The VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) Holodeck Toolkit is designed to provide a scalable, repeatable way to deploy nested Cloud Foundation hands-on environments directly on VMware ESXi hosts. These environments are ideal for multi-team hands on exercises exploring the capabilities of utilitizing VCF to deliver a Customer Managed VMware Cloud.
Delivering labs in a nested environment solves several challenges with delivering hands-on for a product like VCF, including:
Reduced hardware requirements: When operating in a physical environment, VCF requires four vSAN Ready Nodes for the management domain, and additional hosts for adding clusters or workload domains. In a nested environment, the same four to eight hosts are easily virtualized to run on a single ESXi host.
Self-contained services: The Holodeck Toolkit configuration provides common infrastructure services, such as NTP, DNS, AD, Certificate Services and DHCP within the environment, removing the need to rely on datacenter provided services during testing. Each environment needs a single external IP.
Isolated networking. The Holodeck Toolkit configuration removes the need for VLAN and BGP connections in the customer network early in the testing phase.
Isolation between environments. Each Holodeck deployment is completely self-contained. This avoids conflicts with existing network configurations and allows for the deployment of multiple nested environments on same hardware or datacenter with no concerns for overlap.
Multiple VCF deployments on a single VMware ESXi host with sufficient capacity. A typical VCF Standard Architecture deployment of four node management domain and four node VI workload domain, plus add on such as VMware vRealize Automation requires approximately 20 CPU cores, 512GB memory and 2.5TB disk.
Automation and repeatability. The deployment of nested VCF environments is almost completely hands-off, and easily repeatable using configuration files. A typical deployment takes less than 3 hours, with less than 15 min keyboard time.
Nested Environment Overview
The “VLC Holodeck Standard Main 1.3” configuration is a nested VMware Cloud Foundation configuration used as the baseline for several Private Cloud operation and consumption lab exercises created by the Cloud Foundation Technical Marketing team. The Holodeck standard “VLC-Holo-Site-1” is the primary configuration deployed. The optional VLC-Holo-Site-2 can be deployed at any time later within a Pod. VLC-Holo-Site-1 configuration matches the lab configuration in the VCF Hands-On Lab HOL-2246 and the nested configuration in the VCF Experience program run on the VMware Lab Platform.
Each Pod on a Holodeck deployment runs an identical nested configuration. A pod can be deployed with a standalone VLC-Holo-Site-1 configuration, or with both VLC-Holo-Site-1 and VLC-Holo-Site-2 configurations active. Separation of the pods and between sites within a pod is handled at the VMware vSphere Standard Switch (VSS) level. Each Holodeck pod connects to a unique VSS and Port Group per site. A VMware vSphere Port Group is configured on each VSS and configured as a VLAN trunk.
Components on the port group to use VLAN tagging to isolate communications between nested VLANs. This removes the need to have physical VLANs plumbed to the ESXi host to support nested labs.
When the Holo-Site-2 configuration is deployed it uses a second VSS and Port Group for isolation from Holo-Site-1
The VLC Holodeck configuration customizes the VCF Cloud Builder Virtual Machine to provide several support services within the pod to remove the requirement for specific customer side services. A Cloud Builder VM is deployed per Site to provide the following within the pod:
DNS (local to Site1 and Site2 within the pod, acts as forwarder)
NTP (local to Site1 and Site2 within the pod)
DHCP (local to Site1 and Site2 within the pod)
L3 TOR for vMotion, vSAN, Management, Host TEP and Edge TEP networks within each site
BGP peer from VLC Tier 0 NSX Application Virtual Network (AVN) Edge (Provides connectivity into NSX overlay networks from the lab console)
The figure below shows a logical view of the VLC-Holo-Site-1 configuration within a Holodeck Pod. The Site-1 configuration uses DNS domain vcf.sddc.lab.
Figure 1: Holodeck Nested Diagram
The Holodeck package also provides a preconfigured Photon OS VM, called “Holo-Router”, that functions as a virtualized router for the base environment. This VM allows for connecting the nested environment to the external world. The Holo-Router is configured to forward any Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP) traffic to the nested jump host, known as the Holo-Console, which is deployed within the pod.
The user interface to the nested VCF environment is via a Windows Server 2019 “Holo-Console” virtual machine. Holo-Console provides a place to manage the internal nested environment like a system administrators desktop in a datacenter. Holo-Console is used to run the VLC package to deploy the nested VCF instance inside the pod. Holo-Console VM’s are deployed from a custom-built ISO that configures the following
Microsoft Windows Server 2019 Desktop Experience with:
Active directory domain “vcf.holo.lab”
DNS Forwarder to Cloud Builder
Certificate Server, Web Enrollment and VMware certificate template
IP, Subnet, Gateway, DNS and VLAN configured for deployment as Holo-Console
Firewall and IE Enhanced security disabled
SDDC Commander custom desktop deployed
Additional software packages deployed and configured
Google Chrome with Holodeck bookmarks
VMware Power Validated Solutions
PuTTY SSH client
Additional software packages copied to Holo-Console for later use
VMware Cloud Foundation 4.5 Cloud Builder OVA to C:\CloudBuilder
VCF Lab Constructor 4.5.1 with dual site Holodeck configuration
VMware vRealize Automation 8.10 Easy Installer
The figure below shows the virtual machines running on the physical ESXi host to deliver a Holodeck Pod called “Holo-A”. Notice an instance of Holo-Console, Holo-Router, Cloud Builder and four nested ESXi hosts. They all communicate over the VLC-A-PG Port Group
Figure 2: Holodeck Nested Hosts
Adding a second site adds an additional instance of Cloud Builder and additional nested ESXi hosts. VLC-Holo-Site-2 connects to the second internal leg of the Holo-Router on VLAN 20. Network access from the Holo-Console to VLC-Holo-Site-2 is via Holo-Router.
The figure below shows a logical view of the VLC-Holo-Site-2 configuration within a Holodeck Pod. The Site-2 configuration uses DNS domain vcf2.sddc.lab
Figure 3: Holodeck Site-2 Diagram
Accessing the Holodeck Environment
User access to the Holodeck pod is via the Holo-Console. Access to Holo-Console is available via two paths:
Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connection to the external IP of the Holo-Router. Holo-Router is configured to forward all RDP traffic to the instance of Holo-Console inside the pod.
I had a frustrating issue with Packer, specifically with VMware Tools installation.
During the Packer install, I load up a script and have VMware Tools 12.1.5 installed. It seems to install successfully, But I noticed that the VMTools service is not running. I have to re-run setup64.exe via the GUI and do a repair, then I see the service exist and runs, and Packer can discover the IP address of the VM to finish it.
I used a older autounattend.xml which i never checked the time zone.
Setting the correcting time zone the trick:
Virtual Machine with Windows Server 2022 with KB5022842 (Feb 2023) installed en configured with secure boot enabled will not boot up on vSphere 7 unless updated to 7.0u3k (vSphere 8 not affected)
In VM vmware.log, there is ‘Image DENIED’ info like the below:
2023-02-15T05:34:31.379Z In(05) vcpu-0 – SECUREBOOT: Signature: 0 in db, 0 in dbx, 1 unrecognized, 0 unsupported alg.
2023-02-15T05:34:31.379Z In(05) vcpu-0 – Hash: 0 in db, 0 in dbx.
2023-02-15T05:34:31.379Z In(05) vcpu-0 – SECUREBOOT: Image DENIED.
To identify the location of vmware.log files:
Establish an SSH session to your host. For ESXi hosts
Log in to the ESXi Host CLI using root account.
To list the locations of the configuration files for the virtual machines registered on the host, run the below command:
#vim-cmd vmsvc/getallvms | grep -i “VM_Name”
The vmware.log file is located in virtual machine folder along with the vmx file.
Record the location of the .vmx configuration file for the virtual machine you are troubleshooting. For example:
If you already face the issue, after patching the host to ESXi 7.0 Update 3k, just power on the affected Windows Server 2022 VMs. After you patch a host to ESXi 7.0 Update 3k, you can migrate a running Windows Server 2022 VM from a host of version earlier than ESXi 7.0 Update 3k, install KB5022842, and the VM boots properly without any additional steps required.
With all the Fabric configuration done we can test our setup.
I’m creating two overlay segments in NSX connected to a Tier-1 gateway, and after that we’ll create a Tier-0 gateway and connect the T1 gateway to it to get North/South connectivity to the overlay resources
Two VMs will be deployed, one VM in each of the two overlay segments
Create a Tier-1 Gateway
The Tier-1 Gateway will initially not be connected to a Tier-0 Gateway (I haven’t configured a T0 gw yet) or an Edge Cluster.
Create Logical segments
We need two logical segments, both using the Overlay Transport Zone. I’m defining different subnets on them, 10.0.1.0/24 and 10.0.2.0/24.
Add VMs to Logical segments
We have two Photon VMs which should be added to the logical segments.
Two Photon VMs
Now let’s verify that the two VMs can ping each other
Don’t forget to enable the echo rule on the Windows Firewall….
This shows that the overlay is working, and note again that the Edge VMs are not in use here.
Traffic is flowing between VMs running on Logical segments inside the NSX-T environment, but what if we want to reach something outside, or reach a VM inside a NSX-T overlay?
Then we need to bring a Tier-0 Gateway in to the mix.
The T-0 gateway can be configured with Uplinks that are connected to the physical network. This is done through a segment which can reach the physical network, normally through a VLAN.
To configure the uplink interfaces we need to have Edge VMs so finally we get to bring those into play as well.
Create segment for uplinks
First I’ll create a segment mapped to VLAN 99 in my lab. Note that I select the VLAN transport zone, and I do not connect the segment to a gateway
Create Uplink VLAN segment
Create Tier-0 gateway
Now we’ll create a Tier-0 gateway, note that I now also select my Edge cluster.
Create T0 gateway
To be able to forward traffic out of the NSX-T environment the T0 gateway needs to know where to send queries for IPs it doesn’t control. Normally you would want to configure a routing protocol like BGP or OSPF so that the T0 gateway could exchange routes with the physical router(s) in your network.
I’ve not set up BGP or any other routing protocol on my physical router, so I’ve just configured a default static route that forwards to my physical router. The next hop is set to the gateway address for the Uplink VLAN 99, 192.168.99.1
Link T1 gateway to T0 gateway
We’ve done a lot of configuring now, but still we’ve not got connectivity in or out for our VMs. The final step is to connect the Tier-1 gateway to the Tier-0 gateway, and we’ll also activate Route Advertisement of Connected Segments and Service Ports
Verify North/South connectivity
Test Distributed Firewall
Let’s also do a quick test of the Distributed Firewall feature in NSX-T.
First we’ll create a rule blocking ICMP (ping) from any to my test vm and publish the rule
ICMP firewall rule
Now let’s test pinging from from my pc to nested Windows 2016 server. With the rule not enabled en enabled.
Hopefully this post can help someone, if not it has at least helped me.
Now we have working environment so we can go testing some things.
Also scripting/automation against a nsx environment I will look in to!
I’m doing a mini-series on my NSX-T home lab setup. It’s only for testing en knowledge about NXS-T.
With newer versions of NSX-T 3.1 and later a couple of enhancements have been made that makes the setup a lot easier, like the move to a single N-VDS with the ability to run NSX on a Virtual Distributed Switch (VDS) in vCenter with VDS version 7.0.
The NSX manager appliance has been downloaded and imported the OVF to the cluster. I won’t go into details about this, I just followed the deployment wizard.
In my lab I’ve selected to deploy a small appliance which requires 4 vCPUs, 16 GB RAM and 300 GB disk space. For more details about the NSX Manager requirements look at the official documentation
Note that I’ll not be deploying a NSX Manager cluster in my setup. In a production environment you should naturally follow best practices and configure a cluster of NSX Managers
Now let’s get rocking with our NSX-T setup!
We’ll start the NSX manager and prepare it for configuring NSX in the environment
Initial Manager config
After first login I’ll accept the EULA and optionally enable the CEIP
Next I’ll add the license.
Our Endpoints will need IP addresses and I’ve set aside a subnet for this as mentioned. In NSX Manager we’ll add an IP pool with addresses from this subnet. (The IP pool I’m using is probably way larger than needed in a lab setup like this)
With all that sorted we’ll connect the NSX manager to our vCenter server so we can configure our ESXi hosts and deploy our edge nodes.
Best is a specific service account for the connection
Compute Manager added
Now we’re ready for building out our network fabric which will consist of the following:
Take a look at this summary of the Key concepts in NSX-T to learn more about them.
The first thing we’ll create are the Transport Zones. These will be used later on multiple occasions later on. A Transport Zone is used as a collection of hypervisor hosts that makes up the span of logical switches.
The defaults could be used, but I like to create my own.
Uplink profiles will be used when we configure our Transport Nodes, both Hosts and Edge VMs. The profile defines how a Host Transport node (hypervisor) or an Edge Transport node (VM) will connect to the physical network.
Again I’m creating my own profile and leave the default profiles be as they are.
In my environment I have only one Uplink to use. Note that I’ve set the Transport VLAN to 0 which also corresponds with the TEP VLAN mentioned previously.
Transport Node Profile
Although not strictly needed, I’m creating a Transport Node profile which will let me configure an entire cluster of hosts with the same settings instead of having to configure each and every host
In the Transport Node profile we first select the type of Host switch. In my case I’m selecting the VDS option, which will let me select a specific switch in vCenter.
We’ll also add in our newly created Transport Zones
Creating Transport Node profile
We’ll select our Uplink profile and our IP Pool which we created earlier, finally we can set the mapping between the Uplinks
Creating Transport Node profile
Configure NSX on hosts
With our Transport Node profile we can go ahead and configure our ESXi hosts for NSX
Configure cluster for NSX
After selecting the profile NSX Manager will go ahead and configure our ESXi hosts.
After a few minutes our hosts should be configured and ready for NSX
Next up is to create our Edge VMs which we will need for our Gateways and Services (NAT, DHCP, Load Balancer).
But before we deploy those we’ll have to create a segment for the uplink of the Edge VMs. This will be a Trunk segment which we create in NSX. Initially I created a Trunk portgroup on the VDS in vSphere, but that doesn’t work. The Trunk needs to be configured as a logical segment in NSX-T when using the same VLAN for both the Hypervisor TEPs and the Edge VM TEPs
Now we can deploy our Edge VM(s). I’m using Medium sized VMs in my environment. Note that the Edge VMs is not strictly necessary for the test we’ll perform later on with connecting two VMs, but if we want to use some services later on, like DHCP, Load balancing and so on we’ll need them.
Deploy edge VM
Note the NSX config, where we set the switch name, the Transport Zones we created, the Uplink profile, the IP pool and finally we use the newly created Trunk segment for the Edge uplink
NSX Edge config
We’ll also create an Edge cluster and add the Edge VM to it
Wow, this was a lot of configuring, but that was also the whole point of doing this blog post. Stuff like this is learnt best while getting your hands dirty and do some actual work. And I learn even better when I’m writing and documenting it as well.
In the next blog post we’ll test the fabric to see if what we’ve done is working. We’ll also try to get some external connectivity to our environment.
Hopefully this post can help someone, if not it has at least helped me.
Microsoft announced the addition of the Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification to our portfolio, to be released in early December 2021. This new certification validates the skills of administrators working in hybrid environments.
Administrators in this role support their teams and organizations using Windows Server—both in the cloud and on-premises/
The Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification
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