Everyday Virtualization

First Impressions of vCloud Director

Messaging at VMware nowadays revolves around cloud computing.

In case you haven't heard, the messaging at VMware nowadays revolves around cloud computing. VMware released vCloud Director to pave the way to a cloud-based infrastructure, regardless of whether your cloud and my cloud are the same. At the VMworld conferences last fall, attendees were given plenty of messaging and demos on vCloud Director. In my previews thus far, my initial opinion is positive.

It's clear that VMware is doing one better than the competition in providing a full solution to go from here to there. To knock out any misconceptions, vCloud Director is not a "right-click and send everything to a public cloud" solution. What vCloud Director does is provide a fully integrated orchestration, policy definition and integration solution to a vSphere installation for the purpose of providing resources and capacity on demand. This can be done entirely within a private datacenter, or by utilizing ever-increasing features to send these workloads to a public cloud by using the VMware vCloud API and the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) virtual machine (VM).

vCloud Director does this by utilizing a number of features from VMware vSphere, with the value-add being the management layer. The core components are the familiar pieces we've come to know and love: vCenter and ESXi. While vCloud Director assumes that the underlying vSphere components are robust and designed for resiliency, the end product may not differ much from the virtualized infrastructure components we normally provision and install. We're still going to need to buy premium storage, the best server platforms and high-performing networks.

Networking will be the biggest sticking point for a lot of installations, as vCloud Director has a complicated networking stack. The other side of that situation is that it's feature-rich, as networking segmentation is one of the key design principles within vCloud Director. Additionally, the vShield Edge virtual appliance will be a critical link to connecting external networks if needed. vShield Edge can also be used in multi-tenancy configurations, appealing to those who want to keep workloads on their own metal.

Aside from networking, the vApp and vNetwork Distributed Switch are specific building blocks that make vCloud Director more appealing. These vSphere components become logical units in vCloud Director to provision the infrastructure resources that are consumed by tenants. The inner workings of vCloud Director are quite different from traditional vSphere components, however. The first starts with the vCloud Director server, which is only available on Red Hat Enterprise Linux with the initial release. It's also interesting that the only supported database for vCloud Director is Oracle 10g or 11g (Standard or Enterprise). The vCloud Director database is not overly large; in fact, it's quite small because it primarily manages metadata. This is different from the vSphere support matrix, as many organizations prefer Windows OSes and SQL Server databases for licensing and cost reasons. The other key distinction is that vCloud Director utilizes per-VM pricing, starting at $150 each. The underlying vSphere installation doesn't utilize the per-VM approach, however.

Since vCloud Director has been available, I've viewed it as a true acid test of the readiness for cloud computing within the current customer base. While elements of it are different and complicated at times, vCloud Director is still a complete solution to provide on-premises cloud computing by IT organizations, or off-premises functionality by public cloud providers.

[This is Rick Vanover's last magazine column for Virtualization Review. Going forward, he will continue to write a monthly Everyday Virtualization column online. -- Ed.]

About the Author

Rick Vanover (Cisco Champion, Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert) is based in Columbus, Ohio. Vanover's experience includes systems administration and IT management, with virtualization, cloud and storage technologies being the central theme of his career recently. Follow him on Twitter @RickVanover.


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