I talk to organizations every day about the great things VMware is doing with the vRealize Suite. One of the first points I like to touch on, is your organization leveraging vSphere tagging today. Most of the time, organizations ask what can tags be used for and how can tags be leveraged to meet operational demands. Inevitably, this leads to a conversation about building an operational tagging strategy and what that means to them. VMware customers can all benefit from tagging in some way.


Quick Background


If you are unfamiliar with vSphere tagging, tagging was introduced in vSphere/vCenter 5.1 and VMware has continued to build upon it with every release. VMware has started to integrate the vSphere tagging capabilities in the vRealize Suite. vSphere tags opened a whole new world of capabilities around identifying, managing, provisioning and reporting on the virtual infrastructure.




So you can tag objects in vCenter, what’s big deal? Tags are actually a great and completely underused tool in the virtual admin’s toolbox. But…what would you really use this functionality for? Good answer is its up to you! Less than desirable answer is that its subjective and up to you to decide that. The purpose of me writing this is to show you how to start this conversation and guide some decision making. Let’s start with some questions.


Q1: What are the organization’s needs for reporting on virtual infrastructure?

Organizations routinely ask to report on capacity utilization, operational costing, and compliance adherence.


Q2: When an IT Practitioner builds machines, how do they decide where to place those workloads?

It is pretty common to have purpose-built silos of infrastructure for scenarios like development, test, production, etc.


Q3: Do you have any operational rules to keep virtual machines in a specific place(s)?

An example would be DRS rules or needing to keep these database servers on specific hosts for licensing purposes. Identifying existing operational needs helps drive the tagging conversation and identify areas where operational rules or processes might be needed.


Q4: Does the environment have any organizational or regulatory compliance requirements that affect the way workloads are deployed, managed, and decommissioned in the environment?

Organizational and regulatory compliance are huge points to hit on when tagging is being discussed. Regulatory could be HIPAA or PCI and organizational would be dictated by middle or upper management like CISOs and auditors.


Now armed with some fairly straight forward questions, the conversation is ready to begin. Let’s look at how some answers could drive the results.




S1: Organizations are working to reduce operational costing of licenses across vendors and identified a subset of hosts that could be dedicated to database servers, but want to keep those resources in a larger cluster to have resources available in case of a failure.

Response: Organizations can leverage vSphere tags to dynamically maintain membership of DRS rules using the Business Intent functionality of vRealize Operations. vRealize Operations can help ensure that license compliance is adhered to, and makes it easy to report on.


vROPs Business Intent


S2: Larger organizations have tens or hundreds of VLANs, datastores, clusters, vCenters or Public Cloud endpoints and its difficult to make sure that workloads are being provisioned to the correct space.

Response: Cloud Assembly and vRealize Automation consume native cloud tags to help organizations build predefined logic behind the provisioning process to ensure that clouds (vSphere or Public) are easily consumed. Organizations benefit from ensuring proper workload placement without having users who are requesting resources to understand infrastructure design.


Cloud Assembly Tag Management


S3: Organizations need to easily group applications and other resources together for reporting on meaningful things like utilization and operational costs to management.

Response: Custom Groups can be used to group applications and similar workload types together for utilization and costing purposes. Organizations can also leverage vSphere tags to segment storage types and tiers to define different operational costs for each.


vROPs Storage Costing




The key to a successful operational strategy around tagging is to start with the end in mind. Nobody wants to redo or change a tagging plan six months to a year down the road.


Key Points (in no particular order):


  • Start at the end (have the end in mind).
  • Align tags to operational or organizational needs.
  • Start simple and build complexity as it makes sense.
  • Write it down and draw it out. Whiteboarding solutions is super helpful.
  • Communicate and collaborate. Get different perspectives from peers, management, and other groups.
  • Evaluate the plan over time and be flexible enough to adjust.


I hope these points will help you develop a structured and cohesive strategy around vSphere tags. Below are some links you can check out to get more information about vSphere tags.


Relevant Links:

vSphere Tags and Attributes

Cloud Assembly Tags Management

vRealize Operations Business Intent

vRealize Operations Storage Costing

vRealize Operations Custom Groups

The Amazing Power of vSphere Tags