Software Defined Data Center & VMware vCloud

Software Defined Data Center & VMware vCloud


There is a growing interest by the enterprise community in the Software-Defined Data Center(SDDC). To put it simply, SDDC is a practical concept where all the traditional data center components are virtualized and abstracted from the underlying hardware. They are de-coupled in a best possible way and presented as a service model. In the SDDC model, major components like networking, storage etc. are flexible in terms of presentation to the upper layer and not tied to the infrastructure underneath. They are also presented and metered in a utility computing model. SDDC comes with immense benefits like automation, efficiency, flexibility, agility and of course lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). 


Although SDDC is a term that almost every major infrastructure vendor is talking about today, it was originally coined by VMware's CTO Steve Herrod. The vCloud Suite is one of the examples of SDDC implementation currently available.


VMware’s Cloud Solutions are complete and comprehensive in the sense they covers all the three layers of Cloud: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. There is a myth in general that VMware Cloud Solution is only for IaaS. Yes, the major part of VMware Cloud (better known as vCloud) has been primarily into the IaaS segment. However, VMware also has a presence on the PaaS and SaaS.


In a Cloud Layer, from Bottom to Top approach, the IaaS layer builds the core infrastructure of SDDC. It is based on VMware vSphere based Virtual Datacenter along with support from other VMware products like vCloud, Chargeback etc. This is an excellent example of Software-Defined Data Center!


The vCloud suite comes in three editions: Standard, Advanced and Enterprise. It is up to the customer to choose the one that his/her business requirements. It can be chosen depending on the type of workload, scalability and functionality required for customer's Private Cloud.


VMware vCloud Suite delivers the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Cloud Solution. It is composed of two major components: Cloud Management and Cloud Infrastructure.  To explain further, I have borrowed a diagram from VMware:






























So, the components of vCloud Suite can primarily be divided into two categories:


A) Cloud Infrastructure: This category provides the core infrastructure of vCloud which consists of:


  • vSphere [for providing core Compute, Memory and Storage resources]
  • vCloud Networking and Security [for providing Networking Services like NAT, Routing etc.]
  • Site Recovery Manager [for BCP/DRP]
  • vCloud Director and
  • vCloud Connector [for Provisioning and connecting to other Clouds]


B) Cloud Management: Provides the management functions of the Cloud Suite with the help of components like:


  • vFabric Application Director and vCloud Automation Center [to auto-deploy or self-service IT  services and applications by users]
  • vCenter Operation Management Suite [for various operational statistics, event management, dashboards etc.]
  • vCenter Chargeback Manager [for resource utilization measurement and billing functionality]



The major roles out of all these components lie with: vSphere, vCloud Director, “vCloud Networking & Security” and Chargeback Manager. Let’s take a closer look at them:


vSphere: This is the building block through which you will virtualize your physical DIY (Do-It-Yourself) datacenter and build a Virtual DataCenter. You will also create an aggregate pool of all the Compute (CPU), Memory and Storage resources so that going forward these can be self-provisioned and managed via a Cloud Solution.


In this layer you also build the Virtual Switches and Distributed Virtual Switches (Virtual LANs), Port Groups etc. It is the home to your management tool vCenter Server and physical servers hosting Virtual Machines (VMs) are ESXi Servers. Here you create all the virtual resources.


vCloud Director: The upper layer is vCloud Director layer which helps in self-provisioning and self-management of the virtual resources that you created in the vSphere Layer. You can call it a Middleware or Broker or Provisioning Layer, whatever you wish to. This is typically installed either as an Virtual Appliance (Pre-installed, you just need to do basic configuration) or manually installed on a RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Server) VM with the .bin software. After installation, it will provide you with two HTTP consoles—one for administrators and another for users. Through this you create all the different parts of a Cloud like, Provider vDC (Virtual Data Center), Organization vDC, vApp, Org Networks, Ext. Network etc. Instead of vCenter, vCloud Director is the Management Tool here.


vCloud Networking and Security: These are nothing but vShield Edge and vShield Manager virtual appliances which provide different standard networking services like Routing, NAT, DHCP, VPN and facilities like VXLAN. Through these you can isolate your tenant’s virtual networks from external world. Here the management tool is still vCloud Director, however you can configure some basic part through the HTTP console of vShield. These are also installed as Virtual Appliances for ease of installation and configuration.


vCloud Connector: As the name suggests, it helps you to connect to other VMWare-Powered or vCloud API-compatible private clouds and public clouds, thus facilitating a hybrid cloud setup. You can also connect your private cloud to VMware Partner vCloud and move your workloads (basically VMs) from your private cloud to public cloud. Unless you are intending to connect to any other Cloud, this is an optional component.


vCenter Chargeback Manager: This is a very important component of vCloud, since it provides the usage report of different vSphere components and accordingly charge back model can be levied to the customer/tenant. Without this you still can run a vCloud, but you will not be able to do the financial and operational measurement in terms of usage.


SRM: Site Recovery Manager is used on the vSPhere layer for BCP/DRP (Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Process) purpose where the VMs of primary site can automatically restart on the Secondary Site in case there is an outage or so. It can be treated as an optional component.


vCOPS: vCOps helps the administrator to create dashboards on the usage, pre-determine issues, get alerts on the issues, capacity planning, optimization etc. Again, this is an optional component.


vCenter Configuration Manager for vSphere provides continuous configuration and compliance management.


vCenter Infrastructure Navigator  enables application discovery, dependency mapping, and management.


vFabric Application Director provides a multi-tier application service catalog publishing and publishing system.


vCloud Automation Center enables the users/administrators/developers to access pre-defined menus, catalogs, self-service options to request for IT resources and services. This HTTP console will also allow them to manage any already requested-service. To make it easier for your ease of understanding, it is something like the AWS Console in Amazon Web Services.


On top of these there is vCloud API (Application Programming Interface). In any cloud implementation, the API plays a very important role since the API compatibility defines who can talk to the Cloud and vice versa. The vCloud API currently is limited to (mostly with) VMWare and its partners. But in  future  don’t be surprised if it can talk to OpenStack or Eucalyptus or OpenNebula like Cloud as well. There is some  OpenStack support though, but primarily at the Hypervisor level.


A true seamless migration of virtual workloads from one vendor defined SDDC to another vendor defined SDDC is probably a distant dream today but I put my faith on this not-so distant dream. What are your thoughts?


(PS: This article was first published by Amitabh Dey in: http://Amitabh-vWorld.Com)

Sr. Virtualization, Cloud & VDI Consultant. Independent Evangelist & Blog Author of: Amitabh-vWorld.Com
  • infrastructure management
About the Author


Amitabh is a Virtualization, Cloud Computing & VDI focused IT Consulting & Architecture Professional. He comes with 17 years of strong IT Infrastructure Consulting & Architecture experience with leading MNCs like Microsoft, HP. He has designed & implemented several mid. to large scale IT Infrastructure Projects involving technologies from VMware, HP, Microsoft, Citrix, Linux. He is also an Independent Product/Technology Evangelist around Virtualization & Cloud Computing in the Asia Pacific region. His Blog: http://Amitabh-vWorld.Com generates lot of interest among the VMware & VDI community. His visionary articles on Cloud & VDI were extremely well appreciated around the world and received immense re-twitts.

Acclaimed Contributor.

Hi Amitabh, this is a good insight into the set of VMware products. A primer like this is really handy for folks to know which product does what function, and also gives an idea of what it means when somebody talks about SDDC.


Thank you for posting this in the vReality blog.


- Ramkumar Devanathan

Frequent Contributor.

Thanks Ram! The next one will be probably on the SDN or Software Defined Storage. Lot of interesting stuffs are happening around...