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Virtualisation, Storage and various other ramblings.

Category: Virtualisation (page 2 of 7)

vSphere and Containers part 1 – VIC (VMware Integrated Containers)

In this multi-part series, we evaluate the options available to vSphere users/customers wishing to deploy a native container service into an existing vSphere environment.

Part 1 – VIC (VMware Integrated Containers).

Part 2 – PKS (Pivotal Container Service).

Why should we care about containers?

Containers change the way we fundamentally look at application deployment and development. There was a huge shift in the way we managed platforms when server virtualisation came around – all of a sudden we had greater levels of flexibility, elasticity and redundancy compared to physical implementations. Consequently, the way in which applications were developed and deployed changed. And here we are again, with the next step of innovation using technology that is making rifts in the industry, changing the way consume resources.

 

What is VIC?

VIC (or vSphere Integrated Containers) is a native extension to the vSphere platform that facilitates container technology, because of this tight integration we’re able to perform actions and activities using the vSphere client and integrate it with auxiliary services. VIC is developed in such a way so it presents a Docker Compatible API endpoint. Therefore Ops/Dev staff already familiar with Docker can leverage VIC using the same tools/commands that they’re already familiar with.

VIC is a culmination of three technologies:

 

The containers engine is the core runtime technology that facilitates containerised applications in a vSphere environment. As previously mentioned, this engine presents a Docker-compatible API for consumption. Tight integration between this and vSphere enables vSphere admins to manage container and VM workloads in a consistent way.

 

 

Harbour is an enterprise-level facilitator of Docker-based image retrieval and distribution. It’s considered an extension of the open source Docker Distribution by adding features and constructs that are beneficial to the enterprise including but not limited to : LDAP support, Role-based access control, GUI control and much more.

 

 

Admiral is a scalable and lightweight container management platform for managing containers and associated applications. Primary responsibilities are mainly around automated deployment and lifecycle management of containers.

How VIC works

The management plane of VIC is facilitated by a OVA appliance, rather than going through the installation steps here, I will simply point to the direction of the (excellent) documentation located at https://vmware.github.io/vic-product/#documentation. At the core though, we have the following constructs:

  • VIC Appliance – Management plane.
  • Virtual Container HostsInfrastructure resource with a docker endpoint.
  • Registry – Location for Docker-compatible images.

 

Which, from a logical view looks like this:

 

Key observations are:

  • The VCH (Virtual Container Host) isn’t a Virtual machine, it’s actually a resource pool. Therefore, I think the best way to describe a VCH is a logical representation of a pool of resources, including clustering, scheduling, vMotion, HA, and other features.
  • When a VCH is created, a VM is created that facilitates the Docker-compatible API endpoint.

 

Advantages of VIC

So why would any of us consider VIC instead of, for example, standard Docker hosts? Here are a few points I’ve come across:

  1. Native integration into vSphere.
  2. Administrators can secure  and manage VM and Container resources in the same way.
  3. Easy integration into other VMware products.
    1. NSX.
    2. VSAN.
    3. vRealize Network Insight.
    4. vRealize Orchestrator.
    5. vRealize Automation.
  4. Eases adoption.
  5. Eases security.
  6. Eases management.

Conclusion

VIC helps bridge the gap between Developers and Administrators when it comes to the world of containers. I would say VIC is still in its infancy in terms of development, but it’s being backed by a great team and I think it’s going to make a compelling option for vSphere customers/users looking to embrace the container world, whilst maintaining a predictable, consistent security and management model.

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. 

Homelab Networking Refresh

Adios, Netgear router

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have bought a Netgear D7000 router. The reviews were good but after about 6 months of ownership, it decided to exhibit some pretty awful symptoms. One of which was completely and indiscriminately drop all wireless clients regardless of device type, range, band or frequency it resided on. A reconnect to the wireless network would prompt the passphrase again, weirdly. Even after putting in the passphrase (again) it wouldn’t connect. The only way to rectify this was to physically reboot the router.

Netgear support was pretty poor too. The support representative wanted me to downgrade firmware versions just to “see if it helps” despite confirming that this issue is not known in any of the published firmware versions.

Netgear support also suggested I changed the 2.4ghz network band. Simply put. They weren’t listening or couldn’t comprehend what I was saying.

Anyway, rant over. Amazon refunded me the £130 for the Netgear router after me explaining the situation about Netgear’s poor support. Amazing service really.

Hola, Ubiquiti

I’ve been eyeing up Ubiquiti for a while now but never had a reason to get any of their kit until now.  With me predominantly working from home when I’m not on the road and my other half running a business from home, stable connectivity is pretty important to both of us.

The EdgeMAX range from Ubiquiti looked like it fit the bill. I’d say it sits above the consumer-level stuff from the likes of Netgear, Asus, TP-Link etc and just below enterprise level kit from the likes of Juniper, Cisco, etc. Apart from the usual array of features found on devices of this type I particularly wanted to mess around with BGP/OSPF from my homelab when creating networks in VMware NSX.

With that in mind, I cracked open Visio and started diagramming, eventually ending up with the following:

 

I noted the following observations:

  • Ubiquti Edgerouters do not have a build in VDSL modem, therefore for connections such as mine, I required a separate modem.
  • The Edgerouter Lite has no hardware switching module, therefore it should be purely used as a router (makes sense)
  • The Edgerouter X has a hardware switching module with routing capabilities (but lower total pps (Packets Per Second))

Verdict

I managed to set up the pictured environment over the weekend fairly easily. The Ubiquiti software is very modern, slick, easy to use and responsive. Leaps and bounds from what I’ve found on consumer-grade equipment.

I have but one criticism with the Ubiquiti routers, and that is not everything is easily configurable through the UI (yet). From what I’ve read Ubiquiti are making good progress with this, but for me I had to resort to the CLI to finish my OSPF peering configuration.

The wireless access point is decent. good coverage and the ability to provision an isolated guest network with custom portal is a very nice touch.

Considering the Edgerouter Lite costs about £80 I personally think it represents good value for money considering the feature set it provides. I wouldn’t recommend it for every day casual network users, but then again, that isn’t Ubiquiti’s market.

The Ubiquiti community is active and very helpful as well.

 

 

 

 

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