The general availability (GA) for the next evolution of Azure VMware Solution (AVS) was announced yesterday during the Microsoft Ignite 2020 virtual conference. This is a joint partnership between Microsoft and VMware, where Azure VMware Solution is a Microsoft managed service built on Azure bare metal infrastructure and cloud verified by VMware. The initial launch of the Azure VMware Solution in May of 2019 was by CloudSimple; this latest release is built and architected by Microsoft, providing an integrated experience with Azure and its services. With today’s announcement, Azure VMware Solution is available in the following regions: East U.S, West U.S, West Europe, and Australia East. More regions will be available in the future like UK South, South Central US, Japan East; additional details can be found searching the Microsoft Products available by region page. Customers running the CloudSimple Azure VMware Solution version also have a migration path to this latest release, leveraging VMware HCX.
Azure VMware Solution is powered by VMware Cloud Foundation: vCenter Server, vSphere, vSAN, and NSX-T. Also included is VMware HCX, the swiss army knife of workload mobility. Customers can securely extend their networks and migrate workloads from on-premises (vSphere 5.x -7.x) to AVS or between AVS private clouds in different regions using a combination of migrations options, for example, zero downtime to meet their service level agreements (SLA). Microsoft will handle the billing, lifecycle operations (upgrades), and troubleshooting, allowing customers to focus on their workloads.
There are a few things you need to have in place before you can deploy an Azure VMware Solution private cloud. First, an Azure account, which you can get for FREE. Second, the funds needed to pay for the service in the form of quota applied to your subscription. A subscription must also be associated with a Microsoft enterprise agreement. Now that quota is applied on our subscription, search for “Azure VMware Solution” in the Azure portal’s search box. Alright, you don’t need to type out the entire thing; it will appear within the first couple of characters in VMware. An option to deploy your first private cloud in your subscription will be displayed on the next screen. As part of the private cloud creation, there is some basic information needed:
- Subscription – Billing framework that provides entitlement to deploy and consume Azure resources
- Resource Group – Logical way to group Azure services
- Location – Where to deploy the private cloud
- Resource Name – Name of your Private Cloud
- SKU – Node type used during deployment
- ESXi Hosts – Number of hosts to deploy, min of 3 by default with the option to increase to a max of 16 per cluster
- vCenter Admin Password – password used to log in vCenter with email@example.com
- NSX-T Manager Password – password used to log in NSX-T manager with admin
- Address Block – CIDR block used when deploying management components, requires a /22
- Virtual Network – A representation of cloud networking and provides abstraction and logical isolation. An Azure environment can contain multiple VNets.
A subscription can have 1-4 private clouds, each with a maximum of 4 clusters per cloud. An initial private cloud deployment starts with a 3-node minimum with the opportunity to add additional nodes during or scale-up later to a maximum of 16 nodes per cluster in the Azure portal. The hardware specification dropdown lists AVS36 as the current selectable node type. Here is a visual representation of the hardware specs for the AVS36, but does not represent the actual server 🙂 The Azure Virtual Network can be created during the initial private cloud deployment or afterward. The virtual newtwork is created to support an ExpressRoute from Azure VMware Solution, for purposes of connecting to other Azure services and allowing connectivity back to an on-premises environment via Azure Global Reach. Once ready, click review and create. After you verify everything entered is correct, click the magical create button and wait for roughly 2hrs for the process to complete. The process is mostly self-service from the Azure portal allowing you to get from zero to a private cloud in a few hours.
Note: if you don’t have an Azure ExpressRoute, you can use a site-to-site VPN to connect to Azure VMware Solution private cloud, but you will not be able to use HCX for workload migration as this is not supported.
When your private cloud is ready, you’ll be redirected to the overview page. This page is handy with valuable information; you can always come back here by searching your private cloud name or simply bookmarking. The first section we’ll want to select is identity. Here is where you’ll find your login information to NSX Manager and vCenter Server. The NSX T-1 router is where all workload network segments need to be created before the deployment of VMs, and this is where HCX will extend your on-premises networks. Next is clustering where you can edit (aka increase/decrease) the number of nodes in a private cloud, with 3 being the magic number of minimum nodes. Keep in mind increasing the number of nodes is tied to your allocation associated with the subscription used.
I’ve mentioned VMware HCX a few times now, the good news here is it’s automatically deployed as part of the private cloud provisioning. The HCX Cloud manager is where you’ll get the necessary HCX Connector bits to deploy in your on-premises environment, and this information can be found under the connectivity section in the Azure portal of your private cloud. The HCX Cloud manager address is provided, and you will use firstname.lastname@example.org credentials to login and download the HCX connector bits. Licensing your HCX connector is also part of the self-service offering, allowing you to request up to 3 advanced licenses. Once HCX is deployed on-premises, customers can create a site pairing with their environment and Azure VMware Solution private cloud and start planning their migrations. Additionally, there is an option to upgrade your HCX advanced license to an HCX enterprise license by clicking on the HCX plan info icon. HCX enterprise will provide features like mobility groups, replication assisted vMotion, and mobility optimized networking. These features make uses cases like datacenter extension and evacuation easier to any VMware powered Cloud easier. Microsoft is also providing extended support (Azure Hybrid Benefit) for Server 2008 and SQL SQL 2008 workloads if they are migrated to Azure including the Azure VMware Solution.
Here are a few resources help get you started in learning more about Azure VMware Solution and more will be added as they are available. Also please reach out if you know of any others!
- Azure VMware Solution Product Page
- FAQ about Azure VMware Solution
- Azure VMware Solution Documentation
- Video Playlist from Microsoft Global Blackbelt Trevor Davis
- Microsoft Ignite 2020 Session: Accelerate your Cloud Journey with Azure VMware Solution
- Microsoft Ignite 2020 Session: An introduction to Azure VMware Solution
- Set up vRealize Operations for Azure VMware Solution
- Deploying VMware Horizon on Azure VMware Solution