Introducing RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere

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As developers flock to the public cloud, CIOs are seeking to provide private cloud services that leverage their existing investments in virtualization. For many companies, this means taking advantage of existing VMware® vSphere® environments and expertise. However, vSphere and other virtualized environments are not equivalent to cloud. They lack key cloud capabilities, and access is typically limited to a small number of trained administrators. In comparison, IT teams want to leverage cloud services to deliver:

  • Near-instant self-service access to infrastructure
  • Access to developers and users across the enterprise
  • Ability to choose to deploy to any resource pool, whether cloud or virtualized
  • Ability to move between clouds and virtualized environments
  • Governance and controls over security, policies, and costs
  • Automation of provisioning and other processes via API

The missing piece in the puzzle is the ability to democratize this virtualized environment so that application developers can have the same on-demand access to the virtualized resources that they have become accustomed to from the public cloud. RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere is designed to fill this gap between vSphere and the cloud capabilities that enterprises want.

RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere integrates RightScale Cloud Portfolio Management and the VMware vSphere virtualization platform through a lightweight virtual software appliance. With this appliance, enterprise can leverage RightScale as a single pane of glass to manage applications across vSphere environments as well as leading public and private clouds already supported by RightScale. In addition, RightScale ServerTemplates™ enable users to create portable workloads and move them seamlessly between cloud environments and vSphere. As a result, enterprises can maintain the flexibility to choose any cloud provider and reduce vendor lock-in.


Enterprises can manage applications across vSphere environments as well as the major public and private clouds through a single pane of glass.

How to “Cloudify” Your vSphere Environment

To treat a virtualized environment like a cloud, you will need a cloud orchestration layer that cloudifies your virtualized environment. The role of a cloud orchestration layer is to add cloud functionality such as multi-tenancy governance and standardization of resources to your virtualized environment so that you can gain all of the benefits of cloud computing. Until now, there have been two primary options for cloudifying your vSphere environment: vCloud Director and CloudStack or OpenStack.

vCloud Director

vCloud Director was released by VMware in 2010 but failed to gain much traction with enterprise users. As a result, VMware announced earlier this year that it would be deprecating vCloud Director for enterprise use and migrating some of the APIs directly into vSphere. Although vCloud Director will continue as a product designed for service providers, few enterprises are likely to choose this option.  

CloudStack or OpenStack

The second option has been to use OpenStack or CloudStack as a private cloud orchestration layer on top of vSphere. OpenStack and CloudStack both support connectivity to vSphere. They sit on top of vCenter server, communicate with the vSphere environment using vSphere SDK, and expose their APIs on the northbound side for application or cloud management services.  

This standard setup for a private cloud environment will allow you to abstract your vSphere environment from your end users (who would typically have access via OpenStack or CloudStack APIs and/or tools), and, because both platforms support multiple hypervisors, you avoid lock in to a particular hypervisor.

One significant downside of using either OpenStack or CloudStack to manage vSphere is that they impose some limits on the ability of VMware administrators to use familiar vCenter tools in parallel. CloudStack, for example, requires exclusive access to the vSphere environment that forces all management to go through the cloud orchestration layer. OpenStack allows for co-existence but can not manage instances that are launched through vCenter. Over time, continued development of these open source projects may address some of these limitations.

While both CloudStack and OpenStack are capable private cloud orchestration layers, they come at a price. The expertise and effort required to implement and maintain either platform is significant. For enterprise teams that are looking to cloudify existing vSphere environments, a lighter-weight approach can be very attractive.

RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere

RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere provides a simple, lightweight option for cloudification of vSphere environments. It presents a compute cloud API on top of VMware vSphere and adds several critical cloud capabilities so that a vSphere environment can be managed as if it were an on-premise private cloud. In combination with RightScale Cloud Portfolio Management, it enables enterprises to seamlessly manage applications across public and private clouds as well vSphere environments. 

With RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere, you can manage a vSphere environment as if it were an on-premise private cloud.

RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere is delivered as a software virtual appliance that is designed to be installed on-premise. It is fully contained within a single VM and can be easily deployed on any host. Because it is stateless, the appliance allows for easy load balancing and is well-suited for high-availability architectures. RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere enables you to:

  • Present a simple REST-based cloud API
  • Expose cloud-like constructs such as instance types (small, medium, and large, for example) which don’t exist in a vSphere environment
  • Using the APIs, RightScale Cloud Portfolio Management can provide a single pane of glass across vSphere and other public cloud environments
  • Create a cloud-like multi-tenant environment from existing vSphere resource pools
  • Enable lifecycle management of new and existing workloads

The primary design tenet of RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere was to keep things simple for the end user by leveraging the functionality that vSphere handles best, which includes intelligent resource placement (DRS and Storage DRS) and live migration using vMotion and Storage vMotion.


How Enterprises Can Benefit from RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere

As part of your portfolio of clouds, RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere is seamlessly integrated with RightScale Cloud Management to provide visibility and lifecycle management and governance capability for both new and existing workloads. It is also integrated with RightScale Cloud Analytics so that you can visualize, forecast, and optimize costs across across vSphere data centers as well as other clouds in your portfolio.

The primary benefits that RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere delivers are:

Self-service access across cloud and virtualized environments: vSphere environments have traditionally been controlled, configured, and managed by IT. With RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere, new types of users such as application developers, software architects, and DevOps teams will be able to leverage RightScale to deploy and move workloads across cloud and vSphere environments according to policies set up by IT teams.  

Single pane of glass across cloud and vSphere environments: Using RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere, enterprises can enable infrastructure teams to manage cloud-based workloads — including major public clouds, vSphere environments and OpenStack and CloudStack-based clouds —  from a single pane of glass. As a result, you gain workload portability and the flexibility of choosing a cloud that fits your needs without having to learn a completely new cloud technology or redesign your application. And where private vSphere environment is used in conjunction with public clouds, the management of workload scenarios such as cloudbursting and disaster recovery become a reality.

Enhanced vSphere environments with cloud-like capabilities: Cloud environments offer additional capabilities that go beyond the functionality of virtualized environments like vSphere. RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere adds cloud-like capabilities that expand and streamline access to vSphere. It provides multi-tenancy governance on top of vSphere to allow automated, policy-based sharing of vSphere resources pools by multiple tenants, which is one of the key features of a cloud.

Each resource pool in the cloud belongs to one and only one tenant and is invisible to other tenants unless specially configured to be shared. Each tenant can effectively receive a partition of the cloud resources that isolates their resources (VMs, volumes, etc.) from other tenants. This capability is equivalent to AWS accounts, Google Compute Engine projects or OpenStack tenants.

Typically a tenant represents a project, or an environment (such as development vs. QA vs. production), or a team. RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere manages user access through a set of hierarchical accounts that allow for complete control over which users can access which resources, creating a “vSphere cloud.”

In addition to multi-tenancy governance, RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere also adds constructs that are expected in cloud environments, such as standardized instance types (small, medium, and large) to enable developers to quickly pick from a pre-configured set of infrastructure options.

In the coming months, additional cloud-like functionality will be enabled by RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere including volume support, volume snapshot, and IP address management.

Lifecycle management of workloads: As described above, although orchestration layers such as CloudStack and OpenStack can operate on top of vSphere, they don’t provide the complete parallel management that enterprises want. RightScale does not lock you into one management solution. You can leverage RightScale Cloud Portfolio Management and VMware® vCenter Server™ in parallel. For example, developers can use RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere to deploy and manage workloads in vSphere, while VMWare administrators can leverage vCenter. Regardless whether you launch your workloads in vCenter or RightScale, they will be visible and can be freely managed with either tool.

Reduced vendor lock-in: RightScale ServerTemplates enable you to create workloads that are portable across vSphere environments and other public and private clouds supported by RightScale. This liberates you from getting locked into a particular vendor technology stack and affords you the freedom to pick the best cloud for your workload (and keeps your options open if you change your mind in the future).

Sign Up for Beta Access

RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere supports vSphere 5.1 and 5.5 environments and is currently in limited availability. It is expected to be generally available in the second quarter of 2014. If you would like early access and to talk with RightScale experts who can help you deploy and optimize application portfolios across vSphere virtualized environments as well as public and private clouds, request a demo of RightScale Cloud Appliance for vSphere.