Home > Cloud, VMware > Why VMware vCloud Director isn’t for today’s private cloud.

Why VMware vCloud Director isn’t for today’s private cloud.

June 3rd, 2011

Recently I’ve been looking further into what the “cloud” means and how cloud computing should be understood and if/how it should be aligned with IT strategy. No cloud discussion is brief so bear with me!

“Cloud” is obviously the IT buzz word of the moment and as a buzz word carries with it positives and negatives.

Having a simple word like cloud is good for IT in a way that it brings with it a fresh new way of thinking about how IT is delivered forcing companies to re-evaluate the way they do IT which drives innovation.

Unfortunately with such a broad, difficult to define concept it becomes very difficult for companies to effectively understand and plan a cloud strategy when there are as many definitions of what the cloud is as there are products.

Companies and cloud thinking

My thinking has been about how companies which have been traditional IT consumers look at the cloud. These companies typically have their own datacenters where they run their own servers / networking / storage. The majority of their IT is internal to the company. Yes they may have an external facing website which may talk to internal systems but in reality most of the IT they have is to support internal systems, be it email, file & print, HR, Finance, Sales, Risk, CRM, applications with associated databases, storage etc. These systems may run on physical or preferably virtual kit.

C*Os (pick any from CEO, CIO, CFO) are reading about cloud computing and being told by management consultants, vendors, trade journals, the news, IT staff etc. that cloud computing is the next (current) big thing and they are thinking if we don’t jump on this train now we’re going to be left behind.

They understand that cloud computing means transitioning to an adaptive IT system where things can happen a lot quicker than they currently do, where IT can grow to meet the needs of the business, where a lot of the hassle and bureaucracy will go away. On-demand IT, adaptive IT, agile IT are what C*O’s are being told the cloud will give them.

C*Os then face having to work out the difference between the public cloud and the private cloud and what it means for their business. Hopefully they realise that a private cloud is something they would build or transition to internally, using their own datacenters and possibly existing kit while public cloud is not something you build yourself but rather is the underlying service you buy from a public cloud service provider which hosts the datacenter and sells you resources from it, whether at a infrastructure, platform or software layer.

Try before you buy

The next step is to “try” out the cloud. The public cloud is actually the easier part of the cloud to try out as you can use a credit card and purchase a VM or cloud delivered software app and see how it works. Obviously things get more complicated when you need to link it to your internal systems but you can get an idea of what’s possible.

Transitioning your own internal datacenter to a private cloud model is actually far harder. What does it mean to run your own private cloud, how is it different from the existing datacenter you have?

If the cloud means adaptive IT, on-demand IT, agile IT then moving to a private cloud model is about getting IT delivered quicker than it currently is and moving the request process closer to the client which reduces beaurocracy (and therefore time).

If anything needs to happen quickly it needs to be automated. To automate something you need to have a process defined to create/update/delete whatever you need and a request system that ties in some approval process so whatever is being created/updated/deleted is allowed.

This is where the Service Catalog(ue) gets C*Os excited. Using a Service Catalogue, their own clients can go to a web page, click on a few buttons to request something which goes through some workflow for approval then does the actual creating/updating/deleting automatically and informs the client that their request has been completed. No need to call up a service desk and log a call which sits in a queue for days, or worse, fill in a paper form and fax it through to an IT department who has a month turnaround time.

Sounds great, and it is, but how do you try this out?

Well, you already have a fairly good virtualisation hosting environment from VMware and they seem to be big into this cloud thing. A quick look on their website and they have a product called VMware vCloud Director which lets you build a private cloud.

So, perfect, that must be the way to go, so you arrange a POC of VMware vCD.

The problem as I see it is that vCD is not really intended for the private cloud, it’s rather a public cloud product built for service providers.

vCD is all about multi-tenancy and its associated security which is not what private clouds are mostly about.

Here’s VMware explanation of vCD:

VMware vCloud Director is a software solution that enables enterprises to build secure, multi-tenant private clouds by pooling infrastructure resources into virtual datacenters and exposing them to users through web-based portals and programmatic interfaces as fully automated, catalog-based services.

There it is, up-front “secure, multi-tenant private clouds”. Security is always important but multi-tenant probably isn’t for most private clouds.

The private cloud is so much more than what vCD can offer. If you decide to try or buy vCD to create an Infrastructure as a Service private cloud you are only able to create a very small part of the cloud and actually miss out on so much of what a private cloud should actually deliver.

vCD is really made up of two components. One is the multi-tenancy, virtual datacenter environment that allows you to span yet partition your physical vSphere clusters to securely present VMs based on different services levels to your clients.

The second component is the service catalogue presented by the self-service portal. This is where clients request VMs from the service catalogue. Automation kicks in and deploys a VM in the right virtual datacenter in the right vSphere cluster.

Service Catalogues

This second component already presents some problems. First of all this assumes everything in your service catalogue can be done within entire virtual machines and their lifecycle management. Put simply, vCD’s automation is all about deploying VMs from templates and you don’t have to have vCD to deploy VMs from templates. If you want to add a new server to a web farm then yes, deploying a VM from a preconfigured template containing the web server OS and software and then having some additional script/automation to add it it to the farm and put it into a state to handle web requests is a quick and easy deployment mechanism. What if you want to add a new database? No, you don’t need a new database server, you already have a server with your database software installed, you just want to add another database to the existing server, vCD can’t help you. What if you want to refresh a UAT database from a live database? No, you don’t want to restore a whole virtual machine, just a database, vCD can’t help you either. In the vCD world you need to create many more VMs to give you the flexibility a service catalogue promises. This may impact your licensing and support costs.

So, maybe you want a service catalogue that can do other things:

  • add/update/remove DNS entries
  • add/remove web servers from IP load balancers for maintenance
  • grow/shrink/delete storage volumes
  • request & deploy software to a server/workstation
  • add a new vlan to a trunk port
  • enable/disable monitoring for a server/service
  • deploy a physical server / workstation

vCD isn’t going to help you with any of this.

If you want to properly realise the benefits of the private cloud and have a full service Service Catalogue, you are going to need some other sort of automation engine. You may land up having a service catalogue for deploying VMs and another service catalogue for everything else.

The whole point of cloud computing and specifically the private cloud in this instance is how it enables your company to move to an adaptive IT system. This is actually all about automation and putting the processes in place that allows you to automate the things that currently take a long time.

So, before trying out vCD you need to ensure you understand the benefits and also the limitations. Everything you want to test needs to be encapsulated within individual virtual machines. You actually need to have quite a bit of automation in place before deploying VMs from templates through vCD to even see the nenefits of the vCD service catalogue.

Just setting up vCD doesn’t give you a private cloud, that is so much more and any C*O who wants to “try” out the private cloud using VMware vCloud Director needs to be aware of what vCD can and cannot do.

So, what’s next?

Intially companies are going to start using the cloud in two ways. They are going to first of all use public cloud resources. If I was an IT manager, I’d far rather buy access to an HR/CRM/risk application for my users that is cloud hosted rather than having to run anything internally. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the hassle of upgrading and maintaining an OS + application that sits in my datacenter. If I did have to have internal IT presented to the external world, say through a website my company maintains I would also prefer to have this hosted with an external public cloud provider where again I wouldn’t need to bother with maintenance of internal firewalls + OS + application and rather just run OS + application or even better just application externally with some secure link back to my data or go the whole hog and have my internal data stored in the cloud.

This is where vCD may become useful when you start to link your datacenter to the public cloud and actually need to move VMware VMs between the two but most companies are not looking at that.

All this doesn’t however mean any less money for VMware. Instead of paying for VMware vCloud Director licenses directly, you buy services from a public cloud service provider which in turns uses vCD so VMware still gets its money. Companies are going to be moving more IT into the cloud and VMware has been very forward thinking in creating public cloud software just for this.

If you’re thinking of how to transition to or build a private cloud, you need to think about everything you want to get out of your private cloud and not just look at a small part of the bigger picture.

Categories: Cloud, VMware Tags: , ,
  1. June 3rd, 2011 at 14:50 | #1

    DISCLAIMER: I used to work for VMware’s cloud practice deploying vCD, but I’m now a freelance consultant working for a service provider and I do not speak for VMware.

    Some quick thoughts..

    It’s worth pointing out that vCD 1.0 is purely about IaaS, and in that it relates to deploying a VM container and compute/storage/network resource to the end-user into which they can develop ready-to-go solutions, rather than a fully-packaged end-end cloud solution (SQL/LAMP stack etc.)

    In-guest automation to the degree you discuss here is out of the scope of vCD and there are solutions (VMware and non-VMware to address this) PaaS offerings will integrate with vCD to provide the higher-level stack functions (DB instance on demand etc.).

    vCD provides an API, whilst workflow is a limitation of the 1.0 release I’m sure this will be addressed, in the meantime an internal portal or management solution could be used to drive the vCD API to deal with VM deployment and vNetwork instantiation whilst best-of-breed solutions are used to deal with in-guest app/OS/framework deployment.

    The other point of multi-tennancy is about resource control/isolation, and this is very important in the private cloud space if security is a lesser concern. vCD providers end-user accessible abstractions of vSphere resources (resource pools, clusters) rather than giving end-users vSphere client access to vCenter.

    vCD Org’s can be business units/departments and I deployed several instances in this way – it’s not just about public cloud, you don’t even NEED to deploy the vShield components – you can just present a flat external network and allow tennant orgs to deploy VMs onto it.

    Worth considering vCD is a tool for building a cloud, not a built solution – as everybody’s solution has different requirements – the future is integration with PaaS/SaaS solutions (VMware or otherwise via API) to build the complete cloud toolset.

    as of now as a v1.0 value-proposition I see vCD’s advantage as it’s VMware tech, it’s familiar, it’s easy enough to manage and deploy internally. Service providers are deploying public clouds using exactly the same product (SP or enterprises both use the same binaries there is no difference) so moving workloads from internal to external and back again – or a split across the two is easy enough – the hybrid cloud. http://it20.info/2011/02/vmware-vcloud-connector-on-the-way-to-the-hybrid-clouds/ and some PaaS (SpringSource) and SaaS and sprinkle some end-point integration (Horizon) that’s a pretty powerful next-gen architecture with a migration path from the current (and previous) generation of tech


  2. June 3rd, 2011 at 14:54 | #2

    ….rather than throw everything away and develop green-field apps purely for the cloud (ala Google AppEngine, Amazon Web Services) you can evolve in to it.

    (missed the last line of my comment when I pasted :))

  3. WoodITWork
    June 3rd, 2011 at 15:35 | #3

    @Simon Gallagher

    Thanks for the comment, Simon, I appreciate your input enormously as a virtualisation and vCD expert.
    I agree the there may be many installations where vCD even at 1.0 is a great solution if you need to provide internal multi-tenancy or even internal resource control/separation.

    I’m sure vCD is going to evolve into a far bigger piece of software with more APIs to connect into other automation solutions you have.

    There is a lot that is understandably out of scope in the current vCD but I worry that companies don’t have a good idea of what they need to have in scope to implement a private cloud and think that vCD is the only solution.
    An IT department/company that wants to “try out” or even use a private cloud offering is missing the point when they think that vCD is the only software solution they need to create a private cloud, there’s so much more that cloud computing can offer.

    When companies are ready to actually transition their internal VMs to an external cloud then vCD is going to be great. Migration is going to be key and VMware has already addressed this with vCloud Connector.

    The private cloud is not about a product and companies need to understand what vCD gives them and what it doesn’t. VMware is still the most innovative with its IaaS offering, I just don’t want IT dissapointed with what they get when they didn’t really undertsand the point of a private cloud beforehand.

  4. June 4th, 2011 at 02:00 | #4

    Thanks for sharing this. I think the last sentence in your comment is very true indeed “I just don’t want IT dissapointed with what they get when they didn’t really undertsand the point of a private cloud beforehand”.

    I’m yet to find an IT Department (specifically the Infra Team) which is given the luxury of time by management to properly review products and architect their own private cloud (after knowing the limits and capabilities of the products). Private Cloud is another layer on top of virtualisation. Adding layer means adding flexibility, but also complexity. IT should properly review and architect it.


  5. June 4th, 2011 at 02:39 | #5

    I have worked with and deployed VCD for a public cloud. I also work a lot with people on how to build their private Cloud.

    I agree with most of what you say. The issues is really around that there is SO much more to do to build either a private or public Cloud than just what VCD gives you, which is fair enough. In particular the service catalog features. VMware (and others) have tools to layer on top but they are all in the generation one phase.

    I do see multi-tennancy (of which VCD provides a later of, but most comes from the underlying stack of vSphere and vShield) as also very important for Private Cloud and not just being a Public Cloud requirement.

    Can VCD be used in building a private Cloud, yes. Can you just install VCD and have a private Cloud, no. A private Cloud is a lot more about how to consume and operate rather than just the technology layers. Most people at VMware will agree with this, maybe except a sales person.

    Great discussion.


  6. orzdude
    June 6th, 2011 at 08:17 | #6

    I couldn’t possibly agree more with what you have written about here. The main issue I see with vCD is that it really built for the business model of a traditional public (Cloud) hosting provider. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for your “private” Cloud within your organization, but as you said, most folks (especially those C*O’s at the decision-end) don’t really understand this and that they need a lot more to than what vCD can deliver at the moment.

    It’s OK for what it does, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of things at all.
    Pure IaaS hosting providers who don’t care about what and how people run their applications inside those VMs may get away with those missing pieces a lot easier than an organization trying to build their own private “Cloud”. (On a related note, I can’t hear that inflationary used buzzword anymore.)

  7. Harinder
    December 31st, 2011 at 07:28 | #7

    I want to specialise in Designing vCloud Director.
    Will VMware vCloud: Architecting the VMware Cloud [V1.0] course will be helpul for the same.Is it worth spending my own money in it.
    I am a VCP410 Certified and Solution Architect

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