Category Archives: VMware Cloud on AWS

Mini-Blog – VMWonAWS vCenter Certificates

For the last several months, I have been working with customers as they upgrade their SDDCs. One of the more impactful Day 2 activities that occurs during these upgrades is a the updating of vCenter and NSX certificates during Phase 1. During my time as an Engineer, we would keep certificates for 3-5 years as a part of our lifecycle management as we were 100% on premises. In contrast, many cloud providers are beginning to set certificate expiration to one year. This a faster rate of change than what many are accustomed to who manage on premises datacenters. While VMC manages these SDDC certs for you, many customers have asked me how they can continue to pull the cert expiration info so it can still be documented internally. Here is a simple openSSL command that can be run via Github. Trying something new!! FYI, this command needs to be run via a Linux VM that can access vCenter via IP or FQDN. Hope this helps some of you!!

Day 2 VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC Scale Up…in Four Clicks or Keystrokes!!!!!

As customers continue to build their cloud strategy with a combination of VMware products and services, one thing has been heard loud and clear…”Make Day 2 Operations easy!” As customers continue to move and increase their footprint in VMWonAWS, the SDDC’s demand for management resources will increase. While the VMC Sizer is a great tool to help understand the recommended size of an new SDDC, there will be times when SDDC growth is too big for the management VMs to handle after the SDDC is deployed…kind of like the time when Sheriff Brody realized he was going to need something much larger to catch a Great White shark.

When an SDDC is created, two resource pools are created. One named “Compute- ResourcePool” and one named “Mgmt-ResourcePool”. Mgmt-ResourcePool (MRP) is VMware managed and is comprised of vCenter, 2 NSX Edges, and 3 NSX Managers by default. In order ensure uptime and performance, all resources in this MRP have reservations assigned so these appliances always have what they need.

For more information, Product Manager Vish Kalsi wrote a quick blog on choosing the correct SDDC deployment. In short, medium management appliances require 34 vCPU and 116GB memory to run vCenter, NSX Manager and other management appliances. Large management appliances require 68 vCPU and 240GB memory. Large SDDCs are ideal for addressing a larger density of workloads . Large SDDCs support enhanced network throughput on the NSX Edge appliance. VMware recommends large-sized deployments with more than 30 hosts or 3000 VMs, or if the resources (CPU or memory) are oversubscribed in the management cluster.

Previously, a VMware support ticket needed to be opened in order to convert a regular aka medium SDDC to large. This method was obviously not preferred by most as this is the opposite of a self-service cloud operation model. However, begging with VMWonAWS 1.10, you can now upscale your SDDC to large with just a few clicks….or keystrokes!!!

Start by logging into the Cloud Services Portal, select your SDDC and go to Settings > SDDC > Management Appliance. You will see your SDDC as well as the “Upsize” option listed as seen below.

Upsize Option within the Cloud Services Portal

The only thing left to do is accept the addition of hosts if necessary and understand that you can never go back to a regular size SDDC. Once Upsize is selected, the process takes about 2 hours to complete and you will lose connectivity. It is recommended to do this during a maintenance window.

Once complete, the Management appliances will reflect as a “Large”

Once, in vCenter, you will see that the NSX Edges have gone from 4 CPU x 8 GB RAM to 8 CPU x 32 GB RAM and vCenter has gone from 8 CPU x 28 GB RAM to 16 CPU x 37 GB RAM (only 12 of the 16 CPUs are reserved in this configuration). You can check the before and after in the VM summary as seen below.

Regular SDDC vCenter
Large SDDC vCenter

Now that the SDDCs have been upscaled, it’s onto bigger and better things for your VMWonAWS SDDC!

Effectively Planning VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC Upgrades

One of the questions I am often asked is now that I am using VMware Cloud on AWS, how do I go about managing my SDDC life cycle? The answer…..VMware has you covered! As of March 2020, we have made some significant enhancements to the Notification Gateway (NGW) that give you several options to receive updates from VMware Cloud Services regarding maintenance activities such as certificate replacements and SDDC upgrades to new releases. While the NGW can be leveraged in several different areas, my preferred integrations are with Slack and Microsoft Teams. Setting up these integrations are fairly straightforward. Look no further than William Lam’s blog for details.

Even if you have Webhook integrations setup, you will still get a notification email similar to the image below letting you know when your SDDC is scheduled for an upgrade.

Notification email from Notification Gateway detailing each phase of the SDDC upgrade.

It is imperative that you take note of the dates and times your SDDC is scheduled for each phase as your times will all be in UTC timezone so do your time conversions accordingly. When you login to your SDDC console and go to the maintenance tab and you will see each phase listed along with recommendations for each phase.

Each phase of the SDDC is highlighted below as well as details around SDDC accessibility during the upgrade. For detailed information, read my associate Tom Twyman’s blog and the SDDC upgrade notes found here. We continue to improve upgrade processes in the background so check back often!! There are additional considerations to make when integrating with HCX, Site Recovery and Horizon so be sure to understand the impacts listed in the read me!! Keep in mind that during Phase 1 your vCenter certificate will be updated and the NSX certificate will be updated during Phase 3. If you have other products and services that depend on vCenter, you will need to take the proper steps to accept the new certs.

While there are time estimates for each phase, mileage may vary during the upgrade. To make things a bit easier for you. I have included a simple excel spread sheet to help you plan your SDDC upgrade.

After going through several customer upgrades over the past two years, my top 5 things to do are

  1. Don’t forget about certificate validation afterwards!
  2. Plan your outages around each phase and best to be conservative. Allot for the full estimated time.
  3. Setup integrations with the NGW. While emails are nice, it has been my observation that people get too many emails these days and these notifications are often ignored. Pick a delivery method that will get your attention!
  4. Read the release notes as well as upgrade notes before your scheduled upgrade.
  5. Don’t panic! For some, giving VMware the keys to the car (SDDC) is unnerving, and they want to watch and be involved. Remember this is a service, we have you covered. Sit back and relax!

SDDC to SDDC HCX Migrations (C2C Migrations) Demo

VMware has had some disruptive innovations over the past twenty years such as vMotion, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), and Instant Clones to name a few. More recently, VMware released one of their innovation crowned jewels in Hybrid Cloud Extension aka HCX. HCX is an application mobility platform designed for simplifying application migration, workload rebalancing and business continuity across datacenters and clouds. I have been using VMware Cloud on AWS for quite some time and one of my biggest frustrations was not being able to seamlessly move workloads from one Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC) to another. In August of 2019, HCX released the preview for “SDDC to SDDC mobility”. I mention VMware Cloud on AWS because HCX is included with the VMWonAWS subscription and should be deployed and leveraged! For example, many VMWonAWS customers are using HCX for Cloud to Cloud (C2C) migrations as well as migrations from on-prem to cloud. HCX has many use cases as pictured below.

Last month, I demonstrated how to:

  • Deploy HCX in two SDDCs in two Availability Zones
  • Create a Site Pair
  • Create a Service Mesh
  • Deploy HCX IX, WAN Optimization and Network Extension
  • Configure Layer 2 Network Extension
  • Live vMotion (continuous ping across Network Extension to target SDDC)
  • Bulk vMotion
  • Protect VMs via HCX
  • Troubleshoot Service Mesh deployments including redeploy of appliances

For more info regarding HCX you can go to the product page here and refer to my previous post. Enjoy!!!!

Deploying a VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC End to End

For those of you who are ready to deploy your first Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) on VMware Cloud on AWS, there is a little bit more than meets the eye when it comes to the initial deployment. As a part of the VMware TAM Lab series, I demonstrate how to deploy an SDDC from start to finish, including the configuration of the VPC in AWS.

**SHAMELESS PLUG** – Subscribe to the TAM Lab YouTube channel. We are covering all VMware Technologies and use cases….including how to go about building your own home lab. Check it out!!!

Dive in!!!!! Learning all about VMware Cloud on AWS and HCX

Lately, I’ve been asked by peers and customers alike “How can I learn more about VMware Cloud on AWS?!” Many of us are finding ourselves in front of screens much more than normal these days so what better way to fill in some time gaps than by learning more about VMware Cloud on AWS and HCX?! While search engines are helpful, I hope my “definitive list” helps!!! If you need more, feel free to reach out!!! Happy Learning!!!

VMware Cloud on AWS

YouTube

VMware Cloud on AWS Customer Success YouTube Channel

VMware Cloud YouTube Channel

VMware Cloud on AWS Blogs

Nico Vibert – https://nicovibert.com/

Gilles Chekroun – http://www.gilles.cloud/

Ryan Kelly – http://www.vmtocloud.com/

William Lam – https://www.virtuallyghetto.com/

Tom Twyman – https://occasional-it.com/

Dustin Spinhirne – https://dspinhirne.github.io/vmcbook/

VMware Cloud Blog – https://cloud.vmware.com/community/blog/

Community Sites

VMware Cloud on AWS Blog Community – https://cloud.vmware.com/community/vmware-cloud-on-aws/

VMTN Forum –https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/vmc-on-aws/overview

VMware Cloud on AWS VMUG- https://community.vmug.com/communities/community-home169?CommunityKey=df5b4c52-4f7b-48dc-b5ad-ea0be799e128

Documentation

VMware Cloud on AWS Sizer and Workload Profiles – https://vmc.vmware.com/sizer/workload-profiles

VMware Cloud on AWS Documentation – https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-Cloud-on-AWS/index.html

Configuration Maximums – https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-Cloud-on-AWS/services/com.vmware.vmc-aws-operations/GUID-10A0804B-04F4-4B8A-9EBA-85169F533223.html

Getting Started – https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-Cloud-on-AWS/services/vmc-on-aws-getting-started.pdf

Operations Guide – https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-Cloud-on-AWS/services/vmc-aws-operations.pdf

Feature Walkthrough – https://featurewalkthrough.vmware.com/t/vmware-cloud-on-aws/

Hands on Labs

HOL-2052-01-ISM – VMware Horizon on VMware Cloud on AWS – https://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/lab/6542

HOL-2087-01-HBD – VMware Cloud on AWS – Getting Started – https://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/lab/6593

HOL-2087-91-HBD – VMware Cloud on AWS – Lightning Lab- https://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/lab/6053

Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX)

Blogs

Gabe Rosas – https://hcx.design/ THIS IS A ONE STOP SHOP FOR HCX!!!!!

Emad Younis – https://emadyounis.com/

Communities

https://cloud.vmware.com/community/vmware-hcx/

Documentation

HCX Overview – https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-HCX/services/user-guide/GUID-A7E39202-11FA-476A-A795-AB70BA821BD3.html

Hands on Labs

HOL-2081-01-HBD – VMware HCX – Getting Started with Cross-Cloud Mobility- https://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/lab/6352

NSX Inventory Groups and Memberships to Manage Edge Firewall Rules in VMware Cloud on AWS

I have been using this feature of NSX heavily as of late so I wanted to highlight the power and flexibility of inventory groups that allow you to configure firewall rules that best fit your organization. The grouping of VMs and network services within VMware Cloud on AWS allows you put VMs that have common characteristics such as databases, web servers, operating systems, IP addresses and tags together to more easily publish firewall rules. By default, VMware Cloud on AWS creates two primary management groups and a service inventory when the SDDC is created. The two “parent groups” as I will call them are the Management Group and Workload Group respectively. The Management groups are system defined groups of infrastructure components such as ESX hosts, vCenter, NSX Manager or any other management appliances such as HCX. Workload groups are user defined groups of Virtual Machines or IP addresses.

Network and Security Inventory Groups

As you can see above, I added sub groups to the Workload Group based on function (Web, SQL, etc.). Recently, I have been testing the Membership Criteria option as this feature leverages tags and can also group based on Virtual Machine names that contain or start with a defined string. To add a new group, select Add Group, name your group, and then choose one of three membership types, Virtual Machine, IP Address or Membership Criteria. For this example, I used Membership Criteria. Once Membership Criteria is selected, pick the member VMs based on one of the two criteria (VM Name or Tag). For VM name you can choose contains or equals to categorize your VM grouping. The tag criteria can only be leveraged by having the tag name be equal to the VM(s) that is defined. In order to leverage the tag membership criteria, the the VM must be already tagged.

**Public Service Announcement** vCenter Tags and Attributes are NOT manifest in Networking & Security in the SDDC. These tags can only be added via Virtual Machines under Networking & Security > Inventory > Groups > Virtual Machines. Right click on the VM, select Edit and add your tag.

For the sake of this blog, I have created several VMs with different names but the same tag to show how tagging is leveraged.

VMs with their respective tags

Once VMs are tagged correctly, verify tagging is working by going to the Workload Groups by selecting the group > View Members.

Web Server members based on tags.

Now that VMs are properly grouped and tagged, Compute Gateway rules can now be configured and published. Go to Networking & Security > Compute Gateway > Add New Rule > Name the rule and select your source and destination. You should see your newly created group in the selection.

To verify that the rule is applied correctly, go to Networking & Security > Inventory > Groups > Workload Groups > Select the group that was added to the edge firewall rule > Select View Reference.

Below is a demo showing how VMs (tagged “Web”) on different Network segments can all access the internet with one rule.

Refer to the Networking & Security Guide what was updated on January 27,2020. Lastly, if you want to see how to leverage the Distributed Firewall (DFW) to protect 3 Tier Applications be sure to check out Michael Armstrong’s latest blog!!!

My Guide for Passing the AWS Solution Architect Associate Exam

If you are reading this then you probably already have an understanding how fast Amazon Web Services rolls out new features and services. It’s impossible to know everything about AWS and I definitely struggled in my preparation for this exam. I set out to get certified almost two years ago but simply never could find the best time to take it. Truth be told, after rescheduling three times in 2018, I let my test expiration lapse because I literally didn’t have time to sit for it. In 2019 I was determined to pass the Solution Architect Associate exam as my 2018 failure was hovering over me like a black cloud. I am excited and relieved that I recently passed and I want to pass along some tips for those of you who want to be a certified AWS Solutions Architect. **Once I set a test date, I prepped for about six weeks.**

  1. Leverage AWS Free Tier – This exam was not easy for me as I spend over 90% of my time with VMware solutions and all my AWS exposure was after hours. That being said, leveraging the AWS Free Tier proved to be a lifesaver when preparing for the exam. There are some things that you will use in practice labs that may cost a few dollars but every cent is worth it. You will need hands on experience setting up S3, EC2, and VPC from scratch. The free tier makes it all possible with next to zero dollars in cost. My advice….look at as an investment.
  2. A Cloud Guru – Ryan Kroonenburg and team have done all of us a great service in making several AWS constructs easy to understand. The cost was well worth it. I didn’t get a membership but did purchase the AWS Certified Architect Associate course. I reviewed each session twice and went through the VPC, S3, Databases, and HA Architecture content several times. Make sure you understand all the labs!! I went through the practice tests as well but I didn’t quite find them deep enough to help me prepare. I had to find another test prep course…Whizlabs!
  3. Whizlabs! – I can confidently say that without Whizlabs AWS Practice Tests , I would not have passed the exam. Whizlabs provides great content that is similar to the exam and detailed explanations to each test question. I purchased the practice exam questions for under $10 at Udemy. As a matter of fact, they are having their Black Friday sale right now! DON’T TEST PREP WITHOUT IT!!!
  4. AWS.com FAQs – For S3, EC2 also read all about Database Services. There will be some questions that come straight out of the FAQs.
  5. AWS Certified SA Official Study Guide – I wouldn’t say this is a must have but for those of you who like having something physical in your hand to study, this will do the trick. I found some of the diagrams and summaries helpful.
  6. Architecting on AWS – This three day course helped me with better understanding AWS concepts and best practices. I don’t view this as a must but it was well worth my time.
  7. Practice, Practice, Practice – Understand the exam format helped me prepare. You will have plenty of time to answer all 65 questions if you practice beforehand. Understanding the concepts around VPCs and networking is a must. Also know RDS and DynamoDB inside out!!

As the VMware-AWS partnership continues to grow, it’s important for both companies to understand each others’ services. This exam was on the tough side but I felt well prepared by the time I sat for it. Preparing for this exam has definitely helped me in conversations with customers as they not only move vSphere workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS but also look for ways to innovate with AWS native services such as S3, RDS, Lambda and more. I highly recommended getting this certification. It’s well worth it!! Good luck in your studies and feel free to reach out to me if you have questions via Twitter @vSeanLambert or reply to this blog!

Bye Bye Spreadsheets! Hello (New) VMCSizer!!!! Part 2

In a previous blog, I highlighted Workload profiles and how they should be used in right sizing your VMWonAWS environment. Since my last blog, the sizer has been updated not only with a new URL but with several new features. One of which is that you can now choose either i3 or R5 instances depending on your workload needs. You will notice that when you select an r5 instance, you are automatically assigned 15 TB of AWS Elastic Block Storage (EBS) aka Elastic VSAN. For more information regarding Elastic VSAN, click here.

r5 instance type

Similar to the previous version, you will be able to see the results of your workload inputs. Another new feature is ribbon across the top that allows you get into the data!! Information is key when sizing your environment and this section of the sizer gives you everything you need.

Recommendation buttons that allow you to go deep into your data inputs and results

As a part of the recommendation, you can see below that the sizer has identified my SDDC to be storage bound due to my storage requirements. This gives me a good idea where I will need to grow going forward.

SDDC Recommendation Dashboard

With the continued interest and adoption of VMware Cloud on AWS come two topics that always come to the forefront once you get passed how cool it is…..HOW MUCH DO I NEED? and HOW MUCH IS IT GOING TO COST?! To get the full picture, you will need to capture the details of your environment. There are several tools available and luckily enough, Bill Roth from VMware highlighted these tools in a blog a few weeks ago. In addition to his mention of RVTools, which is very popular, I would also encourage you to reach out to your….shameless plug…VMware Technical Account Manager. They have an additional toolset that can help you right-size the environment. Take a test drive and size today!!

VMware Cloud on AWS – Identity Access with Microsoft AD

For years I have been Window (see what I did there) shopping Intel NUC, HP Microservers, Mac minis, and others to setup my home lab v 2.0. However, with the onslaught of Cloud Services, I continue to balk at the thought of dropping thousands of dollars every few years for new hardware, as well as the electric bill and management overhead that comes with it. With VMware Cloud on AWS, I wanted to see how I could create a lab environment and continue to use Active Directory for vCenter authentication. Due to not having an vCenter on prem, Hybrid Linked Mode (HLM) wasn’t an option for an identity source. VMware has existing documentation where you can see the options for Identity Sources. This blog will walk you through the setup and configuration steps I took to get AD working within VMWonAWS vCenter. Like with all things in Public Cloud, it’s critical to have your networking straight before you begin adding subnets, etc.

  • Create your subnet via SDDC > Networking & Security > Network > Segments > Add Segment
  • Login to vCenter with the cloudadmin account.  We can see the network segment is added in vCenter. Note that we cannot add networks from vCenter. We must use the SDDC Console to add logical networks
Networking View from vCenter

One of the great things about vSphere 6.7 and later is the additional functionality built into the Content Library. I have already loaded several OVF Templates and will deploy my Domain Controller from a Win2016 Std OVF template. For more content library goodness, check out William Lam’s blog here. I’m a huge fan and I recommend you use Content Libraries!!

During OVF deployment, place the VM on the correct network

With the Network Segment selected and IP assigned, the new Domain Controller will be able to communicate with the SDDC vCenter after a few more configurations.

Now that we have the DC on the proper network segment, we need to allow traffic to flow between the SDDC Management Gateway and the DC. To do this we need to create a Management Group. This is done by going to the SDDC Console > Networking & Security > Inventory > Groups > Management Group > Add Group. Add your domain controller to the Management Group with its assigned IP.

Once the Management Group assignment has been configured, we can now add a Gateway firewall rule to allow the domain controller to talk to the SDDC vCenter. To enable communication, go to SDDC Console > Networking & Security > Gateway Firewall > Management Gateway > Add New Rule. This is where adding the user defined group comes into play as we need to be able to select the group to add as the destination for the firewall rule.

We now need to allow communication via the DNS settings on the management gateway. We must remove the default DNS settings and add the domain controller(s) IPs so LDAP/AD can communicate with the SDDC vCenter. If we don’t change the IPs from default, we will get an LDAP error that the URL cannot be reached. Here’s a video that ties together the final piece of adding the DNS server and assigning the GlobalCloudAdmin role to the user I want to login to vCenter with the s2c.local domain credentials. In addition, you can read Nico Vibert’s blog that shows how to use AWS Directory Services as an identity source. Enjoy!!