Building VMware Software-Defined Data Centers

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By Valentin Hamburger
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  1. The Software-Defined Data Center

About this book

VMware offers the industry-leading software-defined data center (SDDC) architecture that combines compute, storage, networking, and management offerings into a single unified platform. This book uses the most up-to-date, cutting-edge VMware products to help you deliver a complete unified hybrid cloud experience within your infrastructure.

It will help you build a unified hybrid cloud based on SDDC architecture and practices to deliver a fully virtualized infrastructure with cost-effective IT outcomes. In the process, you will use some of the most advanced VMware products such as VSphere, VCloud, and NSX.

You will learn how to use vSphere virtualization in a software-defined approach, which will help you to achieve a fully-virtualized infrastructure and to extend this infrastructure for compute, network, and storage-related data center services. You will also learn how to use EVO:RAIL. Next, you will see how to provision applications and IT services on private clouds or IaaS with seamless accessibility and mobility across the hybrid environment.

This book will ensure you develop an SDDC approach for your datacenter that fulfills your organization's needs and tremendously boosts your agility and flexibility. It will also teach you how to draft, design, and deploy toolsets and software to automate your datacenter and speed up IT delivery to meet your lines of businesses demands. At the end, you will build unified hybrid clouds that dramatically boost your IT outcomes.

Publication date:
December 2016
Publisher
Packt
Pages
358
ISBN
9781786464378

 

Chapter 1. The Software-Defined Data Center

Originally the term software-defined data center (SDDC) has been introduced by VMware, to further describe the move to a cloud-like IT experience. The term software-defined is an important bit of information. It basically means that every key function in the data center is performed and controlled by software, instead of hardware. This opens a whole new way of operating, maintaining but also innovating in a modern data center.

But how does a so-called SDDC look like, and why is a whole industry pushing so hard towards its adoption? This question might also be a reason why you are reading this book, which is meant to provide a deeper understanding of it and give practical examples and hints how to build and run such a data center. Meanwhile, it will also provide the knowledge of mapping business challenges with IT solutions. This is a practice which becomes more and more important these days.

IT has come a long way from a pure back office, task oriented role in the early days, to a business relevant asset, which can help organizations to compete with their competition. There has been a major shift from a pure infrastructure provider role to a business enablement function. Today, most organizations business is just as good as their internal IT agility and ability to innovate. There are many examples in various markets where a whole business branch was built on IT innovations such as Netflix, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Uber, Airbnb, just to name a few.

However, it is unfair to compare any startup with a traditional organization. A startup has one application to maintain and they have to build up a customer base.

A traditional organization has a wide customer base and many applications to maintain. So they need to adapt their internal IT to become a digital enterprise, with all the flexibility and agility of a startup, but also maintaining the trust and control over their legacy services.

This chapter will cover the following points:

  • Why is there a demand for SDDC in IT
  • What is SDDC
  • Understand the business challenges and map it to SDDC deliverables
  • The relation of an SDDC and an internal private cloud
  • Identify new data center opportunities and possibilities
  • Become a center of innovation to empower your organization's business
 

The demand for change


Today organizations face different challenges in the market to stay relevant. The biggest move was clearly introduced by smartphones and tablets. It was not just a computer in a smaller device, they changed the way IT is delivered and consumed by end users. These devices proved that it can be simple to consume and install applications. Just search in an app store, choose what you like, use it as long as you like it. If you do not need it any longer, simply remove it. All with very simplistic commands and easy to use gestures.

More and more people relying on IT services by using a smartphone as their terminal to almost everything. These devices created a demand for fast and easy application and service delivery. So in a way, smartphones have not only transformed the whole mobile market, they also transformed how modern applications and services are delivered from organizations to their customers.

Although it would be quite unfair to compare a large enterprise data center with an app store or enterprise service delivery with any app installs on a mobile device, there are startups and industries, which rely solely on the smartphone as their target for services, such as Uber or WhatsApp.

On the other side, smartphone apps also introduce a whole new way of delivering IT services, since any company never knows how many people will use the app simultaneously. But in the backend, they still have to use web servers and databases to continuously provide content and data for these apps.

This also introduces a new value model for all other companies. People start to judge a company by the quality of their smartphone apps available. Also, people started to migrate to companies which might offer better smartphone integration as the previous one used. This is not bound to a single industry, but affects a broad spectrum of industries today such as the financial industry, car manufacturers, insurance groups, and even food retailers, just to name a few.

A classic data center structure might not be ideal for quick and seamless service delivery. These architectures are created by projects to serve a particular use case for a couple of years. An example of this bigger application environments is web server farms, traditional SAP environments, or a data warehouse.

Traditionally these were designed with an assumption about their growth and use. Special project teams have set them up across the data center pillars, as shown in the following figure. Typically, those project teams separate after such the application environment has been completed.

All these pillars in the data center are required to work together, but every one of them also needs to mind their own business. Mostly those different divisions also have their own processes which then may integrate into a data center wide process. There was a good reason to structure a data center in this way, the simple fact that nobody can be an expert in every discipline. Companies started to create groups to operate certain areas in a data center, each building their own expertise for their own subject.

This was evolving and became the most applied model for IT operations within organizations. Many, if not all, bigger organizations have adopted this approach and people build their careers on these definitions. It served IT well for decades and ensured that each party was adding its best knowledge to any given project.

However, this setup has one flaw, it has not been designed for massive change and scale. The bigger these divisions get, the slower they can react to request from other groups in the data center. This introduces a bi-directional issue, since all groups may grow at a similar rate, the overall service delivery time might also increase exponentially.

Unfortunately, this also introduces a cost factor when it comes to service deployments across these pillars. Each new service, an organization might introduce or develop, will require each area of IT to contribute. Traditionally, this is done by human handovers from one department to the other.

Each of these handovers will delay the overall project time or service delivery time, which is also often referred to as time to market. It reflects the needed time interval from the request of a new service to its actual delivery. It is important to mention that this is a level of complexity every modern organization has to deal with when it comes to application deployment today.

The difference between organizations might be in the size of the separate units, but the principle is always the same. Most organizations try to bring their overall service delivery time down to be quicker and more agile. This is often related to business reasons as well as IT cost reasons.

In some organizations, the time to deliver a brand new service from request to final roll out may take 90 working days. This means a requestor might wait 18 weeks or more than four and a half month from requesting a new business service to its actual delivery. Do not forget that this reflects the complete service delivery, over all groups until it is ready for production. Also, after these 90 days, the requirement of the original request might have changed which would lead into repeating the entire process.

Often a quicker time to market is driven by the lines of business (LOB) owners to respond to a competitor in the market, who might already deliver their services faster. This means that today's IT has changed from a pure internal service provider to a business enabler supporting its organization to fight the competition with advanced and innovative services.

While this introduces a great chance to the IT department to enable and support their organizations business, it also introduces a threat at the same time. If the internal IT struggles to deliver what the business is asking for, it may lead to leverage shadow IT within the organization.

The term shadow IT describes a situation where either the LOBs of an organization or its application developers have grown so disappointed with the internal IT delivery times, that they actually use an external provider for their requirements. This behavior is not agreed with the IT security and can lead to heavy business or legal troubles.

This happens more often than one might expect, and it can be as simple as putting some internal files on a public cloud storage provider. These services grant quick results. It is as simple as Register-Download-Use. They are very quick in enrolling new users and sometimes provide a limited use for free. The developer or business owner might not even be aware that there is something non-compliant going on while using these services.

So besides the business demand for a quicker service delivery and the security aspect, an organization's IT department has now also the pressure of staying relevant. But SDDC can provide much more value to the IT than just staying relevant.

The automated data center will be an enabler for innovation and trust and introduce a new era of IT delivery. It can not only provide faster service delivery to the business, it can also enable new services or offerings to help the whole organization being innovative for their customers or partners.

 

Business challenges:  The use case


Today's business strategies often involve a digital delivery of services of any kind. This implies that the requirements a modern organization has towards their internal IT have changed drastically. Unfortunately, the business owners and the IT department tend to have communication issues in some organizations. Sometimes they even operate completely disconnected from each other, as if each of them were their own small company within the organization.

Nevertheless, a lot of data center automation projects are driven by enhanced business requirements. In some of these cases, the IT department has not been made aware of what these business requirements look like, or even what the actual business challenges are. Sometimes IT just gets as little information as: We are doing cloud now.

It's a dangerous simplification, since the use case is key when it comes to designing and identifying the right solution to the organization's challenges. It is important to get the requirements from the IT delivery side as well as the business requirements and expectations.

Here is a simple example how a use case might be identified and mapped to technical implementation.

The business view

John works as a business owner in an insurance company. He recognizes that their biggest competitor in the market started to offer a mobile application to their clients. The app is simple and allows to do online contract management and tells the clients which products they have enrolled as well as rich information about contract timelines and possible consolidation options.

He asks his manager to start a project to also deliver such an application to their customers. Since it is only a simple smartphone application, he expects that its development might take a couple of weeks and then they can start a beta phase. To be competitive he estimates that they should have something usable for their customers within a maximum of 5 months. Based on these facts, he got approval from his manager to request such a product from the internal IT.

The IT view

Tom is the data center manager of this insurance company. He got informed that the business wants to have a smartphone application to do all kinds of things for the new and existing customers. He is responsible for creating a project and bring all necessary people on board to support this project and finally deliver the service to the business. The programming of the app will be done by an external consulting company.

Tom discusses a couple of questions regarding this request with his team:

  • How many users do we need to serve?
  • How much time do we need to create this environment?
  • What is the expected level of availability?
  • How much compute power/disk space might be required?

After a round of brainstorming and intense discussion, the team still is quite unsure how to answer these questions. For every question, there are a couple of variables the team cannot predict.

Will only a few of their thousands of users adapt to the app, what if they undersize the middleware environment?

What if the user adoption rises within a couple of days, what if it lowers and the environment is overpowered and therefore the cost is too high?

Tom and his team identified that they need a dynamic solution to be able to serve the business request. He creates a mapping to match possible technical capabilities to the use case. After this mapping was completed, he is using it to discuss with his CIO if and how it can be implemented.

Business challenge

Question

IT capability

Easy to use app to win new customers/keep existing

How many users do we need to the server?

Dynamic scale of an environment based on actual performance demand.

How much time do we need to create this environment?

To fulfill the expectations the environment needs to be flexible. Start small – scale big.

What is the expected level of availability?

Analytics and monitoring over all layers. Including possible self-healing approach.

How much compute power/disk space might be required?

Create compute nodes based on actual performance requirements on demand. Introduce a capacity on demand model for required resources.

Given this table, Tom revealed that with their current data center structure it is quite difficult to deliver what the business is asking for. Also, he got a couple of requirements from other departments, which are going in a similar direction.

Based on these mappings, he identified that they need to change their way of deploying services and applications. They will need to use a fair amount of automation. Also, they have to span these functionalities across each data center department as a holistic approach, as shown in the following diagram:

In this example, Tom actually identified a very strong use case for SDDC in his company. Based on the actual business requirements of a simple application, the whole IT delivery of this company needs to adopt. While this may sound like pure fiction, these are the challenges modern organizations need to face today.

Tip

It is very important to identify the required capabilities for the entire data center and not just for a single department. You will also have to serve the legacy applications and bring them onto the new model. Therefore it is important to find a solution, which is serving the new business case as well as the legacy applications either way. In the first stage of any SDDC introduction in an organization, it is the key to keeping always an eye on the big picture.

 

Tools to enable SDDC


There is a basic and broadly accepted declaration of what an SDDC needs to offer. It can be considered as the second evolutionary step after server virtualization. It offers an abstraction layer from the infrastructure components such as compute, storage, and network by using automation and tools as such as a self-service catalog In a way; it represents a virtualization of the whole data center with the purpose to simplify the request and deployment of complex services. Other capabilities of an SDDC are:

  • Automated infrastructure/service consumption
  • Policy based services and applications deployment
  • Changes to services can be made easily and instantly
  • All infrastructure layers are automated (storage, network, and compute)
  • No human intervention is needed for infrastructure/service deployment
  • High level of standardization is used
  • Business logic is for chargeback or showback functionality

All of the preceding points define an SDDC technically. But it is important to understand that an SDDC is considered to solve the business challenges of the organization running it. That means based on the actual business requirements, each SDDC will serve a different use case. Of course, there is the main setup you can adopt and roll out, but it is important to understand your organization's business challenges in order to prevent any planning or design shortcomings.

Also, to realize this functionality, SDDC needs a couple of software tools. These are designed to work together to deliver a seamless environment. The different parts can be seen like gears in a watch where each gear has an equally important role to make the clockwork function correctly.

It is important to remember this when building your SDDC, since missing on one part can make another very complex or even impossible afterward.

This is a list of VMware tools building an SDDC:

  • vRealize Business for Cloud
  • vRealize Operations Manager
  • vRealize Log Insight
  • vRealize Automation
  • vRealize Orchestrator
  • vRealize Automation Converged Blueprint
  • vRealize Code Stream
  • VMware NSX
  • VMware vSphere

vRealize Business for Cloud is a chargeback/showback tool. It can be used to track the cost of services as well as the cost of a whole data center. Since the agility of an SDDC is much higher than for a traditional data center, it is important to track and show also the cost of adding new services. It is not only important from a financial perspective, it also serves as a control mechanism to ensure users are not deploying uncontrolled services and leaving them running even if they are not required anymore.

vRealize Operations Manager is serving basically two functionalities. One is to help with the troubleshooting and analytics of the whole SDDC platform. It has an analytics engine, which applies machine learning to the behavior of its monitored components. The another important function is capacity management. It is capable of providing what-if analysis and informs about possible shortcomings of resources way before they occur. These functionalities also use the machine learning algorithms and get more accurate over time. This becomes very important in a dynamic environment where on-demand provisioning is granted.

vRealize Log Insight is a unified log management. It offers rich functionality and can search and profile a lot of log files in seconds. It is recommended to use it as a universal log endpoint for all components in your SDDC. This includes all OSes as well as applications and also your underlying hardware. In an event of error, it is much simpler to have a central log management which is easily searchable and delivers an outcome in seconds.

vRealize Automation (vRA) is the base automation tool. It is providing the cloud portal to interact with your SDDC. The portal it provides offers the business logic such as service catalogs, service requests, approvals, and application life cycles. However, it relies strongly on vRealize Orchestrator for its technical automation part. vRA can also tap into external clouds to extend the internal data center. Extending an SDDC is mostly referred to as hybrid cloud. There are a couple of supported cloud offerings vRA can manage.

vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) is providing the workflow engine and the technical automation part of the SDDC. It is literally the orchestrator of your new data center. vRO can be easily bound together with vRA to form a very powerful automation suite, where anything with an application programming interface (API) can be integrated. Also, it is required to integrate third-party solutions into your deployment workflows, such as configuration management database (CMDB), IP address management (IPAM), or ticketing systems via IT service management (ITSM).

vRealize Automation Converged Blueprint was formally known as vRealize Automation Application Services and is an add-on functionality to vRA, which takes care of application installations. It can be used with pre-existing scripts (like Windows PowerShell or Bash on Linux), but also with variables received from vRA. This makes it very powerful when it comes to on-demand application installations. This tool can also make use of vRO to provide even better capabilities for complex application installations.

vRealize Code Stream is an addition to vRA and serves specific use cases in the DevOps area of the SDDC. It can be used with various development frameworks such as Jenkins. Also it can be used as a tool for developers to build and operate their own software test, QA and deployment environment. Not only can the developer build these separate stages, the migration from one stage into another can also be fully automated by scripts. This makes it a very powerful tool when it comes to stage and deploy modern and traditional applications within the SDDC.

VMware NSX is the network virtualization component. Given the complexity some applications/services might introduce, NSX will provide a good and profound solution to help solving it. The challenges include:

  • Dynamic network creation
  • Microsegmentation
  • Advanced security
  • Network function virtualization

VMware vSphere is mostly the base infrastructure and used as the hypervisor for server virtualization. You are probably familiar with vSphere and its functionalities. However, since the SDDC is introducing a change to you data center architecture, it is recommended to revisit some of the vSphere functionalities and configurations. By using the full potential of vSphere it is possible to save effort when it comes to automation aspects as well as the service/application deployment part of the SDDC.

This represents your toolbox required to build the platform for an automated data center. All of them will bring tremendous value and possibilities, but they also will introduce change. It is important that this change needs to be addressed and is a part of the overall SDDC design and installation effort. Embrace the change.

 

The implementation journey


While a big part of this book focuses on building and configuring the SDDC, it is important to mention that there are also non-technical aspects to consider. Creating a new way of operating and running your data center will always involve people. It is important to also briefly touch this part of the SDDC. Basically, there are three major players when it comes to a fundamental change in any data center, as shown in the following image:

Basically, there are three major topics relevant for every successful SDDC deployment. Same as for the tools principle, these three disciplines need to work together in order to enable the change and make sure that all benefits can be fully leveraged.

These three categories are:

  • People
  • Process
  • Technology

The process category

Data center processes are as established and settled as IT itself. Beginning with the first operator tasks like changing tapes or starting procedures up to highly sophisticated processes to ensure that the service deployment and management is working as expected they have already come a long way. However, some of these processes might not be fit for purpose anymore, once automation is applied to a data center. To build an SDDC it is very important to revisit data center processes and adapt them to work with the new automation tasks. The tools will offer integration points into processes, but it is equally important to remove bottlenecks for the processes as well. However, keep in mind that if you automate a bad process, the process will still be bad, but fully automated. So it is also necessary to revisit those processes so that they can become slim and effective as well.

Remember Tom, the data center manager. He has successfully identified that they need an SDDC to fulfill the business requirements and also did a use case to IT capabilities mapping. While this mapping is mainly talking about what the IT needs to deliver technically, it will also imply that the current IT processes need to adapt to this new delivery model.

The process change example in Tom's organization

If the compute department works on a service involving OS deployment, they need to fill out an Excel sheet with IP addresses and server names and send it to the networking department. The network admins will ensure that there is no double booking by reserving the IP address and approve the requested hostname. After successfully proving the uniqueness of this data, name and IP get added to the organization's DNS server.

The manual part of this process is no longer feasible once the data center enters the automation era, imagine that every time somebody orders a service involving a VM/OS deploy, the network department gets an e-mail containing the Excel with the IP and hostname combination. The whole process will have to stop until this step is manually finished.

To overcome this, the process has to be changed to use an automated solution for IPAM. The new process has to track IP and hostnames programmatically to ensure there is no duplication within the entire data center. Also, after successfully checking the uniqueness of the data, it has to be added to the Domain Name System (DNS).

While this is a simple example of one small process, normally there is a large number of processes involved which need to be reviewed for a fully automated data center. This is a very important task and should not be underestimated since it can be a differentiator for success or failure of an SDDC.

Think about all other processes in place, which are used to control the deploy/enable/install mechanics in your data center. Here is a small example list of questions to ask regarding established processes:

  • What is our current IPAM/DNS process?
  • Do we need to consider a CMDB integration?
  • What is our current ticketing process? (ITSM)
  • What is our process to get resources from the network, storage, and compute?
  • What OS/VM deployment process is currently in place?
  • What is our process to deploy an application (handovers, steps, or departments involved)?
  • What does our current approval process look like?
    • Do we need a technical approval to deliver a service?
    • Do we need a business approval to deliver a service?
  • What integration process do we have for a service/application deployment?
    • DNS, Active Directory (AD), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), routing, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and so on

Now for the approval question, normally these are an exception for the automation part since approvals are meant to be manual in the first place (either technical or business). If all the other answers to this example questions involve human interaction as well, consider to changing these processes to be fully automated by the SDDC.

Since human intervention creates waiting times, it has to be avoided during service deployments in any automated data center. Think of it as the robotic construction bands today's car manufacturers are using. The processes they have implemented, developed over ages of experience, are all designed to stop the band only in case of an emergency.

The same comes true for the SDDC; try to enable the automated deployment through your processes, stop the automation only in case of an emergency.

Identifying processes is the simple part, changing them is the tricky part. However, keep in mind that this is an all-new model of IT delivery, therefore there is no golden way of doing it. Once you have committed to change those processes, keep monitoring if they truly fulfill their requirement.

This leads to another process principle in the SDDC: Continual Service Improvement (CSI). Revisit what you have changed from time to time and make sure that those processes are still working as expected, if they don't, change them again.

The people category

Since every data center is run by people, it is important to also consider that a change of technology will also impact those people. There are some claims that an SDDC can be run with only half of the staff or save a couple of employees since all is automated.

The truth is, an SDDC will transform IT roles in a data center. This means that some classic roles might vanish, while others will be added by this change.

It is unrealistic to say that you can run an automated data center with half the staff than before. But it is realistic to say that your staff can concentrate on innovation and development instead of working a 100% to keep the lights on. And this is the change an automated data center introduces. It opens up the possibilities to evolve into a more architecture and design focused role for current administrators.

The people example in Tom's organization

Currently, there are two admins in the compute department working for Tom. They are managing and maintaining the virtual environment, which is largely VMware vSphere. They are creating VMs manually, deploying an OS by a network install routine (which was a requirement for physical installs - so they kept the process) and then handing the ready VMs over to the next department to finish installing the service they are meant for.

Recently they have experienced a lot of demand for VMs and each of them configures 10 to 12 VMs per day. Given this, they cannot concentrate on other aspects of their job, like improving OS deployments or the handover process.

At a first look, it seems like the SDDC might replace these two employees since the tools will largely automate their work. But that is like saying a jackhammer will replace a construction worker.

Actually, their roles will shift to a more architectural aspect. They need to come up with a template for OS installations and an improvement how to further automate the deployment process. Also, they might need to add new services/parts to the SDDC in order to fulfill the business needs continuously.

So instead of creating all the VMs manually, they are now focused on designing a blueprint, able to be replicated as easy and efficient as possible.

While their tasks might have changed, their workforce is still important to operate and run the SDDC. However, given that they focus on design and architectural tasks now, they also have the time to introduce innovative functions and additions to the data center.

Keep in mind that an automated data center affects all departments in an IT organization. This means that also the tasks of the network and storage as well as application and database teams will change. In fact, in an SDDC it is quite impossible to still operate the departments disconnected from each other since a deployment will affect all of them.

This also implies that all of these departments will have admins shifting to higher-level functions in order to make the automation possible. In the industry, this shift is also often referred to as Operational Transformation. This basically means that not only the tools have to be in place, you also have to change the way how the staff operates the data center. In most cases organizations decide to form a so-called center of excellence (CoE) to administer and operate the automated data center.

This virtual group of admins in a data center is very similar to project groups in traditional data centers. The difference is that these people should be permanently assigned to the CoE for an SDDC. Typically you might have one champion from each department taking part in this virtual team.

Each person acts as an expert and ambassador for their department. With this principle, it can be ensured that decisions and overlapping processes are well defined and ready to function across the departments. Also, as an ambassador, each participant should advertise the new functionalities within their department and enable their colleagues to fully support the new data center approach.

It is important to have good expertise in terms of technology as well as good communication skills for each member of the CoE.

The technology category

This is the third aspect of the triangle to successfully implement an SDDC in your environment. Often this is the part where people spend most of their attention, sometimes by ignoring one of the other two parts. However, it is important to note that all three topics need to be equally considered. Think of it like a three-legged chair, if one leg is missing it can never stand.

The term technology does not necessarily only refer to new tools required to deploy services. It also refers to already established technology, which has to be integrated with the automation toolset (often referred to as third-party integration). This might be your AD, DHCP server, e-mail system, and so on.

There might be technology which is not enabling or empowering the data center automation, so instead of only thinking about adding tools, there might also be tools to be removed or replaced. This is a normal IT lifecycle task and has been gone through many iterations already. Think of things like a fax machine or the telex; you might not use them anymore, they have been replaced by e-mail and messaging.

The technology example in Tom's organization

The team uses some tools to make their daily work easier when it comes to new service deployments. One of the tools is a little graphical user interface to quickly add content to AD. The admins use it to insert the hostname, organizational unit (OU) as well as creating the computer account with it. This was meant to save admin time since they don't have to open all the various menus in the AD configuration to accomplish these tasks.

With the automated service delivery, this has to be done programmatically. Once a new OS is deployed it has to be added to the AD including all requirements by the deployment tool. Since AD offers an API this can be easily automated and integrated into the deployment automation. Instead of painfully integrating the graphical tool, this is now done directly by interfacing the organization's AD, ultimately replacing the old graphical tool.

The automated deployment of a service across the entire data center requires a fair amount of communication. Not in a traditional way, but machine-to-machine communication leveraging programmable interfaces. Using such APIs is another important aspect of the applied data center technologies. Most of the today's data center tools, from backup all the way up to web servers, do come with APIs. The better the API is documented, the easier the integration into the automation tool. In some cases, you might need the vendors to support you with the integration of their tools.

If you have identified a tool in the data center, which does not offer any API or even command-line interface (CLI) option at all, try to find a way around this software or even consider replacing it with a new tool.

APIs are the equivalent of handovers in the manual world. The better the communication works between tools, the faster and easier the deployment will be completed. To coordinate and control all this communication, you will need far more than scripts to run. This is a task for an orchestrator, which can run all necessary integration workflows from a central point. This orchestrator will act as a conductor for a big orchestra. It will form the backbone of your SDDC.

Why are these three topics so important?

The technology aspect closes the triangle and brings the people and the processes parts together. If the processes are not altered to fit the new deployment methods, automation will be painful and complex to implement. If the deployment stops at some point, since the processes require manual intervention, the people will have to fill in this gap.

This means that they now have new roles, but also need to maintain some of their old tasks to keep the process running. By introducing such an unbalanced implementation of an automated data center, the workload for people can actually increase, while the service delivery times may not dramatically decrease. This may lead to an avoidance of the automated tasks since the manual intervention might be seen as faster by individual admins.

So it is very important to accept all three aspects as the main part of the SDDC implementation journey. They all need to be addressed equally and thoughtfully to unveil the benefits and improvements an automated data center has to offer.

However, keep in mind that this truly is a journey. An SDDC is not implemented in days but in months. Given this, also the implementation team in the data center has this time to adopt themselves and their process to this new way of delivering IT services. Also, all necessary departments and their lead need to be involved in this procedure.

An SDDC implementation is always a team effort.

 

Additional possibilities and opportunities


All the previews mentioned topics serve the sole goal to install and use the SDDC within your data center. However, once you have the SDDC running the real fun begins since you can start to introduce additional functionalities impossible for any traditional data center. Let's just briefly touch on some of the possibilities from an IT view.

The self-healing data center

This is a concept where the automatic deployment of services is connected to a monitoring system. Once the monitoring system detects that a service or environment may be facing constraints, it can automatically trigger an additional deployment for this service to increase the throughput.

While this is application dependent, for infrastructure services this can become quite handy. Think of ESXi host auto deployments if compute power is becoming a constraint, or data store deployments if disk space is running low. If this automation is acting too aggressive for your organization, it can be used with an approval function. Once the monitoring detects a shortcoming it will ask for approval to fix it with a deployment action.

Instead of getting an e-mail from your monitoring system that there is a constraint identified, you get an e-mail with the constraint and the resolving action. All you need to do is to approve the action.

The self-scaling data center

A similar principle is to use a capacity management tool to predict the growth of your environment. If it approaches a trigger, the system can automatically generate an order letter, containing all needed components to satisfy the growing capacity demands.

This can then be sent to finance or the purchasing management for approval and before you even get into any capacity constraints, the new gear might be available and ready to run. However, consider the regular turnaround time for ordering hardware, which might affect how far in the future you have to set the trigger for such functionality.

Both of this opportunities are more than just nice to haves, they enable your data center to be truly flexible and proactive. Due to the fact that an SDDC is offering a high amount of agility, it will also need some self-monitoring to stay flexible and usable and to fulfill unpredictable demand.

 

Summary


In this chapter, we discussed the main principles and declarations of an SDDC. It provided an overview of the opportunities and possibilities this new data center architecture provides. Also, it covered the changes which will be introduced by this new approach. Finally, it discussed the implementation journey and its involvement with people, processes, and technology.

In the next chapter, we will dive deep into identifying tasks and processes for automation within the data center. It will discuss in more detail what level of automation an SDDC requires and why standardization is very important for automated services deployment.

About the Author

  • Valentin Hamburger

    Valentin Hamburger was working at VMware for more than seven years. In his former role, he was a lead consulting architect and took care of the delivery and architecture of cloud projects in central EMEA. In his current role, he is EMEA solutions lead for VMware at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). Furthermore he works as an advisor with HDS engineering on the Hitachi Enterprise Cloud, which is based on VMware vRealize technology. He holds many industry certifications in various areas such as VMware, Linux, and IBM Power compute environments. He serves as a partner and trusted advisor to HDS customers primarily in EMEA. His main responsibilities are ensuring that HDS's future innovations align with essential customer needs and translating customer challenges to opportunities focused on virtualization topics. Valentin enjoys sharing his knowledge as a speaker at national and international conferences such as VMworld.

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Latest Reviews

(4 reviews total)
Looks good so far .... :-)
Great book so far. I am halfway through and I have received great reference materials
One of the first books talking about VMware Software-Defined Data Centers. Well written!
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