vCloud Director – vCenter Server Relationship

vCloud Director as a cloud management platform needs resources to provision the target workloads to. These resources are provided by vCenter Server (compute, storage, networks) and NSX Manager (networks and networking services).

In the past vCloud Director required tight grip on those resources, so the recommendation and best practice was to dedicate them to the particular vCloud Director instance. System admins were discouraged to run additional workloads not managed by vCloud Director on them. However that has changed recently, therefore the need for this blog article.

vCenter Server Extension

vCloud Director used to register itself as a vCenter Server extension. That allowed to ‘protect’ VCD managed VMs with a special icon and a warning pop up during vCenter edits of such VMs.

vCloud Director specific VM icon

Today, vCloud Director is quite resilient against changes on a particular VM done directly in vCenter Server, so there is no more need for those warnings. vCloud Director 9.5 thus no longer register itself as vCenter Server extension, so you will no longer see these icons and pop up warnings.

As a side note you will also see a change in the VM naming. The long UUID is no longer added to the VM name and is replaced by shorter 4 digit random characters.

Host Preparation

In the past during creation of a Provider VDC, the system admin was asked for ESXi host credentials. This was needed to upload cloud agent vib that was used for certain features (thumbnails, VCDNI network encapsulation). All these features were either replaced by different mechanism or deprecated, so there is no need to upload any vcloud vibs to ESXi hosts anymore.

Additionally, custom attribute system.service… used to be set for each vCloud Director managed host and vCloud Director managed VM. This provided a way to control where vCenter DRS could vMotion VMs through this host to VM compatibility option. Disabling a host would remove the custom property. vCloud Director VM could not be vMotioned to unprepared host as vCenter would scream the host is incompatible with the VM.


Host Custom Attributes
VM Custom Attribute

vMotion to Unprepared Host Error

In vCloud Director 9.5 this mechanism was completely eliminated. When host is put into maintenance mode, it is considered unavailable for vCloud Director, therefore there is no need anymore to disable it first in vCloud Director. You will  no longer see any host preparation dialog and the hosts section is simplified to bare minimum.

So What About the Relationship?

As you can see the vCloud Director – vCenter Server relationship is very loose. In fact it is no longer monogamous, meaning vCenter Server can be married (associated) with multiple vCloud Director instances at the same time.

Why would you do that?

I can think of three use cases, but obviously our smart service providers will come up with more.

Use case 1: Test & Dev

Do you need to test new vCloud Director release? Or provide test instance of vCloud Director for your internal developers? No need to spin up whole vSphere + NSX environment with storage, etc. Just deploy one VM with vCloud Director bits (you can even use the appliance if you have external DB and NFS ready) and point it to the existing vSphere/NSX endpoints.

Use case 2: Whitelabeling / Reselling

To enable three tier mode, where SP provides infrastructure, reseller will get its own vCloud Director instance (branded) to resell to their end customers. SP needs to setup one big vSphere/NSX infrastructure and have an automated way to deploy VCD instances on top of it. The reseller gets its own instance with system admin equivalent rights and manages its own tenants.

Use case 3: Uber Org Admin Role

Some end-customers request bigger than Org Admin role. They want to create their own organizations and Org VDCs to better align with their business groups. SP can dedicate whole VCD instance to such customer. Without the need of provisioning dedicated vSphere/NSX as well.

Any Caveats, Recommendations?

  • Segment vSphere environment with Clusters and Resource Pools for each VCD instance.
  • Use different VCD instance names and IDs
  • Use separate accounts both for vCenter Server and NSX for each VCD instance. Give each account permission only to resources it should see (use vCenter No-Access privilege on clusters/RP/folders it should not see)
  • Dedicate storage resources to each VCD
  • Use separate NSX transport zone for each VCD instance
  • Monitor the load of multiple VCD listeners on the single VC. Scale out VCs if needed. VMware does not test this kind of setup at scale.

Fun Fact

You can in fact vMotion running VM from one vCloud Director environment to another one. To do so, you will move it in vCenter from the source Org VDC RP to the destination Org VDC RP. You must also move it out of the VM Folder (remember the No Access privilege?) to be visible to the target VCD. Obviously it needs to be connected to the right target networks.

Finally, you will need to remove the original vCloud UUID (with PowerCLI or similar) and let it be auto-discovered by the target VCD. There is no auto-removal from the original VCD, so you will need to use the process described here.





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