How to Create a Private Cloud With VMware

Susan Asher | Wednesday, February 22, 2023

How to Create a Private Cloud With VMware

If you now or soon plan to operate a private or hybrid cloud, you’ve probably heard of virtualization and VMware. But what is VMware and how can it help you build a private cloud?

VMware is software designed to create virtual machines (VMs), which are virtual copies of computers, operating systems, and installed programs, created to maximize computing resources. You’ll find an easy explanation of virtual machines here in “The Pros and Cons of Virtual Machines and Containers.” VMs run independently of one another and make it possible to accommodate multiple operating systems and workloads on a single server with high performance and low latency.

Traditionally, physical servers housed only one application on one server. But with VMs, rather than running only one application on one server, you can create a virtual machine, install a software application on it, and install the on a server. A server will hold dozens of VMs, saving companies thousands of dollars on the costs of buying numerous servers for each application.

VMs abstract the hardware—CPU, disk drives, memory, NIC (Network Interface Card)—from their host server. The VMs each are created with their own independent operating systems and run isolated from other VMs on the host.

As well as creating VMs to house applications, you can create them to be used as a server, such as a file or an email server, or as an isolated environment for developing and testing code. But to create these virtual machines to run applications, you need to first replace the traditional operating system (OS) on the server that will host the VMs with a software OS called a hypervisor, a Type 1 hypervisor. The hypervisor allocates resources to VMs, meaning it manages the physical resources (CPU, memory, and storage). VMware’s Type 1 hypervisor is called ESXi. When it’s installed on a server, that server becomes a dedicated host for VMs and containers.

There are often scenarios where you want to keep your computer’s OS, usually for software development and software testing. For these cases, instead of using ESXi, you would use a desktop hypervisor — a Type 2 hypervisor — such as VMware Workstation. You would install Workstation on your computer as an application, which would allow you to build VMs on your Windows or Linux computer. In this type of scenario, your computer would not be dedicated to VMs. Instead, Windows or Linux would allocate some of their resources to Workstation. VMware Fusion is another Type 2 hypervisor, but rather than running on Windows or Linux, it runs on macOS. Type 2 hypervisors are typically used to create test environments or to run software that wouldn’t run on the native OS.

VMware is a virtualization and cloud computing software vendor that provides many components for you to run your private cloud in your data center using VM technologies. VMware’s core technology is its hypervisor, ESXi, which allows you to create dozens of virtual machines on a physical machine. The number of VMs you install is only limited to the number of resources you have on your physical machine. The more CPU, RAM, and storage you have on a server, the more VMs and containers you can put on it. ESXi is free to download and install on your computer to start building VMs. You can connect to ESXi over a web browser and start building VMs.

VMware offers a stack of products in addition to ESXi, which alone will allow you to build VMs on a laptop, desktop, or server. You’ll need another computer to connect over a web browser to your ESXi host. If your ESXi management network is visible, you input the IP address of the ESXi host, log in to your account, and start building things from there.

The VMware stack includes vCenter, which allows you to manage multiple ESXi hosts in a cluster or in multiple clusters. You could have hundreds of ESXi hosts inside a vCenter environment and centrally see and manage resources among all your hosts, clone your VMs, and move them from one host to another. You can also set policies so that if a VM goes down, it is automatically restarted on another host. Many of these features are based on shared storage and other resources (networking) among all your hosts.

While virtualization brings a lot of efficiencies to the data center, there are challenges, one of which is resource contention, or over-working a physical host. There will be times when you want or need to move a VM from one host to another. Without vMotion, you’d have to manually shut down the VM, unregister it on the current host and re-register it on the new host, which all takes time and requires a maintenance window for the application outage. vMotion lets you move a VM from one host to another while the VM is running, meaning there’s no need to shut the VM down. These hosts just need to be compatible and part of the same cluster. VMware DRS automates that entire moving process as it detects when a host has too much strain on it and when a VM would be better off being on another host. DRS will automatically move VMs among hosts based on the load. So, if a VM is using so much power that the host is struggling to give it the power it needs, DRS automatically detects that and moves VMs around the cluster to resolve the resource constraint. The administrator doesn’t have to monitor the VMs or move them.

Built into the VMware hypervisor is vSAN, which lets you aggregate storage devices within your ESXi environment and create a single shared data store across your entire cluster of virtual machines. vSAN delivers enterprise-class storage performance.  You can create storage policies for each VM, and if there are any deviations from that policy, you’ll get an alert that will show you what VMware is doing to mitigate the difference in the policy. If you need to grow storage, you can add more hosts to expand your vSAN datastore, scaling performance as you scale storage space.

VMware NSX is VMware’s network virtualization solution. As organizations move to a software-defined data center (SDDC) model, NSX delivers a software-centric approach to networking, including switching, routing, firewalling, IDS/IPS, and load balancing in a distributed architecture. NSX provides data center-wide visibility, simplified policy compliance analysis, and streamlined security operations, connecting and protecting your workloads wherever they’re deployed. Like VMs, these networks can be created, saved, deleted, and restored easily.

All of these functions and activities are coordinated through VMware’s vCenter Server, the centralized management platform for controlling your VMware vSphere environments, allowing you to manage virtual machines, multiple ESXi hosts, and all dependent components from a single pane of glass so you can connect and protect applications across your data center —including both private and public clouds — no matter where your applications run, whether in a VM, container, or bare metal.

Part of the VMware stack, Aria, provides customers with a graph — a total view — of all their assets to effectively manage their cloud-native applications and multicloud assets across cloud environments. This feature helps companies determine which apps should be deployed on which cloud and how to optimize cost versus performance. Aria also helps companies detect whether policies are being applied consistently across environments and provides federated access to manage users and govern their access to multiple applications.          

VMware Aria Automation and Tanzu Mission Control are VMware’s latest products. Aria Automation enables self-service provisioning and offloads manual tasks with advanced workflows and agile templating. Tanzu Mission Control is a platform for modern application management that provides a single control point for teams to more easily manage Kubernetes and operate modern containerized applications across multiple clouds and clusters. Aria Automation Orchestrator is a workflow automation solution designed to simplify the automation of complex IT tasks. Users can create workflows either by using custom building blocks initiated by the user, or by using third-party and VMware software provided on VMware Solution Exchange.        

To learn about using VMware for your private cloud, start out with a foundational course like VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V8]. ExitCertified offers a variety of VMware courses, including VMware Tanzu Mission Control: Management and Operations, VMware Kubernetes Fundamentals and Cluster Operations, and VMware Horizon 8: Deploy and Manage.

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VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V8]
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