The rise of the manager of managers

“One ring to rule them all…” The phrase from Lord of the Rings to define the one ring that can control everything including the other rings with magic power. Kind of a nerd intro, but it’s a good analogy to describe what is currently happening in the space of IT infrastructure automation.

A few years ago every vendor had it’s own little product portfolio in which they excelled and made most of their money. Microsoft has Windows / Office, Red Hat has Linux, VMware has virtualization, etc. But as cloud popped up the game changed and everybody started to move into the same space: management and control of the IT infrastructure.

With that move everybody needed (or is going) to expand their capabilities into terrain that was not their area of expertise. Every vendor is moving up or down the stack to get the most control over the IT infrastructure. It’s all about the control of the resources within the IT infrastructure and being the manager to control those resources.

So with each vendor creating their own “manager” for their part of the stack and making that manager capable of managing “other” stuff in the IT infrastructure creates the question : “What manager should control my IT infrastructure?”

And as with all evolution it’s not the strongest, nor the smartest that will rise and will surface on top. It is the one that can adapt to it’s environment. As the data center is not comprised out of multiple vendor product, it needs to be a product that can integrate with all of them; old and new ones.

VMware’s flagship in automation and orchestration is vRealize Automation (vRA). But the engine that really makes this manager adaptable is the synergy it has with vRealize Orchestrator (vRO).

vRO is the “glue” that makes it possible to connect all the data center components together and integrate them into vRA. vRA will then orchestrate whatever process (i.e. use case) that needs to be automated. vRA and vRO are the tools to link everything together.

This does not mean that vRA/vRO replaces the orchestration of other management tooling of other vendors. vRA/vRO just becomes the central entity to govern, orchestrate and automate everything within the data center. One central tool to make sure that all your policies are applied with the IT infrastructure. It uses the capabilities of all the other managers to orchestrate the workflow to create IT services. In other words it becomes the manager of managers.

Below you’ll find a picture of the integration of vRealize Automation with vRealize Orchestration and how integration takes place with all the other components within the data center.

In the end it all comes down to integration and connecting all IT infrastructure services within the data center. vRealize Automation is the tool to provide that functionality and make sure that you can build a software-defined data center that can run any application.

Positioning Openstack within the VMware SDDC

Openstack is the leading open-source platform for deploying virtual machines in data centers. It allows IT infrastructure teams to deploy virtual machines and other IT infrastructure components. Either through the service portal or through the API that comes with Openstack.

The discussion that I have with most customers around Openstack if fact that they think the functionality of Openstack and VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) is the same.

In fact customers are right. We do offer the same functionality that Openstack has to offer, but vRA is much more than an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform. To define the positioning I have plotted Openstack in the VMware SDDC solution offering below.

Openstack VMware SDDC

vRA (Cloud Automation) in its core is a self-service portal that can deploy virtual machines. It consumes the resources that are provided to it from the compute, network and storage layer in order to create virtual machines that can host applications. This is the same functionality that Openstack offers.

However vRA and the rest of the vRealize suite can do a lot more then provision infrastructure resources. Providing IaaS is just the first step of automation. The end goal is to provide full management capabilities to manage and monitor all the data center resources in order to provide virtual machines and application resources. Integration of all the IT management components is crucial for the creation of a Software Defined Data Center.

And that’s where the big difference is: Openstack in its essence is an IaaS tool, vRealize Automation is a automation & orchestration engine to create a SDDC (and also includes IaaS).

SDDC is not a VMware-only stack. SDDC is a term for the automation, orchestration and integration of all IT components in the data center. It needs to work with all the IT solutions you already have inside your data center. So it could well be that you have a VMware estate next to an Openstack estate, to service different workloads within your datacenter. Whatever flavour of Openstack is the choice of the customer. VMware vRA can connect via the Openstack APIs to manage the resources in the Openstack layer.

VMware also offers an Openstack flavour:  VMware Integrated Openstack (VIO). This is a distribution for those companies that want an enterprise-grade version of Openstack. A predefined installation of Openstack is supported and maintained by VMware.

So the conclusion is that Openstack can be one of the building blocks within the SDDC to host the application workloads in your datacenter. It fully integrates and the result is the best of both world.