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Category: NSX/SDDC (Page 3 of 6)

Hybrid Cloud monitoring with VMware vRealize Operations

Applications and the underlying infrastructure, be it public, private or hybrid cloud are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Because of this, the way in which we monitor and observe these environments requires more sophisticated tools. In this blog post, we look at vRealize Operations and how it can be a facilitator of true hybrid cloud monitoring.

What is vRealize Operations?

vRealize Operations forms part of the overall vRealize suite from VMware – a collection of products targeted to accommodate cloud management and automation. In particular, vRealize Operations, as the name implies, primarily caters to operations management with full visibility across physical, virtual and cloud-based environments. The anatomy of vRealize Operations is depicted below

 

Integrated Cloud Operations Console – A single, unified frontend to access, modify and view all related vRealize Operations components.

Integrated Management Disciplines – vRealize Operations has built-in intelligence to assimilate, dissect and report back on a number of key operational metrics pertaining to performance, capacity, planning and more. Essentially, vRealize Operations “learns” about your environment and is able to make recommendations, predictions and much more based on your specific workloads.

Platform Services – vRealize Operations is able to perform a number of platform management disciplines based on your specific environment. As an example, vRealize Operations can automate the addition of virtual machine memory based on monitored load, therefore proactively addressing potential issues before they surface.

Extensibility – Available from the VMware Marketplace, Management Packs extend the functionality of vRealize Operations. Examples include:

  • Microsoft Azure Management Pack from Blue Medora
  • AWS Management Pack from VMware
  • Docker Management Pack from Blue Medora
  • Dell | EMC Management Pack from Blue Medora
  • vRealize Operations Compliance Pack for PCI from VMware

The examples above demonstrate vRealize Operation’s capability to monitor AWS and Azure environments in addition to on-premises workloads, making vRealize Operations a true platform for Hybrid Cloud monitoring and operations management

Practical Example – Cluster Monitoring / Troubleshooting

In this example, we leverage one of the vRealize Operation’s built-in dashboards to check the performance of a specific cluster. A dashboard in vRealize operations terminology is a collection of objects and their state, represented in a visual fashion.

 

One of the ways vRealize understands the underlying environment is to establish and map dependencies in a logical manner. In this example, we have a top-level datacentre object (ISH), which child objects are decedents of (Cluster and hosts) this dashboard identifies key aspects of this cluster in a single page:

  • Cluster activity / utilisation
  • Health state of associated objects
  • CPU contention information
  • Memory contention information
  • Disk latency information

Without vRealize Operations it would be common for an administrator to try and collate these metrics manually, looking at individual performance charts, DRS scheduling information, and vCenter health alarms. However, with vRealize operations, this data is collected and centralised for easy and effortless exposure.

 

Practical Example – Workload Planning

In this example, we have an upcoming project that we want to forecast into our environment, particularly around disk space demand. We facilitate this by creating a “Project” in vRealize Operations, but before that, let’s look at the project UI in a bit more detail:

 

We can access this section by navigating to Environment > vSphere Object. At which point we can select the resource we’re interested in forecasting into. The chart in the middle projects the disk space demand for this specific vSphere object (a cluster, in this example). Note how we have an incline in disk space demand, which is typical of a production environment, however, we are within capacity for the time period specified (90 days).

To add a project, we click the green “plus” icon below the chart:

 

Next, we fill in details pertaining to the demand. In this case, I’m adding demand in the form of 5 virtual machines and I’m populating the specification of these VM’s based on an existing VM in my environment with an implementation date of June 19th.

 

 

If we add this project to the forecast chart, the chart changes to accommodate this change in our environment:

 

 

By adding this project we have obviously created more demand, consequently, the date in which our disk space resources will exhaust has been expedited.

By having this knowledge we can plan our capacity requirements ahead of time. In this example, I decide to add another project to add resources prior to the commissioning of the aforementioned VM’s:

Because we can combine projects into a single chart, we can see based on observed metrics what effect adding demand and capacity to our environment has.

This is one of a vast number of features in vRealize Operations.  vRealize Operations Manager can be an incredibly useful tool to have for a number of reasons. Its intelligent analytics, a breath of extensibility options and unified experience make it a compelling experience for modern cloud-based operations

 

Understanding Data Center traffic flow using NSX-V capabilities

The defining characteristic of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), as the name implies, is to bring the intelligence and operations of various datacenter functions into software. This type of integration provides us with the ability to gain insights and analytics in a much more controlled, tightly integrated fashion.

VMware NSX is the market leader in network virtualisation. In this post, we have a look at a selection of tools which come with NSX, enabling a greater understanding of exactly what is transpiring in our NSX environment.

 

What we do now

Before diving into NSX-V traffic flow capabilities, let’s take a step back into how some organisations may approach identifying traffic flows currently by taking a simple example issue:

“Server A can’t talk to Server B on port 8443”

In this example, we assume that Server B is listening on port 8443.

Here are a few tools/methods that can be used to help identify the root cause

 

What these tools/methods have in common are:

 

  • Disjointed – Treated as separate, discrete exercises.
  • Isolated – Requires specific tools/skillsets.
  • Decentralised – Analysis requires output to be crossed referenced and analysed manually.

 

How NSX-V native tools can help

NSX-V provides us with a number tools to help us gain a deeper understanding of our network environment as well as provide accelerated troubleshooting and root cause analysis. These can be found via the vCenter client:

 

Flow Monitoring

Flow Monitoring is one of the traffic analysis tools that provide a detailed view of the traffic originating and terminating at virtual machines. One example use case of this is to determine in real time the traffic flows originating from a virtual machine – the below example demonstrating this. No agent or VM configuration is needed, unlike with Wireshark – NSX does this all natively without any modifications to the VM:

 

The VM in the example above has an IP of 172.16.201.10. We can see that itself is making DNS calls out to 8.8.8.8 as well as communicating with another machine with an IP of 172.16.200.10 over port 8443.

Endpoint Monitoring

 

Endpoint Monitoring enables us to map specific processes inside a guest operating system to network connections that are facilitating this traffic. This is helpful for gaining insight into application-layer details. The examples shown below demonstrate NSX’s ability to identify:

  • The source of the flow (process or application)
  • The source VM
  • The destination (can be any destination)
  • Traffic Type

 

 

 

Traceflow

Traceflow acts as a very useful diagnostic tool. Compared to flow monitoring, which takes a real-time view of network traffic, traceflow allows us to simulate traffic by synthetically “injecting” this traffic into our environment and monitoring the data path. In this example a test was executed for connectivity from a web server to an App server over port 8443:

 

NSX has informed us that this packet was dropped due a firewall rule – it also gives us the Rule ID in question. We can click on this link to get more information about this rule:

 

Once this rule was modified we can re-run the test, which shows this traffic has been successfully delivered to the target VM.

Traceflow also gives us an idea as to the journey our packet has travelled. From the above output we can see that this packet has traversed two logical switches, two ESXi hosts, one distributed logical router, and has forwarded through the distributed firewall running on the vNIC’s of two VM’s:

 

 

Packet Capture

The Packet Capture feature in NSX-V enables us to generate packet traces from physical ESXi hosts should we wish to perform any troubleshooting at that level.

These captures are done on a per-host level and we can specify to gather packet captures from one of the following interface types:

  • Physical NIC
  • VMKernel Interface
  • vNIC
  • vDR Port

Or from one of the respective filter types. Once started NSX will start gathering packet logs. Once the session has stopped these can be downloaded as .PCAP files which can be opened with a tool such as Wireshark

 

Conclusion

As organisations are adopting software-defined technologies, the tools and processes we use must also change. Thankfully, NSX-V has a plethora of native capabilities to observe, identify and troubleshoot software-defined networks.

vRealize Log insight – Frequently Overlooked Centralised Log Management

Log analysis has always been a standardised practice for activities such as root cause analysis or advanced troubleshooting. However, ingesting and analysing these logs from different devices, types, locations and formats can be a challenge. In this post, we have a look at vRealize Log Insight and what it can deliver.

 

What is it?

vRealize Log Insight is a product in the vRealize suite specifically designed for heterogeneous and scalable log management across physical, virtual and cloud-based environments. It is designed to be agnostic across what it can ingest logs from and is therefore valid candidate in a lot of deployments.

Additionally, any customer with a vCenter Server Standard or above license is entitled to a free 25 OSI pack. OSI is known as “Operating System Instance” and is broadly defined as a managed entity which is capable of generating logs. For example, a 25 OSI pack license can be used to cover a vCenter server, a number of ESXi hosts and other devices covered either natively or via VMware Content Packs (with the exception of Custom and 3rd party content packs – standalone vRealize Log Insight is required for this feature).

 

Current Challenges

Modern datacenters and cloud environments are rarely consumed by homogeneous solutions. Customers use a number of different technologies from different vendors and operating systems. With this comes a number of challenges:

 

  • The inconsistent format of log types – vCenter/ESXi uses syslog for logging, Windows has a bespoke method, applications may simply write data to a file in a specific format. This can require a number of tools/skills to read, interpret and action from this data.
  • Silos of information – The decentralised nature of dispersed logging causes this information to be siloed in different areas. This can have an impact on resolution times for incidents and accuracy of root cause analysis.
  • Manual analysis – Simply logging information can be helpful, but the reason why this is required is to perform the analysis. In some environments, this is a manual process performed by a systems administrator.
  • Not scalable – As environments grow larger and more complex having silos of differentiating logging types and formats becomes unwieldy to manage.
  • Cost – Man hours used to perform manual analysis can be costly.
  • No Correlation – Siloed logs doesn’t cater for any correlation of events/activities across an environment. This can greatly impede efforts in performing activities such as root cause analysis.

 

Addressing Challenges With vRealize Log Insight

Below are examples of how vRealize Log Insight can address the aforementioned challenges.

 

  • Create structure from unstructured data – Collected data is automatically analysed and structured for ease of reporting.
  • Centralised logging – vRealize Log Insight centrally collates logs from a number of sources which can then be accessed through a single management interface.
  • Automatic analysis – Logs are collected in near real-time and alerts can be configured to inform users of potential issues and unexpected events.
  • Scalable – Advanced licenses of vRealize Log insight include additional features such as Clustering, High Availability, Event Forwarding and Archiving to facilitate a highly scalable, centralised log management solution. vRealize Log Insight is also designed to analyse massive amounts of log data.
  • Cost – Automatic analysis of logs and alerting can assist with reducing man-hours spent manually analysing logs, freeing up IT staff to perform other tasks.
  • Log Correlation – Because logs are centralised and structured events across multiple devices/services can be correlated to identify trends and patterns.

 

Extensibility

vRealize Log Insight’s capabilities can be extended by the use of content packs. Content packs are available from the VMware marketplace (https://marketplace.vmware.com/vsx/?contentType=2)

Content packs are published either by VMware directly or from vendors to support their own devices/solutions. Examples include:

  • Apache Web Service
  • Brocade Devices
  • Cisco Devices
  • Dell | EMC Devices
  • F5 Devices
  • Juniper Devices
  • Microsoft Active Directory
  • Nimble Devices
  • VMware SRM

 

Closing Thoughts

It’s surprising how underused vRealize Log Insight is considering it comes bundled in as part of any valid vSphere Standard or above license. The modular design of the solution allowing third-party content packs adds a massive degree of flexibility which is not common amongst other centralised logging tools. 

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