VMware Cloud Foundation - A Technical Overview
While I was studying for the VMware Cloud Foundation Specialist certification, I realized that there is no one-pager available that gives you a short technical explanation of VMware Cloud Foundation.
What is VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF)?
VMware Cloud Foundation is a hybrid cloud platform that provides a full-stack hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) that is made for modernizing data centers and deploying modern container-based applications. VCF integrates different components like vSphere (compute), vSAN (storage), NSX (networking) and some parts of the vRealize Suite in a HCI solution with infrastructure automation and software lifecycle management. The idea of VCF follows a standardized, automated and validated approach that simplifies the management of all the needed software-defined infrastructure resources.
This standardized and automated software stack provides customers consistent infrastructure and operations in a cloud operating model that can be deployed on-premises, at the edge or public cloud.
Cloud Foundation has Tanzu Standard integrated to provide a unified platform that lets virtual machines (VMs), Kubernetes and containers co-exist on the same platform.
Note: The Tanzu Standard Edition is included in the VCF Standard, Advanced and Enterprise edition
What software is being delivered in Cloud Foundation?
The BoM (bill of materials) is changing with each VCF release. Let me take the VCF 4.3 release as example to list the components and software versions:
- VMware SDDC Manager 4.3
- vSphere 7.0 Update 2a with Tanzu
- vCenter Server 7.0 P03
- vSAN 7.0 Update 2
- NSX-T 3.1.3
- VMware Workspace ONE Access 3.3.5
- vRealize Log Insight 8.4
- vRealize Operations 8.4
- vRealize Automation 8.4.1
- (vRealize Network Insight)
Note: VCF 4.3 deploys vRealize Lifecycle Manager (VRSLCM) 8.4.1, which then deploys and provides ongoing lifecycle management for other vRealize components. Currently, vRealize Network Insight needs to be imported manually into VRSLCM and then deployed.
Which VMware Cloud Foundation editions are available?
A VCF comparison matrix can be found here.
VMware Cloud Foundation Architecture
VCF is made for greenfield deployments (brownfield not supported) and supports two different architecture models:
- Standard Architecture
- Consolidated Architecture
The standard architecture separates management workloads and lets them run on a dedicated management workload domain. Customer workloads are deployed on a separate virtual infrastructure workload domain (VI workload domain). Each workload domain is managed by a separate vCenter Server instance, which allows autonomous licensing and lifecycle management.
Note: The standard architecture is the recommended model, because it separates management workloads from customers workloads.
Customers with a small environment (or a PoC) can start with a consolidated architecture. This allows you to run customer and management workloads together on the same workload domain (WLD).
Note: The management workload domain's default cluster datastore must use vSAN. Other WLDs can use vSAN, NFS, FC and vVols for the principal storage.
Does VCF provide flexible workload domain sizing?
Yes, that's possible. You can license the WLDs based on your needs and use the editions that make the most sense depending on your use cases.
How many physical nodes are required to deploy VMware Cloud Foundation?
A minimum of four physical nodes is required to start in a consolidated architecture or to build your management workload domain. Four nodes are required to ensure that the environment can tolerate a failure while another node is being updated.
VI workload domains require a minimum of three nodes.
This means, to start with a standard architecture, you need to have the requirements (and money) to start with at least seven physical nodes.
What are the minimum hardware requirements?
These minimum specs have been listed for the management WLD since VCF 4.0 (September 2020):
What about edge/remote use cases?
When you would like to deploy VMware Cloud Foundation workload domains at a remote site, you can deploy so-called "VCF Remote Clusters". Those remote workload domains are managed by the VCF instance at the central site and you can perform the same full-stack lifecycle management for the remote sites from the central SDDC Manager.
Prerequisites to deploy remote clusters can be found here.
Does VCF support HCI Mesh?
Yes. VMware Cloud Foundation 4.2 and later supports sharing remote datastores with HCI Mesh for VI workload domains.
HCI Mesh is a software-based approach for disaggregation of compute and storage resources in vSAN. HCI Mesh brings together multiple independent vSAN clusters by enabling cross-cluster utilization of remote datastore capacity within vCenter Server. HCI Mesh enables you to efficiently utilize and consume data center resources, which provides simple storage management at scale.
What is SDDC Manager?
SDDC Manager is a preconfigured virtual appliance that is deployed in the management workload domain for creating workload domains, provisioning additional virtual infrastructure and lifecycle management of all the software-defined data center (SDDC) management components.