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Inside VMware Cloud Foundation components in 4.0

In 2020, VMware released version 4 of VMware Cloud Foundation. Before deciding whether to upgrade, consider how updates to other key VMware products affect VCF.

VMware Cloud Foundation is designed to simplify the deployment and operation of vSphere across multi-cloud environments. VMware vSphere is a core VMware Cloud Foundation component. In addition, the vRealize management suite and NSX-T help VCF manage large-scale deployments.

The version 4 update of VCF reflects changes made to vSphere 7.0 with Kubernetes container management technology and vRealize 8.1, the latest releases of VMware's flagship platforms. Existing VMware Cloud Foundation users have a path to migrate smoothly from vSphere 6.x to vSphere 7, which is no small task at a massive scale. However, without the correct and current infrastructure elements and VMware components in place, adopting VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0 might not benefit your organization. Take a look at the updates in vSphere 7.0, vSAN 7.0, vRealize 8.1 and NSX-T to understand how VCF 4.0 works.

VSphere 7.0 with container and VM workloads

VMware vSphere 7.0 enables users to deploy Kubernetes clusters as a native construct through vCenter, then manage applications on those clusters using standard Kubernetes controls. Kubernetes is the de facto standard for managing application containers. VSphere with Kubernetes lowers the cost of mixing legacy and modern application components because it integrates application management capabilities with infrastructure management ones. VMware customers who struggle to build and manage Kubernetes clusters should evaluate vSphere with Kubernetes.

VSphere 7.0 also includes enhancements for managing VM workloads. For example, vSphere 7.0 supports vMotion and vSphere High Availability for VMs with hardware accelerators -- i.e., hardware GPUs -- attached.

VSAN 7.0 with file services

VMware administrators could always deploy file server VMs on top of a vSphere cluster, including vSAN-based ones. VSAN 7 adds the ability for vCenter to automatically deploy and manage those file server VMs. VSAN clusters these VMs and their file shares across multiple ESXi hosts for higher availability than a single VM file server.

At the time of this publication, you can only create NFS file shares; Windows file shares are not yet possible. However, you can use both NFS 3.01 and 4.1 shares. These shares work well as persistent storage for containers running in vSphere Kubernetes clusters.

VRealize Suite 8.1

VMware Cloud Foundation includes several vRealize management tools, such as vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations Manager, vRealize Log Insight and vRealize Lifecycle Manager. All of these products have version updates to v8.1 in VCF 4.0, and all now support vSphere 7.0.

VMware has helped customers with updates and upgrades, and vRealize Lifecycle Manager can help with this, performing tasks such as validating host bus adapter firmware versions before updates. Better compatibility testing before deploying updates reduces the probability of problems you must troubleshoot following the deployment.

VMware Cloud Foundation use cases

VMware Cloud Foundation suits companies that run multiple vCenter servers managing multiple vSphere clusters in their data centers. These customers face unique challenges that come from operating dozens or hundreds of vSphere servers. Managing thousands of VMs requires high levels of automation and integration.

Typically, companies adopt VMware Cloud Foundation when they have several existing vSphere clusters but struggle to maintain consistency and visibility into them. Another common scenario is a company that significantly increased its VM numbers and has concerns about the cost of expanding the operations team as a result.

NSX-T

VMware has consolidated its NSX product, which formerly came in two versions -- NSX-T for non-vSphere environments and NSX-V for vSphere -- to NSX-T, which runs on any platform. VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0 includes this change, and this version of the hybrid cloud management product uses NSX-T for both the management domain and the workload domains. The switch to NSX-T helps unify management across all VMware Cloud Foundation components, because vSphere 7.0 uses NSX-T to integrate networking between VMs and containers.

Should you adopt VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0?

The best time to adopt VCF 4.0 is when you upgrade to vSphere 7.0 and its contemporary products. If you use an earlier edition of vSphere -- specifically, if you still use NSX-V for networking -- you should remain with an older version of VCF. Earlier versions of VCF use NSX-V for certain network management tasks, but VCF 4.0 only uses NSX-T for networking, which can lead to issues in communication between different gateways.

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