As data center modernization accelerates, new technologies continue to be introduced to support this innovation. Each with the promise to revolutionize the data center, by taking you to the promised land of private or hybrid cloud: agility and scalability. Enterprises face the challenge of how to reap the benefits of these technologies while working within brownfield environments. Practically, this does not just mean that new technologies must interoperate with legacy ones, but also that new technologies have to work within existing operational practices.
As Dockercon 2017 gets underway, with Docker and partner vendors showcasing more mature container solutions, mainstreaming containers and moving more deployments from test to production is likely to be a key topic of the show. VMware's answer to these brownfield data center challenges with containers is vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC) which has garnered positive reviews since its unveiling at VMworld 2015 and subsequent general availability in December 2016. VIC bridges a significant gap between developer and VM operations teams by allowing for Docker containers to run as VMs and providing additional security that natively comes with VM level separation at industry-proven ESXi hypervisor. As such, containers can now be adopted in more environments than ever before.
Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) is a next-generation data center fabric that provides the intelligence, agility and flexibility needed to architect a Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC). BCF is an integrated networking solution based on an SDN controller, open networking hardware (white-box / brite-box), and a design that allows a multi-rack network to be represented as one logical (big) switch. One of the key design principles of BCF and the main reason for its increasing adoption in the marketplace is out of the box simplicity, which allows BCF to be easily adopted in brownfield environments that otherwise may not easily transition to next-generation networking.
So, the two products with such characteristics, one for containers and one for data center networking, must be made for each other, right? Let’s have a look at their individual capabilities and highlight important architectural synergies between VIC and BCF.
Now how does Big Cloud fabric specifically help accelerate VIC deployments?
Automation: Automated provisioning of physical network in tandem with virtual networking used by vSphere Integrated Containers. ESXi host connectivity, container internal and external networking as well as container VM provisioning on the fabric are fully automated in a zero-touch fashion.
Visibility: for the first time, network team gets a complete, real-time view of virtualization infrastructure such as VM name, guest OS and health of VM both in compute and on the network. Since in VIC, containers are running as VMs, the network team can see those too in addition to a few other things, including VCH vApp and associated Resource Pools. Through BCF plugin for vSphere web client, VM team can finally visualize the health of newly deployed VICs on the fabric. This gives them an ability to better serve the developer team.
Troubleshooting: Big Cloud Fabric's unique Test Path feature, which is exposed for both network and VM admins, allows one to see an exact hop by hop path between regular or container light-weight VMs in the fabric. Historical analytics engine allows the network team to be in lockstep with application and VM teams when trying to get an understanding of previous outage occurrences.
Just like VIC helps accelerate container deployments by bridging the gap between the developer and VM teams, BCF and its integration with VMware vSphere bridges the gap between VM and network teams, resulting in a complete, end-to-end chain of agile application provisioning.
Arkadiy Shapiro Principal Technical Marketing Engineer Connect with Arkadiy on LinkedIn or Twitter