You may have an IaC process for your virtual and container environments, but have you extended IaC for VMware hardware? This post will explain how RackN can help you do that!
Does IaC for VMware Hardware Make Sense?
VMware defines IaC this way:
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is the practice of managing and provisioning infrastructure through software and automated processes.
IaC for VMware hardware is also an important part of automating your virtual or container infrastructure. Installing or upgrading the VMware platform can be a notoriously manual, error-prone process. Many times the reason it’s so difficult the underlying hardware configurations. Because of this, sometimes it can require weeks of expensive operational or consulting support to prepare the hardware. Even seasoned experts run into install or upgrade roadblocks because of hidden requirements for hardware such as TPMs, or operational necessities such as site naming conventions and password requirements.
Developing IaC for VMware hardware will make your the foundation of your IT estate more flexible and adaptable. When you automate your on-premises operations you set the stage to achieve the same scales of economies that the public clouds have.
Steps to Bare Metal Cluster Automation
Let’s start with some background information about RackN’s solution. First of all, the RackN Digital Rebar Platform (DRP) is not a SaaS solution. It is completely customer-managed, on a customer’s infrastructure. Additionally, the VMware solution is based on the VMware Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). Furthermore, RackN is hardware agnostic and amazingly fast. Once the platform is configured, Digital Rebar can build functional vCenter clusters in as little as 30 minutes without any manual intervention.
Here is how it works:
- Manifest Creation. Site admins create a manifest of how a server should be configured (hardware patching, RAID and BIOS configurations, security, network configuration, etc.).
- Discovery. DRP has a normalized process to discover systems from a normal PXE discover process. Once the systems are discovered, they are brought into DRP and an agent is installed that allows DRP to completely manage, install and validate systems with the VMware HCL.
- Host Preparation. DRP handles host preparations, ensuring everything has been configured correctly. This is done by verifying and collecting inventory data and comparing it against the provided manifests.
- ESXi Deployed. Because RackN is a VMware TAP Partner, we work closely with their engineering teams to integrate our platform with VMware’s APIs. We have worked with them to create a certified, secure architecture to keep the rest of the boot process in trusted boot mode at all times.
- Final Verification. DRP does a final verification which includes patching ESXi, installing SSL and SSH certs, set passwords, ensure the correct VLANs are being used, and any other networking required.
- Hand-off to Cloud Builder (optional): If you are deploying VCF, this is when the cluster will be handed over to Cloud Builder to complete the VCF installation. This post has information specifically about our VCF integration.
Key Reasons to Automate VMware Hardware Deployment with RackN
RackN can create IaC for VMware hardware that brings an automated, no-touch method to prepare thousands of servers for VCF installation. This is done by integrating with VCF management and adhering to the HCL.
Security may be improved using these methods as well. IaC for VMware hardware can improve process controls, compliance, and hardware conformance checks before CloudBuilder begins a VCF installation. This enables the automation of security for the entire infrastructure automation chain.
Additionally, automating the hardware operations gives the IT team a faster time to market. No more servers waiting for months before they are deployed. IT will have a way to do rapid testing before deploying server configurations (repaving). This allows for iterative validation, helping the team go as fast as the developers need.
Finally, RackN DRP integrates will other existing operational platforms. This includes Ansible, Terraform, Bluecat and Infoblox.
Learn More About RackN and VMware
Read more about our highly integrated VCF solutions, and check out this video that explains how to automate VMware hardware deployment with RackN.