A closer look at vSphere+ and vSAN+

At this stage, I guess that most readers will already be aware of the recent announcement around vSphere+ and vSAN+. I’m sure many readers are also aware that VMware is on a multi-cloud journey, with a goal of offering the benefits of cloud to on-premises vSphere deployments. vSphere+ and vSAN+ are some of the first steps we are taking at VMware to make this goal a reality.

So what advantages does vSphere+ and vSAN+ give to customers? In this post, I will attempt to highlight some of those benefits.

Centralized Management

First and foremost, vSphere+ offers a new mechanism for managing your vSphere infrastructure. Through a new Cloud Gateway Appliance, vCenter servers from on-premises environments are registered to a customers own dedicated VMware Cloud account. Once the Cloud Gateway Appliance is deployed and connected to the VMware Cloud account using the simple interface shown below, vCenter Servers can then be registered.

Customers now have a single “VMware Cloud Console” to manage and monitor all of their vSphere environments across multiple sites, giving vSphere administrators a consolidated management experience. Below is an example view taken from one of the data centers that has had it’s vCenter Server registered with vSphere+.

Having a global management view of your on-premises vSphere infrastructure brings a number of key advantages, outlined next.

Centralized Infrastructure Operations with Global Inventory Service

The VMware Cloud Console in vSphere+ provides a global view of all vSphere environments that have their vCenter Servers registered. This provides vSphere administrators with a complete view of events, errors and warnings across all registered on-premises environments. It also provides a global view of inventory (VMs, ESXi hosts, vCenter Servers) and resource capacity across multiple vSphere clusters and vCenter Server instances. The centralized view of the vSphere estate should improve operational efficiency by providing aggregated views of performance, health and resource usage, which can also help with forecasting and cost analysis. This centralized view of the vSphere estate should also help in eradicating “silos” of infrastructure which can fall behind on patching and version control, making them difficult to upgrade. In a worse case scenario, some of these “silos” can introduce potential security vulnerabilities due to running older versions of software. Having a holistic view of all vSphere on-premises infrastructure should avoid these situations.

Desired State Configuration for vCenter Servers

Desired State Configuration is a feature of vSphere+ that uses the concept of vCenter Profiles to ensure that all vCenter Servers in your infrastructure adhere to a defined configuration. By defining a vCenter Profile, administrators can easily monitor configuration drift across vCenter Servers and take appropriate remediation action if needed. A profile of the desired state can be created using a standalone JSON file, or customers can select a specific vCenter Server to act as the basis for a desired configuration. The VMware Cloud Console will warn administrators if any configuration drift is detected.

Reduced Downtime Upgrades

vSphere+ provides the ability to utilize a new upgrade mechanism for your vCenter servers, referred to as Reduced Downtime Upgrade (RDU). This new mechanism, already leveraged in VMware Cloud, stages a new vCenter Server appliance when an upgrade is initiated. The process copies the config and DB data from the original vCenter Server, and then switches over to the new vCenter Server. The only downtime is during the switchover step. Finally, the process removes the original vCenter Server. This reduced maintenance window for upgrades makes it easier for administrators to schedule updates sooner, resulting in much quicker access to new functionality and features.

VM Provisioning across entire estate of vSphere infrastructure

The centralized cloud console allows administrators to provision virtual machines to any of the vSphere infrastructures that have been registered to it. The provisioning mechanism allows the selection of the most appropriate infrastructure across the entire on-premises vSphere estate from a single, centralized, management portal. Note that with vSphere+, all workloads remain on-premises. There is no requirement to move or refactor any workloads.

Let’s take a look at some additional features of vSphere+.

A New Subscription Model

VMware has heard from many customers that they wish to shift to a consumption-driven purchasing model. vSphere+ allows customers to shift from the traditional CapEX model (pay-up-front) to a new OpEx-based (pay-as-you-use) subscription model. This is made all the easier with a built-in mechanism to convert existing vSphere ENT+ licenses to a subscription service. Customers can now “Pay as you grow”. This new model also removes the need for separate vCenter and ESXi licensing, which are now combined in vSphere+. Licenses are now managed from the centralized and secure VMware Cloud Console.

Tanzu Standard included

vSphere+ includes VMware Tanzu Standard Runtime Edition in the subscription. This is the vSphere with Tanzu package that I have talked about many times on this site. Note that the standard edition includes a number additional features over the basic edition, such as Tanzu Mission Control integration. It also includes a number of open source project packages, such as Prometheus and Grafana with out-of-the-box dashboards for platform monitoring. Once administrators have configured the Tanzu Supervisor Cluster, either developers or Platform Operators can proceed with provisioning upstream conformant Tanzu Kubernetes clusters via self-service. This is a nice feature to have included with the subscription, and should be of interest to those customers who are looking to manage both traditional VM-based applications and newer container-based applications on vSphere infrastructure.

vSAN+

Many of the advantages previously discussed for vSphere+ are also applicable to vSAN+. Customers can switch to a new OpEX subscription model, and implement a “pay as you grow” model for their HCI (hyper-converged infrastructure) deployments. The Global Inventory Service provides a visual inventory of HCI resources across multiple vCenter Servers, as well as a consolidated management portal for all alarms and events across the HCI estate. vSAN+ also allows VM Provisioning to select any of the vSAN datastores on any of the managed clusters on any of the vCenter Servers in the vSphere estate.

Cloud Services – VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery

A major objective of vSphere+ and vSAN+ is to provide high-value cloud services to on-premises workloads. One of the first cloud services that we are making available is the ability to protect and recover mission-critical applications. This service is offered to customers by leveraging native integration with VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery. With VMware Cloud Data Recovery, administrators can address ransomware by quickly identifying the point of recovery, and then  running recovery point validations. VMware Cloud Data Recovery is  simple to use, providing a consistent operating experience with automated failover and failback. VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery is an add-on service to vSAN+.

Some Considerations

At this point, I hope that some of the advantages of vSphere+ and vSAN+ are apparent. I do want to mention some additional considerations which haven’t been highlighted in the previous text.

vCenter Server / ESXi Considerations

  • On-boarding to vSphere+ is fast and easy. There is no dependency on the ESXi host version, so long as the managing vCenter Server supports it. If the vCenter Server needs to be updated to allow it to be registered with vSphere+, then obviously the official Product Interoperability Matrix would need to be checked to see if the updated vCenter Server continues to support that version of ESXi. If it does not, then steps need to be taken to update the ESXi hosts as well.

Cloud Gateway Considerations

  • The Cloud Gateway appliance requires 8 vCPUs, 24GB of memory, and 225GB of storage capacity. It can manage up to 4 vCenter Servers. To register additional vCenter Servers with VMware Cloud, additional Cloud Gateways will need to be deployed.
  • vCenter Servers should not be connected to the internet. However, the Cloud Gateway does need to have internet access in order to connect to the VMware Cloud. From a security perspective, no login or password information is transmitted over the wire. The vast majority of communication takes places over port 443, but other ports are needed for communication between the on-premises Cloud Gateway and the VMware Cloud Console from time to time. Refer to the official documentation for details.
  • Customers do not need to manage the Cloud Gateway after initial deployment. VMware will take care of updating the appliance as new versions are made available.
  • Only standalone vCenter Server environments are supported with vSphere+ at present. There is currently no support for VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) deployments or vCenter Servers that are connected using Enhanced Linked Mode (ELM).

vSAN+ Considerations

  • All VMs provisioned through the Cloud Console to a vSAN datastore use the default storage policy associated with that vSAN datastore. It is currently not possible to choose a distinct storage policy when provisioning VMs via the cloud portal. However, different vSAN datastores could have differing default policies if required, e.g. RAID-1, RAID-5, RAID-6.
  • vSAN+ customers must also subscribe to vSphere+.

Summary

To close, I do want to call out that this is just the first step of many as we continue on the multi-cloud journey here at VMware. Now that the framework is in place, expect to see more VMware products and Cloud Services appear over time, consumable through a new subscription model, and offering the benefits of Cloud to on-premises workloads. I am sure that there will be a number of sessions dedicated to this exact topic at VMware Explore 2022.

Customers should also note that they are under no obligation to adopt this approach. The perpetual license model continues to be available to those customers who wish to remain on that model. However, I suspect that newer functionality will now begin to appear first in vSphere+ and vSAN+ since multi-cloud functionality is our goal. So for those of you who always want the latest and greatest features, it is certainly worth considering this new platform approach.

I’ll leave you with a list of official links where you can find additional information about the VMware vSphere+ and VMware vSAN+ offerings.

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