An introduction to VMware Infrastructure Planner

VMware Infrastructure Planner(VIP)  (formerly known as vCloud Planner) is a new sales tool focused on showing VMware customers the financial benefits of moving from vSphere to a Software Defined Datacenter powered by VMware vCloud Suite . VIP uses as starting point the current  environment of the customer having  VMware vSphere and vCenter Server.

It is the next Generation of VMware Capacity Planner, a similar tool open for VMware parners only used for assessments of physical servers and show benefits of going virtual.

VIP is currently in open beta.  The assessment is initiated by VMware Parters or VMware Sales. They supply login credentials for customers.

VIP looks like to have a bit of a feature overlap with VMware ROI TCO Calculator. The current version 4 calculates financial benefits of various VMware solutions including vCloud Suite.

The image below shows a report presenting the savings on storage when selected VM’s are moved from SAN to local storage abstracted by VMware vSAN. This report is for demo purposes.

vcloud-planner-storage

Key features of VIP include:

  • Understand how components of the SDDC can drive savings in your environment: for this Beta release, the tool will focus on the benefits provided by vCenter Operations Manager, vCloud Automation Center, and Virtual SAN (VSAN)
  • Apply high-level cost assumptions to estimate total $ savings potential
  • Share results with colleagues – either online or through downloadable summary reports

VIP is deployed as a  virtual appliance. It needs vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS).   Customers who don’t already have vCenter Operations Manager can download a free “headless” (no UI) version as part of, and for the duration of, the vCloud Planner assessment.

The virtual appliance and vCOPS can be downloaded after the VMware partner created a portal on internet, and added one or more accounts for its customer. When the customer logs in, he will be presented with a url which downloads the appliance.

 Requirements

  • Customers must have vCenter Server 5.0 or above
  •  As part of the beta, customers must be willing to deploy a VMware Infrastructure Planner virtual appliance into their environment. This virtual appliance must be granted access to the internet. Proxy servers are supported (either unauthenticated or basic authentication supported)
  • Customers must be willing to deploy a UI-less instance of vCenter Operations Manager 5.7 (provided as part of the beta program), OR already have vCenter Operations Manager 5.7 deployed
  • Customers must be running English language versions of vCenter Server
  • It also needs the vSphere Web Client
  • vCloud Planner local collector appliance must be installed on a 64-bit host

To get results data collection will take at least 7 days. This is the minimum time recommended time for vCloud Planner to build up a picture of resource use in your environment. Collected data is sent from the customer site to VMware.  IP addresses and hostnames are not collected at all. Data is sent fully encrypted.

 Reports can be seen in the Internet portal. It will for example give recommendations of VM’s which can be moved from expensive SAN storage to VMware VSAN (using local storage). VSAN is suitable for workloads with certain IOPS and read/write skew characteristics. VMware suggests that VMs that record less than 2,000 IOPs per TB may be good candidates for VSAN. vSAN is currently in a closed beta with few public information available. See for some technical background my post here.

The report below shows oversized VMs. These are VMs configured with a amount of virtual memory which is more than required by the OS and applications running in the VM. By adjusting the virtual memory, physical memory can be saved resulting in a reduced number of required hosts.

vcloud-planner-compute

The “open beta ” means that anyone can sign up for an account with VMware Infrastructure Planner. The “beta” means that VMware is still actively testing and looking for feedback on the tool. VMware is  also continually rolling out new features in the tool – showing the value of more components of the suite for example, or  tweaking the UI to make it more intuitive and user-friendly. Bugfixes and feature improvements are enabled automatically in the online portal and in the  associated download bundle.

Gartner being strict on VMware vCloud Suite 5.1 & Microsoft System Center 2012

At Gartner Catalyst Conference 2013 in San Diego a very interesting presentation was given by Alessandro Perilli. He  currently leads the private cloud computing research in the Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) research division.

The title of the presentation is “Sizing Up Cloud Management Platforms: Microsoft vs. VMware“.  It can be watched online for FREE here. You just need to register. After registration you can watch three sessions for free.

This session provides an in-depth comparison between two cloud management platforms (CMPs): Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1. The session highlights the key differences between the two CMPs in terms of feature set and technical implementation.

 

To summarize the content of the session:

Gartner developed a Cloud Management Platform (CMP) assessment tool. This tool evaluates CMP’s using over 200 criteria. Gartner started to assess both Microsoft System Center and VMware vCloud Suite.  This research took about 4 months and included many hours spent in homelabs. VMware vCloud Suite scores slightly better, mainly because of its good implementation of charge back and life cycle management. Gartner hopes to force vendors in a certain direction. The criteria in the Reference Architecture Template  are a way to lead vendors to adjust their products so it has features the customers really want.

Hightlights of the presentation

This posting has a summary of what was presented in this session. I very much recommend to watch the session yourself.

Key questions addressed in the session include:

• Which vendor, among Microsoft and VMware, offers an enterprise-grade CMP for large-scale production cloud environments?
• What are the key differences in terms of features and implementation between Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1?
• What weaknesses in each product constrain an organization’s capability to address different use cases for cloud computing?

 

Alessandro starts with a slide showing the results of the assessment. VMware vCloud Suite (light blue bar) has a higher score than Microsoft System Center. But you need to know the context of how the score was determined before jumping to conclusions.

vcloud-vs-sc-slide1

Gartner compared the most comprehensive edition available  of both products . These are  Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1 Datacenter Edition and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1 Enterprise edition.

Both Cloud Management Platforms offer a lot of features which are delivered by various components. However not all components are a must in a CMP according to Gartner.   In SC 2012 Gartner did not consider Data Protection Manager and Endpoint Protection in the assessment.  In vCloud Suite Gartner did not consider Site Recovery Manager and some parts of vCloud Networking and Security in the assessment (because those are part of the virtualization layer).

Gartner reviewed the portions of the suites which are marked in yellow in the slide shown below.

In the picture below you see VS which stands for virtual services. This are virtual machines. The components shown on top of  the virtualization layer are the components Gartner believe are needed to construct a private cloud. The level of integration of the components tells a lot about the maturity of the cloud management platform. The other aspect showing maturity is feature overlap. The more overlap, the less maturity. Gartner sees feature overlap more as a marketing bundle than a cloud management solution.

vcloud-vs-sc-slide2

Gartner described 202 criteria to compare any cloud management platform on the market. The features are divided into three groups: required, preferred and optional

If a product scores 100% in the required features section it is seen as  an enterprise product ready for mission critical deployment on a large scale. Large scale means 10.000 managed objects or more. Gartner states the market of CMP  is highly immature. There are about a hundred cloud management platform vendors. The framework is meant to push vendors in a direction which Gartner believes is important for its clients.

A  feature gets a yes/checkmark  in the scoreboard if the feature is documented and if the feature is ready to be used out of the box. If a vendor professional services is needed to implement a feature , costing the customer money , it will be documented by Gartner as a no for that feature. So some slides show a NO for some features while the product does have the feature. Only the vendor did not have a written statement to prove it actually works.

The slide below shows the components in vCloud Suite and System Center and how they map. In quite a few categories there is an overlap of features delivered by vCloud Director and vCloud Automation Center (vCAC pronounced as vCAKE)

The foundation of vCAC is based on DynamicOps Cloud Automation Center 4.5 software. DynamicOPS  was acquired by VMware in July 2012. The current version of vCAC is 5.1.

DynamicOps and vCloud Director used to be competitors. Now they are part of the same suite. Hence the overlap in features.

vCAC enables automated provisioning of both virtual machines and physical servers (including the guest operating system). Provisioning of both on-premises and cloud infrastructures is supported. vCAC enables authorized end-users to quickly have access to servers without IT having to perform the provisioning. Provisioning is so reduced from days to minutes. More on vCAC in my post here.

vcloud-vs-sc-slide3

In the remaining part of the presentation Alessandro discusses some of the categories and how they scored.

VMware has a clear lead in chargeback, life cycle management  and service catalog category when compared to System Center.

Mind however VMware Chargeback Manager only supports vCloud Director! It does not support VMware  vCloud Automation Center.

vcloud-vs-sc-slide6vcloud-vs-sc-slide7

The integration of SC Configuration Manager with other components of SC is not exceptional and there is a lot room for improvement.

Lifecycle Management is an extremely important category. The way Lifecycle Management is implemented in vCAC is very wel done compared to Microsoft SC. Gartner is less positive about life cycle management of vCloud Director. Implementation is done in a totally different way than vCAC. So it is important to understand that difference if you are going to upgrade from vCloud Director to vCAC. You will need to learn again how to manage Life Cycle management.

The Platform category has the worst score  for VMware because they have no checkmarks in the required features. They do offer most of the features listed in this category. However they get a NO for all features. This is because Gartner only gives a Yes when features applies to all components of the platfrom.  Support for mainstream operating systems is not uniform across all components of the vCloud Suite (and in lesser extent in SC as well). Also  components of the vCloud Suite use different database technologies. So  one component supports Oracle and  Progress databases while the other only supports only SQL Server. This means the customer has to manage several database soltions.  So because the lack of uniformity VMware vCloud does not get a single Yes in this category.

Gartner confirms what former VMware CTO Steve Herrod has told an Italian VMUG meeting in 2012 that the  VMware’s cloud infrastructure suite is still only loosely integrated and that the company has plans to do better.
See this post at the Register titled VMware CTO reveals future directions in VMUG Speech in Italy says acquired techs ‘don’t work well enough together yet’
Also VMware did not provide written support statement for some of the features in this category. Another requirement to get a checkmark.

vcloud-vs-sc-slide8

One of the last slides of the presentation is Recommendations.

vcloud-vs-sc-slide9GIF

One of the recommendations is:  to take your time. Building a prive cloud is not an easy task to perform. Zero to cloud in 20 minutes as some vendor says is a dream. Organizations will start to implement one or max two components of the suite and add more later on. Give priority to implementation of the features you require.

Gartner already has a paper describing SC 2012 . It is titled Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1: In-depth Assessment for Cloud Management. Written by Alessandro Perilli (G00235076). More information on this 69 pages paper here. For VMware vCloud Suite the paper will be released by Gartner around mid august 2013.

Gartner sees a growing interest in SC2012 especially by customers of which VMware Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) is about to expire. Those customers are starting to look around for alternatives. Gartner also sees a good penetration of the market of the DynamicOps  (now VMware vCAC) product in enterprises.
Customers using VMware vCloud Director ran into limitations of the product over time and start looking for alternatives.
The long term stratey of cloud management platform vendors is to replace individual components customers already use by their own solutions. Contrary to what vendors tell, the integration with other vendor solutions is not so good. Think about integration of CMP with Servicedesk tooling or Self Service portals.

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