CloudHealth by VMware – Reporting & Policies

Well, this blog post has been 3 months in the works – in fact a draft has been sitting in WordPress since September when I collaborated with Kim Bottu on his article about Integrating CloudHealth and vROps, the plan was for me to write a companion blog which show-cased the same capabilities in CloudHealth that he mentioned in his vROps blog.

2020 has been a profoundly difficult and odd year for everyone, and I found myself not wanting to do anything after a busy day of zoom meetings and home schooling. The motivation to write a blog just wasn’t there, and after a busy day all I just wanted to do was chill and relax in the evenings.
There’s been a fine-line in everyone’s work-life balance this year, and everyone needs to find that little bit of time each day to just shut off and unwind (usually when the kids are in bed)!

Anyways, the Christmas holidays and having time off work has given me the opportunity to sit back down and finish the blog (plus Kim was saying I should publish it in order to help my vExpert application for 2021… hahahahha… lol…. – btw, you have till the 9th January 2021 to submit!)

What is CloudHealth?

I guess the best place to start this blog is to give a quick overview of what CloudHealth actually is, so here’s the elevator pitch I always give….

“The more organisations invest in public cloud, the more important it is to have a cloud management strategy for their success, and this is where CloudHealth can assist.
CloudHealth is a multi-cloud management platform designed to provide full visibility into your cloud environment – helping you to identify opportunities for cost savings and usage optimisation. We help you to easily analyse and control cloud costs, security, performance and governance all from one single platform.
We give you insight into your data centre, hybrid and public cloud spend – aligning costs and usage to users, lines of business or even projects and business initiatives.We help make cloud management simple.”

Sooooo, what does that actually mean I hear you ask!?!

In a nutshell, CloudHealth takes your cloud billing and usage data, process and presents it in reports that help you visualise your costs and usage. In addition, one of their USPs is the ability to create perspectives to help you categorise and filter your data.

Currently CloudHealth supports Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and on-premise VMware environments. They also have a beta-program for VMware Cloud on AWS support.

CloudHealth is the clear leader in multi-cloud management, they’re the largest player in the market with 10,000+ customers and 230+ partners globally, managing over $11+bn in annual cloud spend.
CloudHealth has continued to be named a Leader in The Forrester Wave: Cloud Cost Management and Optimization Report.

What is a Perspective and How are They Used in Reports?

The most common way to describe a CloudHealth Perspective is that they are “lenses” through which you want to view your infrastructure. Each role within an organisation measures and evaluates the business from different viewpoints or ‘Perspectives’.
You can create Perspectives to view and group cloud assets together in order to align them with business objectives.
They provide a framework for categorising all the assets within your cloud infrastructure. For example, you could create a Perspective to group assets into Environment, Application, Department, Function, Project, or even Cost Centre.
You can build Perspectives dynamically using cloud tags or statically using the search capabilities.

For Example, the default view of a Cost History Report within CloudHealth is to show 13 months of cost data categorised by Service type (this is an example of an AWS report):

We can then take that default view and change the categorisation to a Perspective built to show Owners (this could help identify those users who spend all the company’s money on cloud!):

Or we can even change the view to categorise by a Perspective built to show Environment (IT Operation Managers are constantly looking for ways to show how much different Infrastructure Environments cost the business):

Finally, we can combine a number of Perspectives together to drill down further into our costs. In this example we’re filtering to look at just the Production Environment Perspective group, and categorising by the Owner Perspective (so helping to identify who spends the most in Production!):

Chart Types for a report can also be changed from Bar to Line – in this example we’re looking at the Cost History Report categorised by the Perspective ‘Line of Business’:

Another great Chart Type to use is the Pie Chart – as this is only 2 dimensional you will need to filter to a specific time period (eg. November 2020) and change the X-axis away from time interval (in this example I’ve used the ‘Line of Business’ Perspective):

Using CloudHealth to Generate Alerts.

Now the basics of Reporting and Perspectives are out of the way…. Let’s take a look at replicating within CloudHealth what Kim configured in vROps.

In Kim’s blog, he looked at how vROps can be configured to generate alerts based on Month to Date Cloud Spend for certain assets.
We’ll take look at how the Policy Engine works in CloudHealth to generate Alerts, and the actions that can be taken by a Policy.

Policies at its most basic is a set of rules that allow you to govern various aspects of your cloud infrastructure, such as cost, availability, security, performance, and usage.
The Policy Engine in CloudHealth is pretty powerful, it’s not just used to track cloud spend, for example:

  • you can track the launch of new resources
  • you can identify and terminate unused or underutilized assets
  • you can track unexpected cost spikes
  • you can track changes across the cloud infrastructure
  • you can identify resources that have been created out of compliance with specific rules (ie region location, OS type, etc)

At the core of each policy is a rule, which monitors for one or more conditions and, optionally, responds with an action. Actions could be to send an email to notify that a policy has been triggered, or to power off an EC2 instance or VM.

Creating a Policy to alert on Month to Date (MTD) Cloud Spend

One of the most common policies created by CloudHealth customers is a policy to identify increasing cloud costs over a set time period. When overall costs in your cloud environment increase suddenly, it could be an indicator of a larger problem – for example, a compromised cloud account where attackers have spun up a large number of EC2 instances and VMs.

You can create a policy that alerts someone via email whenever the Total Cost of your cloud bill increases by more than a certain percentage:

Or even by a fixed amount:

You even have the granularity to set the conditions to focus on a single Account (in this example ‘Test account name’):

Whilst these examples have a time interval of 1 day, this can be changed to 1 week or 1 month to suit your requirements.

Most Policies allow you to filter the rule condition to focus on a specific account (eg. Test Account name), a specific service/asset type (eg. EC2 Compute), a specific Region, or even by a Perspective you’ve created (eg. Environment = Production):

Alternatively, you can create a policy for a specific resource type you may want to focus on, in the following example we’re just looking at EC2 Instances and want to be alerted if the total costs increased by 10% over 1 month, we could then take a number of different actions – email, delete EC2 instance, stop EC2 instance, etc:

CloudHealth vs vRealize Operations

Having used both CloudHealth and vROps, I would say it’s far easier to create reports, policies and alerts within CloudHealth compared to vROps – but I might be a little biased here… =)

The Cost and Usage reports are far better in CloudHealth – the added feature of being able to use filters, categorisations and Perspectives to change the viewpoint of the report visualisation is something that stands us apart from other tools! Not to mention that changing the visualisation occurs instantly, there’s no need to wait for processing to occur to rebuild the graphical data.
Within CloudHealth you also have far greater granularity to customise the policy conditions by using the filter capabilities.

One thing I constantly get asked is whether CloudHealth and vRealize overlap each other and perform the same functions.
They’re actually complementary management solutions as they are two different products providing information for different use cases within an organisation!

vRealize offers operational efficiency and automation and CloudHealth brings collaboration, governance, and optimization. 

  • vRealize focuses on driving efficient operations (i.e., provisioning, troubleshooting, capacity planning, automation) in the private and hybrid clouds. Providing Consistent infrastructure and operations, from the data center to the cloud.
  • CloudHealth focuses on driving improved business outcomes (i.e., governance, optimization, visibility, chargeback) in the public and hybrid clouds. Breaking down public cloud silos and streamline cost, compliance and analytics operations.

It’s also worth noting that the starting point for the journey to multi-cloud can originate in the enterprise data centre or from the public cloud. Whether an enterprise is looking to expand its data centre to public or vice versa.

In the data centre, infrastructure/operation teams require tools for configuration, provisioning, automation, capacity planning and governance for all their data centre assets (ie Day 2 operations). It’s also very Capex-intensive and costs are somewhat stable and predictable. This is the perfect scenario for vRealize.

In the public and multi-cloud world, developers and lines-of-business users provision resources directly themselves. It’s very Opex-intensive and resource usage can be dynamic and unpredictable. The management disciplines needed for cloud-centric, de-centralized IT include ways to govern usage, optimise costs and deal with cloud security threats and vulnerabilities. This is where CloudHealth comes into the fore.

For example, vRealize can be used to help perform capacity planning assessments and ‘What If’ scenario modelling. CloudHealth can be used to model the cost of migrations from private to public cloud.

Anyways, I’ve realised that this has been a super long post so I’m going to end here. I hope it’s been useful reading…. I’m also hoping that I’ll get the chance to blog more often on CloudHealth and its features in the coming year! =)

For now, I hope you all have a Happy New Year! Let’s pray that 2021 will bring back some normality to the world!

VMware on Microsoft Azure….. interesting!

Earlier this week, Microsoft let slip that they were working with Premier VMware partners on a tech preview to deploy a full VMware stack on Azure bare-metal hardware, co-located with other Azure services.

Initially billed as a ‘stepping-stone’ to full Azure Cloud, Microsoft have made known that “sometimes there are specific VMware workloads that can be more challenging to migrate to the cloud” – and so customers may need the option to run these workloads on a VMware stack in Azure (for the time being). What I can’t quite work out yet is what these “workloads” would be… after all, nearly every workload I’ve ever deployed on VMware can be easily re-deployed on Hyper-V!

Microsoft have mentioned that this new VMware stack on Azure will GA in 2018. What they haven’t mentioned is who they’re working with, who will own and support the service and how it would be licensed…. for a start, it’s very interesting that it’s not being developed alongside VMware, and VMware have come out to say they’re not aware of any of their partners collaborating alongside VMware engineering to deliver this service – in fact VMware have stated it’s being developed independent of VMware and is “neither certified nor supported by VMware…. VMware does not recommend and will not support customers running on the Azure announced partner offering.” – which kind of makes you wonder what happens if a customer encounters problems with this Azure service?!? I highly doubt there will be any enterprise customers taking up this un-supported Azure service!!

I’m not sure why Microsoft have stated that “running your VMware stack in the cloud doesn’t address your hybrid requirements”… surely the fact that having a common framework on-prem and off-prem (ie VMware Cloud Foundation) is that “true consistency across your cloud and on-prem environment” that Microsoft say is missing….?!? Whilst it maybe true that Azure can provide a complete hybrid cloud package, let’s face it their Azure Stack offering is pretty limited – only a select few hardware vendors, no ability for customers to use their own hardware and lack of ability to expand/upgrade – plus I’m not aware of many customers jumping on board the Azure Stack on-prem platform! Also, when it comes to networking, Microsoft’s offering lacks the features of what NSX offers to VMware customers!

Should VMware start getting worried about this new announcement…..? On the contrary, they seem to have embraced the idea and even have the audacity to spin this announcement as Microsoft “recognizing the leadership position of VMware’s offering…. as a superior and necessary solution for customers over Hyper-V…..!!” TBH, they’ve never really seen much damage done to their vSphere install base when Microsoft started releasing tools to help people migrate off VMware, so I doubt this new announcement will trouble their new VMware Cloud on AWS offering.

It’s interesting that it was announce alongside the new Azure Migrate service which helps you discover and plan the migration of your on-prem VMware workloads and then execute the migration with Azure Site Recovery (ASR).

In my opinion, it’s all just a bit of hot air coming from Microsoft to try and take some of the plaudits before next weeks AWS re:Invent conference!

 

However, I do hope that Microsoft swallow some pride and reach out to VMware and start a combined engineering/development effort as that will go a long way to what every man and his dog wants to see – VMware Cloud on Azure! Only when Azure comes on board will VMware be able to say they are now a “broker of cloud” as only then will customers be given the option to migrate workloads seamlessly between the 2 biggest players in the public cloud market! (TBH given the relationship VMware has with GCP, I can see VMware Cloud on GCP happening first before Azure – although hardly anyone uses GCP!)

I mean, VMware and Microsoft already partner to offer VMware Horizon Cloud on Azure, surely they can put their differences aside and produce the one thing everyone is asking for!

…. watch this space….. (in eager anticipation!)

Horizon Cloud on Azure – GA

Interesting tie up between VMware and Microsoft…. is this the beginning of a new relationship? Have Microsoft woken up (post-VMworld) to the awesome VMware Cloud on AWS and realised they also want in on the party? (although if i’m honest this partnership has been bubbling in the background for a while now).

Anyways, after a round of beta testing in the US, Horizon Cloud has now gone GA on Azure: https://blogs.vmware.com/euc/2017/10/vmware-horizon-cloud-on-microsoft-azure-now-available.html

When Horizon Cloud was launched earlier this year, the concept of enabling end-user organisations the ability to deploy feature-rich VDIs and applications across multiple deployment options was very promising. From a single management console, end users are able to deploy virtual desktops onto on-premise infrastructure, to the Cloud, or a hybrid combination of both. TBH, some of this concept was already available in Horizon Air (which came out of the Desktone acquisition), but this is an evolution of that product.

Horizon Cloud is a cross-cloud architecture for VDI – much like how Cloud Foundation is for SDDC – however, in the case of Horizon Cloud, the Portal which acts as the control/management plane resides solely in the cloud (you get a choice with Cloud Foundation’s SDDC Manager), administrators log into this portal to deploy and manage their VDI sessions – whether on prem or cloud.

3 offerings currently:

  1. Horizon Cloud Hosted – so VDI infrastructure provided by VMware (IBM Cloud is currently the only provider), where you just choose the type of desktop and apps to deploy via the portal – DaaS. Infrastructure management/maintenance/SLAs are fully undertaken by VMware.
  2. Horizon Cloud On-Premise – based on HCI technology and acts like a stepping stone to Cloud VDI. VDI stored locally on prem, but management is all from the Cloud, perfect for data-residency issues, for end-users who require high performance VDI, and for IT admins who wish to have greater control over their VDI infrastructure.
  3. Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure – delivering RDS VDI and apps hosted in Azure datacentres. Connecting a customers Azure IaaS subscription to Horizon Cloud. So VMware manages the VDI aspects and Microsoft the underlying infrastructure. Also worth noting that currently only Azure deployments support vGPU-accelerated infrastructure.

Whatever the deployment option, customers will get a VDI infrastructure that’s easily scalable (whether cloud or on-prem) and easy to deploy. The best part is you get the flexibility of subscription based pricing.

With Horizon Cloud on Azure, you can import gold images from Azure marketplace which will then be configured and deployed for Horizon.

One key element of the Horizon Cloud technology is justin-time (JIT) provisioning of virtual desktops and applications. Using the configurations made in the cloud-control
plane, Horizon Cloud leverages VMware App Volumes, User Environment Manager, and VMware Instant Clone technologies to assemble personalised virtual desktop and application environments when an end user logs in, giving IT administrators high flexibility in leveraging the infrastructure.

I like the idea that if I have a persistent VDI deployed in Horizon Cloud, then I can access that VDI or hosted apps whether I’m in the office or on the move (as long as there is data connectivity). I can start writing a document in the office, then leave it open mid-sentence as I leave the office, or jump on a train – I can even power off my endpoint device – then I can re-establish the session and carry on without any interruption… an Always On desktop!

I also like the idea that with Azure, I could deploy a VDI session to the datacentre in the UK, then as I jump on a flight to the US I can re-deploy that VDI session to an Azure datacentre in the US. Although, I’m not quite sure you can migrate live VDI sessions between datacentres yet – I haven’t seen any articles that say you can live-migrate VDIs (but one would think this would be the ideal end-goal).

 

Hopefully this new VMware-Microsoft partnership will lead onto Microsoft accepting to run Cloud Foundation on Azure (VMware Cloud on Azure) which will then give end users the freedom to move their workloads from on prem to either AWS or Azure!! Almost Cross-Cloud (just need GCP to step up).