How to extend Azure management principles to VMware infrastructures with Azure Arc

The trend that is frequently found in different business contexts is to resort to hybrid and multi-cloud strategies for their IT environments. All this allows you to embark on a path of digital innovation with great flexibility and agility. To do this in the best possible way, it is appropriate to adopt technologies that make it possible to create new opportunities and at the same time to manage the challenges inherent in these new paradigms.. Microsoft has designed a specific solution and is called Azure Arc. One of the crucial benefits of Azure Arc is to extend Azure management and governance practices also to different environments and to adopt solutions and techniques that are typically used in the cloud environment also for on-premises environments. This article explores how Microsoft has recently improved the integration process of VMware vSphere infrastructures in Azure Arc and what opportunities can be seized from this innovation.

Why adopt a hybrid strategy?

Among the main reasons that lead customers to adopt a hybrid strategy we find:

  • Workloads that cannot be moved to the public cloud due to regulatory and data sovereignty requirements. This is usually common in highly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare and government environments.
  • Some workloads, especially those residing in the edges, require low latencies.
  • Many companies have made significant investments in the on-premises environment that they want to maximize, therefore the choice falls on modernizing the traditional applications that reside on-premises and the solutions adopted.
  • Ensure greater resilience.

What questions to ask to better leverage and manage hybrid and multi-cloud environments?

In situations where a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy is being adopted, the key questions you should ask yourself to reap the greatest benefits are:

  • How can I view, govern and protect IT assets, regardless of where they are running?
  • There is the possibility of bringing cloud innovation to existing infrastructure as well?
  • How you can modernize local datacenters by adopting new cloud solutions?
  • How to extend processing and artificial intelligence to the edge to unlock new business scenarios?

The answer to all these questions can be… “by adopting Azure Arc!".

Figure 1 – Azure Arc overview

There are many customers who have VMware-based infrastructure and are using Azure services at the same time. Azure Arc extends the possibilities offered in governance and management by Azure also to virtual machines in VMware environments. To further improve this experience of control and management of these resources, a deep integration between Azure Arc and VMware vSphere has been introduced.

Azure Arc-enabled VMware vSphere: how does it work?

Azure Arc-enabled VMware vSphere is a new Azure Arc feature designed for customers with on-premises VMware vSphere environments or those who adopt Azure VMware Solution.

This direct integration of Azure Arc with VMware vSphere requires you to activate a virtual appliance called "Arc bridge". This resource allows you to establish the connection between the VMware vCenter server and the Azure Arc environment.

Thanks to this integration it is possible to onboard in Azure some or all of the vSphere resources managed by your vCenter server such as: resource pool, cluster, host, datastore, network, existing templates and virtual machines.

Figure 2 - VMware vCenter from the Azure portal

Once the onboarding phase is over, new usage scenarios open up that allow you to take advantage of the benefits reported in the following paragraph.

Benefits of Azure Arc-enabled VMware vSphere

Thanks to this new integration it is possible to obtain the following benefits:

  • Run the provisioning of new virtual machines in VMware environments from Azure. The distribution of virtual machines on VMware vSphere can be done from the portal or using ARM templates. The possibility of being able to describe the infrastructure, through Infrastructure as Code processes, consistently across Azure and on-premises environments is very important. Indeed, adopting ARM template, DevOps teams can use CI / CD pipelines to provision systems or to update VMware virtual machines in context with other application updates.

Figure 3 - Provisioning of a VMware VM from the Azure portal

  • Make ordinary maintenance operations on virtual machines directly from the Azure portal such as: stop, start, reboot, resizing, adding or updating disks and managing network cards.
  • Guarantee a self-service access to vSphere resources via Azure Arc. For administrators managing vSphere environments, this means they can easily delegate self-service access to VMware resources, governing and ensuring compliance through advanced controls of Azure governance and Azure RBAC. Indeed, it is possible to assign granular authorizations on computational resources, storage, network and templates.
  • Provide a inventory of virtual machines in distributed vSphere environments.
  • Run and manage on a large scale the’onboarding of vSphere environments in Azure management services such as Azure Monitor Log Analytics and Azure Policy Guest Configuration. This enabling allows you to orchestrate the installation of the specific Azure Arc agent (Connected Machine agent) directly from Azure.
  • Keep changes made directly through vCenter synchronized in Azure, thanks to automatic detection features.

Conclusions

Thanks to this new advanced integration, customers can have the flexibility to innovate, even using their existing VMware environment. Furthermore, through this approach it is possible to have an effective control mechanism to manage and govern all IT resources in a coherent way.

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