Friday, 16 February 2018

vRealize Business for Cloud Introduction

I've spent a little time recently familiarising myself with vRealize Business for Cloud (vRBC as it's a VMware product so must have an acronym!) in particular version 7.3.  As a one-liner, it's the product customers use for cloud cost operations for private and public cloud, plus private vs public cost comparison and cost reporting.

So what does it do?:
  • Metering - collect data on resource consumption
  • Costing - identifying how much things cost in terms if hardware, licensing, power, staffing, etc.
  • Pricing -  giving the ability to add a margin.
  • Chargeback - the ability to bill for operational costs
  • Showback - the estimated costs, but no billing takes place
It uses industry averages to automatically work out what a server, rack, network port, KW of power, etc. cost and based on all of that, by identifying what hardware you've got, it makes a calculation on what a VM actually costs.  Something which I think most of my customers would like to know (and would like to tell their IT consumers).  This is dynamic and updates via the internet.

The product is a result of an acquisition of Digital Fuel back in 2011.  A product called ITBM (IT Business Management) was created which eventually turned into three versions of vRealize Business; Standard, Advanced and Enterprise.  Standard provided business management for cloud, advanced included IT financial management and enterprise added service quality features.   In 2016, vRealize Business Standard became vRealize Business for Cloud (vRBC), the feature set of vRealize Business Advanced features were moved into vRBC and vRealize Business Enterprise was sold as a company under the original Digital Fuel name.  So we now have:
  • vRBC Standard:  Private cloud metering, consumption analysis, cloud comparison and vRA Service catalogue pricing
  • vRBC Advanced:  The above + Public Cloud (AWS & Azure) metering, role-based showback, datacenter optimization, reclamation and more advanced reporting 
History lesson over, what does it look & how does it drive!?

First and foremost, deploy the appliance, all the usual stuff applies; use DNS & NTP, but you must also use UTC as a timezone.  When you deploy the appliance, you get the choice to decide what currency the platform will use:

The appliance out of the box (or ova) is 4 vCPU, 8 GB RAM, 50 GB which will support 20k VMs.  This can be manually extended to support 30k VMs.

Once the appliance is deployed, it needs to be paired to vRA.  To do this, connect to the VAMI (https://appliance:5480) and connect:

N.B., there is a way of using a standalone vIDM deployment, or even local accounts using a CLI, but I've only covered the vRA method here.  I think most of the power with the tool comes for vRA customers, although there is a use case for customers who have vCD and public clouds who want the cost features.  But the way it integrates into vRA so well shows where it's best placed (in my opinion!)  For non-vRA access, the url is https://appliance/itfm-cloud.

After the vRA connection is registered, you will notice absolutely nothing new from within vRA...  That is because in order to use the new service, you need to create a custom group, or add the newly added vRBC roles to an existing group:

Now, when you login as a user who has the vRA group assigned, you'll see the Business Management tab.  The first time you click on it, you'll be prompted for a license key.  Depending on the key you supply, you will either see the standard or advanced features.  It's worth noting that vRBC is licensed either per VM or host (covered in a vRealize Suite license for example) and you can add multiple licenses, but not mix and match VM and host licenses

Put the license in and you'll be on to the vRBC GUI... 

One thing which is historical from the old versions of vRB and which I seem to always forget is this;  although you've now tied vRA and vRBC together, you must also add the vSphere resource.  This is how vRBC calculates what hardware, network, etc. the server is using to give you the cost calculation, otherwise the VM will appear in vRBC, but it will appear as $0.00. 

To do so, from the vRA 'Administration' tab, select 'Business Management' and add the vCenter Server.  This is also where you can add vCloud Director, AWS, Azure, NSX, EMC Storage.  When adding the vCenter server, you might get a note about having to run a data collection.

One thing to do which I did not; create an account with the required permissions on whatever clusters, datastores, etc. runs your cloud infrastructure.  You do not want to include non-cloud resource in cost calculations for the platform.

Back to the Business Management tab,  you will see in the top right hand corner a 'Status' link and symbol.  This probably has a yellow warning as we've just added the vCenter server and not performed a data collection. 

This shows when the last data collection was for the cost calculations (figures provided by VMware so vRBC can make a calculation on how much things cost), vRA and vCenter (not in the above screenshot).  Once all is good, vRBC will start to make calculations about what things cost:

I mentioned here that I didn't use an account that has access to only the areas of vCenter that are used for the vRA compute workload, so everything registered against the vCenter here is registered.  All menus are interactive so by clicking on, for example, the '22 VMs' above, I can look at costs on a per-VM basis:

These figures are slightly skewed as I'm using a lot of nested ESXi, but still, this tells me for my two nested Compute ESXi hosts, how much they're costing me...  You can see above how the figures are made up, but in order to modify them, you can click on 'Cost Drivers' down the left-hand side and, for example below, modify how much each tier of storage costs.

One other thing that I quite like in vRBC is the ability to see an overall figure of what the datacenter is costing you, broken down into hardware, storage, etc... As I mentioned, I used an administrator account which had more rights than I'd ideally have if this was in production and not my lab - so I can see both my physical datacenter and my virtual datacenter costs:

So for customers who trying to move to a proper private cloud model (i.e, using chargeback or showback), how all this looks from vRA is very user-friendly.  Costs are displayed at the time of VM provisioning, and 'View Price Details' will give a breakdown in terms of CPU, RAM, Storage, etc:

And the view from the deployed items tab gives a month-to-date view of what the VM has cost:

There are a few other tools that I really like in vRBC...  As well as the ability to manage costs associated with AWS and Azure subscriptions (with the advanced license), what vRBC can also do is compare a deployment scenario across private and public cloud platforms:

This can be customised based on what actual resource you think you might use.
I'm impressed with vRBC.  I had a play with vRB a while back and felt that it took quite a bit of work to make work for most customers, where as this can be deployed and put to work with relative ease.  Consultant disclaimer:  This still needs design work and a good understanding of business requirements - quick and easy don't mean one size fits all!!

Thanks for reading.