VMware vCloud Director 101

Now that vCloud Director 1.5 is out, learn about the installation process and licensing requirements for VMware’s private and hybrid cloud management tool.

After a year of rumblings about its cloud project, VMware officially introduced vCloud Director at VMworld 2010. The cloud management tool works in conjunction with vShield Edge and third-party products to create private and hybrid cloud architectures.

Given cloud computing’s immaturity, however, many organizations hesitate to tread into unknown waters, and the technology has seen low adoption rates.

The answers to the following frequently asked questions about VMware vCloud Director 1.5 will walk you through the vCloud Director installation process, address vCloud Director licensing requirements and explain the pros and cons of the cloud management tool.

What is VMware vCloud Director?
VMware’s vCloud Director (vCD) manages Infrastructure as a Service architectures, providing cloud management such as security, virtual machine (VM) provisioning, billing and self-service access. Setting up VMware vCloud Director requires additional tools like an Oracle database and 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5. Additionally, users must turn to other products and vendors for security, authentication federation, advanced monitoring and reporting, and billing management software.

How do I install VMware vCloud Director?
The VMware vCloud Director installation process is relatively simple. The first step involves creating Provider and Organization virtual data center (VDC) objects, which define and cluster the separate businesses that provide the cloud resources.You can then define your internal and external networks, create VM provisioning restrictions, delegate control of VMs and allow access to end users.

How do I configure VMware vCloud Director?
Creating Provider and Organization VDCs is only the first step toward cloud management. You then need to configure VMware vCloud Director settings, specify what resources are available to vCloud Director and assign those resources to the business units. VMware vCloud Director offers flexibility when partitioning resources, and VMware recommends selecting a vCenter cluster as the root resource pool of the Provider VDC, allowing end users access to the resources of all hosts in the cluster. For even more flexibility, vCloud Director includes multiple options for creating network pools that provide network resources to the business units.

What’s new in VMware vCloud Director 1.5?
VMware announced significant new features in vCloud Director 1.5, including the Linked Clones feature from Lab Manager. VMware vCloud Director 1.5 also improved networking by supporting the Cisco Nexus 1000V virtual switch. Furthermore, it lets users configure VPN connections from their Organization VDC and move logging data via an API to third-party external configuration management database systems. Despite these new features, many IT professionals are still not sold on cloud security and vCloud Director adoption has been slow to take off.

What's the difference between VMware vCloud Director and vCloud Automation Center?
VMware vCloud Director and vCloud Automation Center are both self-service and management products; vCloud Automation Center is more inclusive. With vCloud Automation Center, cloud admins can manage servers through vCloud Director and vCenter Orchestrator, Amazon Web Services, Windows Azure and physical infrastructure. VMware's vCloud suite is largely built through acquisitions -- vCloud Automation Center was formerly DynamicOps -- which has some IT professionals waiting to see if the stack performs cohesively.

What are the software and licensing requirements for vCloud Director?
To take full advantage of vCloud Director, you need to know the licensing requirements. First, you must run the latest version of vSphere with an Enterprise Plus license. VCloud Director initially required an Oracle back-end database, but version 1.5 added support for Microsoft SQL Server. Finally, vCloud Director is not distributed as a virtual appliance, but installs to the operating system Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 U4 64-bit or higher. That means you have the option of running vCloud Director on a physical platform as well as a virtual one.

What are the steps for installing vCloud Director in a home lab?
Before attempting a vCloud Director installation in your home lab, you must have Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a back-end database and the VMware vShield appliance. To get around the RHEL requirement, however, you could install the free version of Oracle Enterprise Linux. It's not officially supported by VMware for vCloud Director, but Oracle Enterprise Linux works because it's an original equipment manufacturer version of RHEL.

Next, install the required RPM packages and configure the security certificates. (VCloud Director does not auto-generate SSL certificates, so you can request them from a certificate authority or create your own self-signed certificates.) Finally, you need to configure the correct file permissions for the cloud management tool before you can connect to the vCloud Director server through a Web browser.

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