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.
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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.**
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.
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!
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!!!
AWS.com FAQs – For S3, EC2 also read all about Database Services. There will be some questions that come straight out of the FAQs.
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.
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.
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!
This is part two of my blog on how to leverage Microsoft Active Directory as an Identity Source and have AD replicate between two VMware Cloud on AWS SDDCs. Now that I have Active Directory running in US East, I will setup a route based VPN between my US East SDDC and US West SDDC. For my lab, I am using a Route Based VPN to replicate Active Directory Traffic. To add Route Based VPNs to both SDDCs, take note of your SDDC Public IPs on your Management Networks, determine what you want your Autonomous System Numbers (ASN) to be, and determine your IPs for both BGP local IPs. To keep the BGP IP scheme simple, I chose 169.254.x.x/30 to only allow for two available IP addresses. FYI, There are two different number ranges for Public and Private ASN numbers. Public is 1-64,511 and Private is 64,512-65,535. Route based VPN makes things simple in this scenario since we are leveraging Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) where both SDDCs are able to exchange routes and leverage BGP peering. For a deeper dive into BGP peering specifically around AWS Direct Connect and VMware Cloud on AWS, check out Nico Vibert’s Blog. It will not disappoint!
Once you have the ASN and SDDC Public IP information, you can add your route based VPN by going to Networking & Security tab -> Network -> VPN -> Route Based -> “Add VPN”. For my lab, I have kept all the defaults for the tunnel and IKE settings. You may need to make changes here based on your security requirements. You must, however, select a pre shared key that will be used for both VPN connections to establish a secure connection. I have also left the Remote Private IP field blank. Once you click “Save”, you will see the status of the VPN and BGP Remote IP go to a yellow status as the negotiations take place. If successful, you should see both Remote BGP IP and VPN status turn green.
The next step in the process is to deploy a second Domain controller inside the second SDDC. Before you can promote the second DC, you need to first deploy a Windows Server VM in SDDC #2. Once the VM is deployed, you will then need to establish two-way communication across the VPN tunnel to be able to add the Windows Server to the domain and promote it. Although the VPN is up, you still need to configure additional Gateway Firewall rules in order for Domain Controllers to talk to each other across networks. Go back to Networking & Security -> Security -> Gateway Firewall -> Compute Gateway -> Add New Rule. For two-way communication, add two rules that allow traffic to and from the Domain Controller. Make sure that you have this traffic go over the VPN Tunnel Interface and NOT the Internet Interface. Make these rules for both SDDCs.
Before promoting your soon-to-be Domain Controller, make sure you can ping across the VPN via IP and DNS FQDN. The next step in the process is to deploy a second Domain Controller inside SDDC #2. I will not go through the process in this blog but the steps are similar to setting up the first DC in that you need to promote the server to a Domain Controller. There are several blogs out there on how to do this but here’s one just in case. Once added, you can verify Active Directory is syncing across SDDCs and Domain Controllers by running “repadmin /replsummary” via the Command Prompt. You can now add users, GPOs, etc to either side and both SDDCs will have the same info. To take things even further, add your new Domain Controller as an identity source to the new SDDC. This will allow users to login to either vCenter as long as they have an account on the domain. If you missed my blog on setting up AD as an identity source with VMWonAWS, click here.
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
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!!
re:Invent 2018 was a week full of exciting announcements that kept me running from one session to another as well as took me out of my comfort zone as a technologist. There was so much going on that it was difficult to digest every session let alone keep up with all of the services and industries that AWS is in. However, these are my takeaways…..
The AWS-VMware partnership runs deep! As previously mentioned, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger was the only other CEO to join Andy Jassey on stage during his keynote where they announced AWS Outposts. I’m excited to see how customers use the service and the use cases behind them. In addition to the keynote, the VMware Code booth was busy from opening to close as we covered IoT (Raspberry Pi with sensors), Wavefront, VMware Cloud on AWS, and more. It was great to see so much activity and help customers realize that VMware is heavily invested in the cloud and can bring immediate value as customers continue to develop their cloud strategy.
If you haven’t heard the words, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Reinforced Learning, or Neural Networks….you WILL!! With services like SageMaker, RoboMaker, DeepRacer, DeepLens, Polly and more, intelligent software is here. From a VMware standpoint, we changed the SDDC acronym at VMworld 2018 from Software Driven Data Center to the Self Driving Data Center as we are working to build intelligent software in products such as vRealize Operations, NSX Data Center, and AppDefense as well as services like NSX Cloud and VMware Cloud on AWS. I would advise everyone to get a base understanding of AI and ML. It will benefit you greatly as skills will need to shift due to learning being built into software. I personally believe that things such as host and server configurations will be a thing of the past. Infrastructure as code is here and we all must learn to adapt. I recommend picking up Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artifical Intelligence by Ajay Argwal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb.
Get outside your comfort zone! re:Invent hosts some of the smartest people I have ever been around. re:Invent is not the time to keep to yourself and only bounce from session to session. Go see the exhibit halls, demo booths and more. Although you may get your badge scanned countless times and receive pointless swag, you may come away with some valuable connections and insight. Take this amazing opportunity to grow your professional network!
There is too much to learn in one week! Consider re:Invent a conference that you will never be able to attend every session you want. The sheer scale of this event makes getting to everything impossible. However, with YouTube at your fingertips, you have an opportunity to review sessions you attended as well as see some you may have missed.
I know this post is a little late. I have been wanting to post this for some time. re:Invent was awesome and I can’t wait to attend next year!
Day 3 I attended a breakfast to celebrate the great things that VMware and CloudHealth are doing with our partners and customers. I’m excited about the multi-cloud functions the service has and how it will help customers get their arms around better managing their public cloud instances from security to costs. Here’s a link to VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and CloudHealth CEO Tom Axbey discussing the acquisition and strategy going forward. During breakfast, we watched the live steam of Andy Jassy’s keynote. The next 2.5 hours of announcements were announced at an insane pace as I struggled to keep track. Once Andy started telling the story of Hybrid Cloud, I knew something cool was coming. Low and behold, Pat Gelsinger (VMware CEO) joins him on stage to announce AWS Outposts!!! There are so many exciting things about this announcement. In a nutshell, we are letting users choose between on-premises servers and storage, which can be ordered in quarter, half, and full rack units. AWS Outposts can be upgraded with the latest hardware and next-generation instances to run all native AWS and VMware applications. A second version, VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts, will let customers use the VMware control plane and APIs to run the hybrid environment. After the keynote, I headed back to the Expo Hall to see what kind of attention the AWS Outposts message was getting and it was fairly packed! There’s a lot of interest around this technology. Very exciting! I spend a few hours there talking to several other VMware attendees at our booth and on the floor. It was awesome to see all the customer meetings. VMware and AWS are going to continue to innovate together, that much is clear.
My last session of the day was ENT313-S Running Production Workloads in VMware Cloud on AWS. VCSA and Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) all-pro Emad Younis and VMWonAWS Director Alex Jauch presented. Alex and Emad focused on the deep partnership between VMware and AWS that makes this service possible. If you want to know more about use cases, how the service is built, and how to quickly migrate workloads between on-prem and VMWonAWS, look no further than this session.
After seeing the VMware Code Facebook and Twitter accounts blow up on Day 1, I decided to check it out for myself. I’ll admit that we have a sweet set up with a barista and tons of tech toys to play with; in the form of Raspberry Pi and various sets of sensors. I didn’t have time to do the hands-on activities but I plan on coming back on Day 4. I spent pretty much all morning at the Code booth watching Brian Graf deliver various demos highlighting how to build hybrid applications with VMWonAWS and AWS. The coolest demo that set what hair I have left on fire was showing how to leverage various APIs with VMWonAWS with Lex and other services to use Slack to deploy a Photon VM.
Another fantastic session was an Eric Nielsen deep dive on Raspberry Pi sensors. It was packed! If you’re up for it, you can run through the lab here if you feel like going nuts. It only takes a few dollars of capital to get started.
After spending considerable time at the VMware Code booth, it was off to go really deep on AWS Direct Connect. This was great to gain a detailed understanding of what makes up Direct Connect (DX). Click on the link above to see the full session on YouTube!
Next, it was off to spend some time in the Expo Hall to do some SWAG shopping. I was on the hunt for socks but came away with plenty of other stuff. Hopefully, our spam filters are work will block most of the email that is going to come through. I really wanted the LEGO Millennium Falcon but that will have to wait….
To end the day I went to a session on Machine Learning on AWS Storage. There was a lot of content in this one. It’s fascinating to see how customers are leveraging data to make critical business decisions. The first half it a bit dry but there’s some good content if you want to dive in. Day 2 was a good one….14,253 steps (7.05 mi)…..using the shuttle and staying in one casino has its benefits.