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On Dec 5th, 2017, VMware announced the upcoming release of VMware Cloud Foundation 2.3.  This release comes with many new capabilities to help further simplify the tasks of deploying, operating and maintaining a VMware based hybrid cloud.  In this post, I will introduce you to some of the more notable features in this release, to include the automated deployment of the vRealize Suite, heterogeneous server support, manual downloading of update bundles, support for using vendor provided ESXi ISOs during imaging, and support for new Intel Skylake Purley hardware.

Automated Deployment of the vRealize Suite

From its inception, a key feature of Cloud Foundation has been the tight integration of the core SDDC building blocks (vSphere, vSAN and NSX) into a unified cloud platform that is easily deployed on a validated architecture using the advanced automation capabilities of the VMware SDDC Manager.  With this we are able to drastically simplify the task of deploying and configuring a VMware based SDDC; a process that used to take several weeks, if not months, can now be accomplished in just a few hours.

With Cloud Foundation 2.3, this deep integration and powerful automation capability has been further extended to include vRealize Operations, and vRealize Automation (vRealize Log Insight was already included).  With this, the SDDC Manager can now automate the deployment, configuration and ongoing lifecycle of a complete software defined data center – to include compute virtualization, storage virtualization, network virtualization and cloud management.

When deploying the vRealize Suite, Cloud Foundation leverages established best practices as documented in the VMware Validated Design 4.1, to deploy an enterprise grade cloud management platform for the private cloud.

Heterogeneous Server Support

Prior to 2.3, Cloud Foundation required all servers in a rack be identical in terms of CPU, memory and storage.  This created an ineffective “one size fits all” approach to server sizing, and a potential for inefficient hardware utilization when combining different types of workloads in a rack.  With 2.3 we have removed this requirement and now allow combining different server configurations in the same rack.  This not only facilitates hosting disparate workloads on the same physical rack, but also helps to reduce costs and improve hardware utilization by allowing customers to more effectively align server configurations with the workloads being hosted. If I have an application that requires nominal CPU and memory but a high amount of storage, I can place it on servers that are optimized for storage.  Conversely, an application that requires large amounts of memory and low amounts of storage can be placed on servers optimized for memory.  And with heterogeneous server support I can run these workloads on the same physical rack, helping to better optimize rack space utilization in the data center.

Ability to Select Servers When Creating Workload Domains

The introduction of heterogeneous server support necessitated changes to the way servers are selected during bring up and when creating workload domains.  With different server configurations in the same rack, care must now be taken to ensure that only compatible servers (i.e. all flash vs. hybrid) are used when creating a workload domain, and to ensure that the CPU, memory and storage capacity is balanced across all nodes.  For this, the SDDC Manager now allows cloud administrators to manually select the servers that will be used with each workload domain.  Notification tips in the UI help to steer admins through the selection process to ensure the workload domains are balanced.

Support for Downloading Update Bundles Outside of SDDC Manager

A highly touted feature of Cloud Foundation is the automated deployment of software updates to the SDDC stack.  As updates become available they are first tested and validated by VMware to ensure ongoing compatibility and interoperability across the SDDC stack, and then packaged into update bundles and posted on a public repository.  Customers then configure SDDC Manager to routinely check this depot for new updates and notify them through the UI when they become available.  This has proven to be a very efficient method for not only distributing software updates, but for maintaining the overall integrity of the private cloud.

However, in some cases, security policies may prevent SDDC Manager from accessing the public repository in order to discover and download updates.  To help in these situations, we are introducing a new command-line tool with Cloud Foundation 2.3 that can be used to download update bundles outside of Cloud Foundation and then copy them over to the SDDC Manager where they can be applied.

The offline update tool can be copied to any Windows, Linux or Mac device that has access to the public depot.  The admin simply runs the tool to check for and download new updates.  Once downloaded they are then securely transferred to the cloud foundation repository where SDDC Manager is able to schedule and apply them to the configured workload domains.

Support for Vendor Provided ESXi ISOs

When imaging servers, customers can now leverage the “Modify Bundle” feature of the VIA to update the bundled ESXi ISO image with updated versions provided by hardware vendors.  This helps to expedite the deployment of future ESXi software updates when adding new hosts by allowing customers to quickly incorporate the latest ESXi image profiles and VIB updates published by their preferred hardware vendor.

Support for Intel Skylake Purley Hardware and Arista Top of Rack (ToR) Switches

VMware is continually working with server and switch vendors to certify new hardware for use with Cloud foundation, and this holds true for the 2.3 release as well.   We are pleased to announce support for the latest Intel Skylake Purley server architecture as well as the Arista 7280SR(A) ToR switches.  As always, be sure to check the Cloud Foundation compatibility guide  for the latest updates on qualified ReadyNodes and switches.

As you can see, this latest release includes many new features and capabilities that make it easier than ever to deploy, operate and maintain a modern VMware based private cloud.  Be sure to follow the Cloud Foundation blog for more information about how Cloud Foundation can help you in your journey to the hybrid cloud.