What is vCloud Director, really?!

By on 03/19/2011.

One of the common threads that tend to come out when talking to non-technical people, not from my usual readers, but from their bosses, C-levels, and “decision makers,” is:

“What does that vCloud Director thing do for me, anyway?”

I’m sure a lot of you have had these discussions yourself.  So, I’m not writing this for my typical audience.  I’m writing this for my typical audience to take to THEIR audiences, and as a form of syndication being passed around, use this analogy I am going to write up to explain to upper management what a cloud is, and what vCloud Director can do for your Virtual Infrastructure.

Let’s paint a picture.

I want you to imagine an apartment complex.  We’ve all been in them.  Most of us have lived in one at some point, or even live in them right now.  Most complexes are made up of many multiple buildings; most buildings made up of multiple apartments, of all different sizes, 1BR, 2BR, 3BR, etc.  Everybody with me?

OK.  What’s at the center of the complexes typically?  Who do you “pay rent” to?  Right.  The clubhouse, where all of the managers work.

This “manager” of the complex is vCloud Director.

Stay with me here as we plow through this.  It might seem a bit remedial to all of you reading, but it will be worth it in the end if you have something you can hand to your upper mgmt that doesn’t understand Cloud Architectures.

Let’s go deeper.  Let’s envision the apartment complex as a Cloud Provider called Acme Cloud Services.

As a potential customer/tenant, you contact Acme Cloud Services about renting an apartment (“Organization”).  They go over their sizing details with you, and based on your requirements, you decide to get a 2-bedroom apartment, with certain amenities [“SLA”] for a certain lease term.

Inside of each of these rooms [vDC’s] inside the apartment, there will be certain people [VM’s] living and interacting with one another [vApp’s].  How many people and things can interact will depend on the square footage [“compute resource pool”] is available in each room.

Still with me?  Good… Let’s review…

Apartment = “Organization”
Rooms = “virtual Datacenters or vDC’s”
SqFt = “Available Compute Pool”
People and things interacting = “VM and vApp’s”

At the very top of this hierarchical structure is vCloud Director.  vCloud Director is the manager of the complex, rent collector, and who’s-who among these roles.  vCD manages all aspects of the complex (Cloud), and apartments within the complex (Org’s), and rooms within each apartment (VM’s).  In between all of these rooms are doors, as well as doors to the exterior of the apartment.  This is analogous to the way vCloud Director handles networking.  You can travel between rooms freely within the Org, or you can leave the apartment altogether (“external network”).

Now, no apartment manager worth their salt would do all of this alone. Managing tenants and their apartments is what vCloud Director does best.  But he is also very good at delegating tasks.  Someone has to do the accounting so that vCD knows how much rent each apartment owes.

Enter vCenter Chargeback.  vCenter Chargeback is kinda like the Accounts Receivable employee working for Mr. vCloud Director.

Also, every now and then, maintenance needs to be done around the apartments, whether it’s mowing the lawn, throwing out garbage, etc.  Mr. vCloud Director can either send instructions in an as-needed, on-demand basis, or set up a schedule with the Maintenance Man [“vCloud Orchestrator”] on when the service should be performed, and Mr. vCO can take care of that for him.  The cool part about Mr. vCO is that he has agreements with lots of other different apartments as well, and if Mr. vCloud Director tells him to, he can work just about anywhere he wants, with whomever he wants.  Mr. vCO also speaks a universal language [“vCloud API’s”] and any other maintenance man [storage, security, mgmt vendors] can also communicate with Mr. vCO.



Inside the apartments, you have many rooms.  Bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, kitchens, etc.  If each of these represented a virtual Datacenter, then relatively, the square footage in the room could be equated to the CPU/Memory compute power available to people/things inside of those rooms.  What I’m getting at here is… not all vDC’s are created equal.  Typically, living rooms are bigger than bedrooms.  So in the bedroom vDC, you might have a single VM that consumes all available compute resources, whereas in the living room vDC, you’d have lots of resources available.  Even enough to have three or more people hang out in there at the same time.  (a la:  3 VM’s wrapped in a vApp)

Now let’s get a little technical to tie things together, and run down the hierarchy with the right vocabulary…

vCloud Director manages Organizations, vDatacenters, and VM’s and vApp stacks within them.

vCloud Director utilizes vCenter Chargeback to invoice the tenants based on what they’ve used, and vCloud Orchestrator to create automated workflows invisible to the end user.  For example, you don’t know HOW or WHEN your lawn got mowed, you just came out one morning and it was mowed.  That’s because vCloud Director executed an automated workflow in vCloud Orchestrator to mow the grass, and it just happened.  This could be equated to backup jobs, space reclamation, and deduplication.  These sorts of maintenance jobs are set up to just run without interaction, or at least, that’s the way we design them to be for you.

For example, if you’ve got a moment, you should go check out what we’re doing with SnapCreator.  The options with this for backing up tiered apps in virtual infrastructures is limitless!

SnapCreator is a Backup Plugin framework for integrating virtually any application with NetApp snapshot technology. It currently supports application consistent backups for Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MaxDB, Sybase, DB2 and Lotus Notes.

NetApp is fully-focused on complementing this orchestration in the cloud by taking full advantage of vCloudAPIs, and with our plugins for vCO.  As businesses begin to move their workloads into the public cloud, you can rest assured that NetApp will lead the way in our vision and execution of this strategy to give you best-of-breed solutions for your private, public, and hybrid cloud architectures based on VMware vSphere and vCloud Director.

You can download a copy of our Reference Architecture, co-op’ed with VMware dude, Wen Yu, of VMware if you want more detail.

Virtualization changes everything. Go further. Faster. With NetApp.