VMware Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) on IBM Cloud

Part of my role within the Office of the CTO at IBM is to evaluate innovative solutions and lead proof-of-concepts with clients using new technologies. Lately, I’ve been focused on understanding VMware Hybrid Cloud Extension (i.e., HCX). I’ve also been fortunate to deploy pre-release GA versions of this solution (as a proof-of-concepts) for customers that want to migrate their VMware workloads into the IBM Cloud. So, what is Hybrid Cloud Extension and how does one deploy it on-prem and on the IBM Cloud? First, let’s start with a little history of the product.

Hybrid Cloud Manager

Before Hybrid Cloud Extension, VMware developed a solution called Hybrid Cloud Manager (HCM) to support their vCloud Air service. You may have seen the Hybrid Cloud Manager icon within your vCenter Web Client.

Hybrid Cloud ManagerTo enable this service, you installed the Hybrid Cloud Manager OVA and registered it with vCenter. You then connected to VMware’s (now OVH’s) vCloud Air service. The solution gave you the ability to vMotion, cold migrate and replicate virtual machines to vCloud Air. Additionally, you could securely stretch networks from your on-prem vCenter to a vCloud Air virtual data center (vDC). For more information on Hybrid Cloud Manager and vCloud Air, please visit the vCloud Air Documentation Center.

Hybrid Cloud Extension

After VMware sold their vCloud Air service and data center infrastructure to OVH, they pivoted their Hybrid Cloud Manager strategy to support other VMware-based cloud environments including the IBM Cloud. The goal at the end of the day is to deliver a truly seamless infrastructure hybridity service between on-premises and the cloud. This allows for application mobility across vSphere versions without modifying your existing on-prem infrastructure or virtual machines. So how do you deploy HCX?

Components of Hybrid Cloud Extension

HCX-Enterprise & HCX-Cloud

HCX-Enterprise & HCX-Cloud are OVAs that get installed both on-premises and in the cloud, respectively. Think of the “HCX-Cloud” component as the target while the “HCX-Enterprise” component is the source. It’s also helpful to think of these VMs as both the management and control plane of the hybrid service infrastructure. In fact, it is the interface you will use to configure the virtual machine migration and application tunnels within vCenter. More on this later…

As part of the IBM Cloud for VMware solutions offering, IBM automation will install HCX-Cloud OVA on either a VMware vCenter Server or VMware Cloud Foundation instance. Once this is complete, the HCX-Enterprise component is downloaded and installed within the on-premises environment. Note that a single HCX-Enterprise installation can handle multiple cloud connections; the same is true for HCX-Cloud.HCX Cloud Enterprise

Cloud Gateway & WAN Optimizer

After installing HCX-Enterpise, you configure it to establish a connection from on-premises to HCX-Cloud. HCX-Enterprise then deploys two virtual machines known as the Cloud Gateway and WAN Optimizer in both source and target. These virtual machines constitute the migration path for vMotion and replication traffic. To create this path, the on-prem cloud gateway initiates and establishes a secure connection terminating at the cloud gateway in the cloud. This secure connection further provides the tunnel by which migration traffic traverses either the public internet or private connection such as the IBM Cloud Direct Link.

HCX-Enterprise also deploys a WAN Optimizer to deduplicate and compress the migration traffic traversing WAN via cloud gateway. Like the cloud gateway, the WAN Optimizer exists both on-prem and in the cloud.

hcx cloud hybrid

Layer2 Concentrator

In addition to the Cloud Gateway and WAN Optimizer, HCX-Enterprise also deploys another virtual machine known as the layer 2 concentrator (i.e., L2C). This component is part of the network extension service that Hybrid Cloud Extension provides as part of the “hybridity” connection between on-premises and the cloud. Like the Cloud Gateway, the on-prem L2C initiates and establishes a secure connection terminating at L2C in the cloud. After the L2C establishes this connection, users can then stretch networks into the cloud. They can also route application traffic via this secure connection. Note that this stretching requires VMware NSX to be installed and configured in the cloud (as is done today with IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions).

Hybrid Cloud Extension Communication Path

Next Up…

That does it for this post. Hopefully you have a decent component-level understanding HCX.  I’ll dedicate my next post to HCX migration methods. Thanks for reading!

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