Introducing Cross-cloud Container Management Integration with vRealize Automation

David Coulter

by David Coulter

By Jim Bugwadia, Nirmata

Software is redefining our world, and businesses who deliver software faster will win. Enterprise development teams are increasingly adopting application container technologies (like Docker) to accelerate business agility and enable DevOps best practices.  However, operationalizing application containers remains a daunting challenge. Let’s take a look at how a vRealize Automation based cross-cloud container management solution can enable business agility and provide a clear separation of concerns across IT Ops and development teams.

CROSS-CLOUD CONTAINER MANAGEMENT

According to a recent IDC survey, almost half (47%) of organizations that recognize DevOps as their primary development strategy expect to rely on five or more clouds by 2020.

vRealize Automation

Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs), like vRealize Automation (vRA), provide a common layer of management and governance across clouds. vRA is also designed for extensibility, which makes it possible to leverage extensions and best-of-breed tools from the ecosystem. While CMPs address key challenges for virtualization and infrastructure management, additional tools are needed for cloud-native application lifecycle management. This is exactly what Nirmata is designed to do.

Nirmata

Nirmata provides adaptive application management without lock-in to any cloud provider or container technology. Nirmata is delivered as a cloud service and fully automates the deployment, and operations of cloud applications. Nirmata offers policy based scheduling, integrated microservices tooling, monitoring, analytics, alarms, access controls, audit trails, etc. Basically everything you need to easily deploy and operate containerized applications across any public or private cloud. Nirmata is designed to solve a complex set of problems, in a simple manner. As we looked at integrations with CMPs and vRealize Automation, we came across another team who adopted the same principles and the same simple user experience methodology – SovLabs.

SovLabs

SovLabs’ vRA modules eliminate the pain of building and managing custom extensions and workflows by simplifying complex integrations across a multitude of technology stacks using a platform-native, software-driven approach. Using this approach, SovLabs can provide the best possible end-user experience and value available in conjunction with vRA. Given the obvious match to Nirmata we decided to partner with SovLabs to integrate our solution and vRealize Automation. The solution is rich and full-featured, but let’s take a look at how major use cases we heard from our customers are handled:

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SELF-SERVICE CATALOG OF CONTAINERIZED APPLICATIONS

Using the solution, IT operations teams can use vRA to deploy and manage container hosts. This allows using existing best practices, and complete control and visibility into how container hosts are provisioned and used.

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There are several SovLabs modules that aid in provisioning container hosts, which are typically VMs themselves. Some popular SovLabs modules include Custom Host Naming, Infoblox, BlueCat, SolarWinds, Active Directory Registration, Puppet, F5 and ServiceNow CMDB.

With the SovLabs Multi-Cloud Docker Container Management with Nirmata, as container hosts are spun-up, the Nirmata Host Agent dynamically registers the host with Nirmata. Each container host is assigned to a host group in Nirmata, to enable policy-based host segregation across workloads. For example, you can now easily segregate production hosts from dev-test hosts and even select the most suitable cloud resources for each, all using a common management plane.

Nirmata provides a built-in catalog of containerized applications. The SovLabs module dynamically discovers all available applications, and also discovers other policy settings that are used to manage the scheduling and deployment of containers. Users can now request containerized applications from the vRA catalog, and select to deploy them to an environment. The SovLabs module will check capacity and dispatch the request to Nirmata who allocates resources on the designated hosts, deploys the application containers, and initiates management of the application containers. The user can then be provided access information for the application.

Nirmata seamlessly supports traditional, microservices-style, and clustered applications.  The containerized applications supported can range from a traditional web applications, to complex distributed software like Apache Mesos.

OPERATIONS OF CONTAINER HOSTS

Beyond deploying and managing applications, the solution also manages the lifecycle of container hosts.

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For example, it is possible to grow or shrink the cloud-based container host clusters based on usage. For container hosts (VMs) provisioned via vRealize Automation, simply destroying the VM will automatically deregister the host in Nirmata and shift the containers appropriately within the cluster based on policy settings. This allows a lot of flexibility in managing applications and hosts, while providing service continuity.

ENABLE MULTI-MODE APPLICATIONS

While containers are great for packaging and deploying most application components, enterprise applications may leverage services which cannot be easily containerized, or for which containerization may not provide the same level of benefits. A typical example of services which may need to be deployed directly on VMs, is of backing services such as databases and messaging software.

To address these cases, the solution enables easy provisioning and management of applications where components span VMs and containers. When requesting a containerized application, users can easily inject properties including addresses of external services which essentially creates a runtime binding across containerized application components, and the components running on VMs.

SUMMARY

vRealize Automation is a proven solution that enables cross-cloud management. By leveraging its extensibility, and flexible integration capabilities, SovLabs and Nirmata are able to deliver an innovative and highly efficient solution to address the pain points of managing application containers across clouds. Using vRA and Nirmata – SovLabs solution, you no longer need to choose across agility and control. To learn more about the Nirmata and SovLabs cross cloud container management solution available on VMware solution exchange, click here or request a demo.