vCloud Automation Center – vCAC 6.0 – Overview and distributed architecture

Written by Ross Davies on . Posted in vCAC

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series vCAC 6 Install

VMware vCloud Automation Center enables IT organizations to deliver services to their lines of business in a simple, yet highly configurable, self-service experience.

vCloud Automation Center provides a secure portal where authorized administrators, developers or business users can request new IT services as well as manage specific cloud and IT resources, while ensuring compliance with business policies. Requests for any IT service — including infrastructure, applications, desktops, and many others — are processed through a common service catalog to provide a consistent user experience.

In addition, vCloud Automation Center improves cost control by providing visibility into the cost of cloud resources and provides simplified resource management including reporting on capacity usage.

vCloud Automation Center accelerates the deployment and management of applications and compute services, thereby improving business agility and operational efficiency. The following capabilities empower IT to quickly demonstrate the value of deploying an automated, on-demand cloud infrastructure:

  • Comprehensive Purpose-Built Functionality

    vCloud Automation Center is a purpose-built, enterprise-proven solution for the delivery and ongoing management of private and hybrid cloud services, based on a broad range of deployment use cases from the world’s most demanding environments.

  • Personalized, Business-Aware Governance

    Enable IT administrators to apply their own way of doing business to the cloud without changing organizational processes or policies. Enterprises gain the flexibility needed for business units to have different service levels, policies and automation processes, as appropriate for their needs.

  • Provision and Manage Application Services

    Accelerate application deployment by streamlining the deployment process and by eliminating duplication of work using reusable components and blueprints.

  • Infrastructure Delivery and Life-Cycle Management

    Automates the end-to-end deployment of multi-vendor infrastructure, breaking down internal organizational silos that slow down IT service delivery.

  • Extensible by Design

    vCloud Automation Center provides a full spectrum of extensibility options that empower IT personnel to enable, adapt and extend their cloud to work within their existing IT infrastructure and processes, thereby eliminating expensive service engagements while reducing risk.

vCAC 6 Distributed Architecture

In my chosen architecture for my deployment of vCAC both the vCAC vApps and IaaS components are distributed over multiple machines for scale, redundancy and high availability.

Both the identify appliance and vFabric PostgreSQL database remain as single, unclustered nodes. As they can run sufficiently using 1vCPU I chose to provide a higher degree of availability using vSphere Fault Tolerance.

In my case I am using a hardware Load Balancer to provide the ability to distribute the workload across each of the vCAC tiers.

vCAC 6 Components

VMware Identity Appliance

The VMware Identity Appliance is a pre-configured virtual appliance that provides Single Sign-On capabilities for the vCloud Automation Center environment. The VMware Identity Appliance is delivered as an OVF template. It is deployed into an existing virtualization infrastructure and acts as an authentication broker and security token exchange that interacts with the enterprise identity store to authenticate users.

vFabric PostgreSQL Database

VMware vFabric Postgres ia a relational database optimized for VMware vSphere and vFabric to increase agility and efficiency at the database tier. These optimizations include:

• Virtual appliance
vFabric Postgres is available as a ready-to-deploy virtual appliance on vSphere, reducing the time database administrators spend on installation.

• Smart database configuration
The smart database configuration algorithm automatically derives optimized database configurations based on the virtual machine’s vCPU and RAM, saving valuable database administrator time.

• High availability
vFabric Postgres is optimized with vSphere-based high availability.

• Checkpoint tuning
In I/O-constrained environments, checkpointing activity can alternate between heavy and light. By default, vFabric Postgres reduces the likelihood of database throughput oscillations by performing dynamic checkpoint tuning to avoid rapid changes in available I/O bandwidth or database workloads.

VMware vCAC Appliance

The vCloud Automation Center Appliance is a pre-configured virtual appliance that deploys the vCloud Automation Center server. The vCloud Automation Center Appliance is delivered as an open virtualization format (OVF) template which is deployed into the existing virtualized infrastructure.

The appliance includes the vCloud Automation Center console, which provides a single portal for self-service provisioning and management of cloud services, as well as authoring, administration, and governance.

VMware Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) enables the rapid modeling and provisioning of servers and desktops across virtual and physical, private and public, or hybrid cloud infrastructure. The IaaS components are installed onto a Windows machine and the IaaS capabilities are available from the Infrastructure tab on the user interface console. IaaS has several components that can be installed in a custom configuration to meet the needs of your organization;

IaaS Website

The IaaS website component provides the infrastructure administration and service authoring capabilities to the vCloud Automation Center console. The Website component communicates with the Model Manager, which provides it with updates from the Distributed Execution Manager (DEM), proxy agents and database.

IaaS Model Manager

vCloud Automation Center models facilitate integration with external systems and databases. They implement business logic that is executed by a Distributed Execution Manager. The Model Manager provides services and utilities for persisting, versioning, securing, and distributing model elements. It communicates with the database, the DEMs, and the console web site.

IaaS Manager Service

The Manager Service coordinates communication between DEMS, agents, and the database. The Manager Service communicates with the console web site through the Model Manager.

IaaS Database

The IaaS component of vCloud Automation Center uses a Microsoft SQL Server database to maintain information about the machines it manages and its own elements and policies. This database server can be physical or virtual and can also be clustered for high availability.

IaaS Distributed Execution Managers

A Distributed Execution Manager (DEM) executes the business logic of custom models, interacting with the database and with external databases and systems as required. DEMs also manage cloud and physical machines.

Each DEM instance performs one of two roles: Worker or Orchestrator. The Worker role is responsible for executing workflows. The Orchestrator role is responsible for monitoring DEM Worker instances, preprocessing workflows for execution, and scheduling workflows.

The DEM Orchestrator performs these tasks.

  • Monitors the status of DEM Workers and ensures that if a Worker instance stops or loses its connection to the Model Manager, its workflows are put back in the queue for another DEM Worker to pick up.
  • Manages scheduled workflows by creating new workflow instances at the scheduled time.
  • Ensures that only one instance of a particular scheduled workflow is running at a given time.
  • Pre-processes workflows before execution, including checking preconditions for workflows (used in the implementation of the “RunOneOnly” feature) and creating the workflow execution history.
  • Exactly one DEM Orchestrator instance is designated as the active Orchestrator that performs these tasks. Since the DEM Orchestrator is essential for the execution of workflows, it is recommended that you install at least one additional Orchestrator instance on a separate machine for redundancy. The additional DEM Orchestrator monitors the status of the active Orchestrator so that it can take over if the active Orchestrator goes offline.

IaaS Agents

vCloud Automation Center uses agents to integrate with external systems. The vSphere agent can be installed as part of a minimal installation. Additional agents can be installed as needed.

Virtualization Proxy Agents

The virtual machines that are managed by vCloud Automation Center are created on virtualization hosts. vCloud Automation Center uses virtualization proxy agents to send commands to and collect data from ESX Server, XenServer, and Hyper-V virtualization hosts and the virtual machines provisioned on them. A proxy agent has three characteristics.

  • Typically requires administrator-level access to the virtualization platform it manages
  • Communicates with the Manager Service
  • Is installed separately with its own configuration file

Integration Agents

Virtual desktop integration (VDI) PowerShell agents allow vCloud Automation Center to integrate with external virtual desktop systems. Currently, virtual machines provisioned by vCloud Automation Center can be registered with XenDesktop on a Citrix Desktop Delivery Controller (DDC) and their owners can access the XenDesktop Web Interface from vCloud Automation Center.

External provisioning integration (EPI) PowerShell agents allow vCloud Automation Center to integrate external systems into the machine provisioning process. For example, integration with Citrix Provisioning Server enables provisioning of machines by on-demand disk streaming, and an EPI agent allows you to run Visual Basic scripts as extra steps during the provisioning process.

VDI and EPI agents require administrator-level access to the external systems with which they interact.

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