VMware’s SDDC Management Stack

VMware will be the first vendor to deliver a Software Defined Data Center. The most likely scenario is that the SDDC will get completely fleshed out and announced at the US VMworld show and that then VMware’s SDDC Management Stack will be announced at the European VMworld event later in the fall.

VMware’s SDDC Management Stack

If previous patterns hold, everything that gets announced at the two VMworld events will be shipping by the start of 2014. The SDDC will exist when VMware combines virtualized networking and virtualized storage with the existing virtualization of CPU and memory (collectively referred to a virtualization of compute). VMware’s SDDC Management Stack will most likely consist of the current components in the vCloud Suite, with significantly expanded functionality to address the addition of virtualized networking and virtualized storage to the existing virtualization of compute.

VMware’s SDDC Management Stack (Click To Expand) 

VMware's SDDC Management Stack

First lets reiterate why a new management stack is necessary and desirable for the Software Defined Data Center:

  • In the SDDC, the configuration for compute, networking and storage will be done in the SDDC software (vSphere, NSX and however VMware decides to package storage virtualization).
  • Since all configuration will be centralized in one place, it will be easy for configurations to follow workloads around as they migrate between hosts, clusters and clouds.
  • But as these migrations occur, configuration changes will occur along with them – creating a constant stream of configuration events that must be processed by the management stack for the SDDC.
  • As workloads move around, resources will get reallocated, creating the need to manage performance and capacity on a continuous, real time and deterministic basis
  • Automation through cloud management and orchestration will create further streams of information as new workloads get provisioned and old ones get retired.
  • The blizzard of configuration events and automation events plus the stream of performance information will create the need for a real-time back end data store for all of this data.
  • Any product that manages any layer or function in the SDDC will need to have access to the data created by other products. This will again create the need for a big data back end for the SDDC management stack
  • The management stacks in use in enterprises today do not use common big data back ends across products. Each product tends to have its own database, and searching across them is nearly impossible.
  • Therefore the need to have a common back end that can cope with the high arrival rate of large quantities of data creates the need for an entirely new management stack
  • The need for this new stack is further bolstered by the fact that the SDDC will be more automated, more dynamic, more distributed, and more shared than even existing virtualized data center. Existing management solutions were not built for highly automated, dynamic, distributed and shared environments, therefore the existing management stack will need to be removed and replaced by a new one that is built for the SDDC.

The Likely Components of VMware’s SDDC Management Stack

While VMware has not announced either its SDDC or its management stack for the SDDC, VMware has known that it was building an SDDC for a number of years, and has also know that it will have to evolve its existing management offerings to manage that SDDC. Therefore we can surmise that the existing and potentially new components of the vCloud Suite will be adapted to manage VMware’s SDDC (we will cover Security and Data Protection in separate posts):

  • Operations Management – With vCenter Operations Manager, VMware has a market leading operations management solution for its vSphere platform. The recent announcement of Log Insight and the early integration of Log Insight with vC OPS, means that vC OPS now has access to real time performance and event data in the form of log entries from Log Insight. This makes vC OPS into one of two operations management for virtualization solutions that integrates operational data and log data in this manner (Splunk and the Splunk App for VMware is the other one). This integration of log data and operational data is a critical and foundational capability to the management of the SDDC. As VMware builds out the SDDC it can then easily add real time data sources from its network and storage virtualization infrastructure to facilitate operations management of the entire SDDC.
  • Infrastructure Performance Management – In our post on SDDC Infrastructure Performance Management, we quoted Bruce Davie one of the architects of VMware NSX on the need for real time instrumentation. Bruce’s original blog post is here – “Open Source, Open Interfaces, and Open Networking“. The point is that the rate of change in the SDDC will require fine grained instrumentation of the performance and capacity of the SDDC. This will require collecting new metrics and collecting them much more frequently than every 20 seconds. This is again an area where Log Insight will prove to be of great value to VMware.
  • Application Performance Management – VMware has existing this space by end of lifeing vFabric APM. This is now an area that is wide open to the APM vendor ecosystem to address.
  • Cloud Management – With vCloud Automation Center, VMware has an enterprise grade cloud management solution today. vCAC will only become more powerful and more useful as it becomes possible to automatically configure and provision networking and storage in vCAC due to the fact that the SDDC will surface network and storage configuration and provisioning in software.
  • Big Data Repository – With Log Insight, VMware now has the ability to ingest and index for query and search large amounts of rapidly arriving data. Log Insight is both an incredibly important additional product for VMware, but also has the potential to be the long term strategic back end data store for all of VMware’s management products. If VMware can pull this off, they will be the first and only management software vendor with an integrated set of management products that all share one high performance big data back end.
  • Self-Learning Analytics – VMware made an early investment in this area with the acquisition of Integrien in August of 2010. The Integrien self-learning analytics have been deeply woven throughout vCenter Operations making it into the only Operations Management solution for virtualization that does not require setting manual thresholds as the analytics learn the normal state and set dynamic thresholds. VMware has also invested in a separate set of analytics as a part of the Log Insight product. These two investments in operational analytics significantly differentiate VMware from most of the alternative solutions.
  • Orchestration and Automation – VMware has had vCenter Orchestrator for quite some time, but there are many cases where it cannot go far enough, or where orchestration and automation of something is required that is far outside of the coverage for Orchestrator. For these cases, VMware has a deep partnership and an investment in Puppet Labs. One excellent example of Puppet integration with VMware is how vFabric Application Director can use Puppet to install operating systems, application run time, databases, and applications in N-tier containers managed by vFabric Application Director and deployed by vCloud Automation Center.


VMware will be the first vendor to deliver a SDDC. VMware’s SDDC Management Stack will be the first cohesive and complete management stack for that SDDC. The combined benefits of the SDDC along with management purpose built for the SDDC will allow VMware to deliver substantial value to its customers once these products all ship.

If  you are attending VMworld and you would like to learn more about this topic, then consider attending VCM4869 – Building the Management Stack for your Software Defined Data Center.