Getting started with managing VMware with Red Hat CloudForms

The VMworld 2016 US event is approaching and Red Hat will be there to showcase our Management portfolio. This includes Red Hat CloudForms which provides unified management for container, virtual, private, and public cloud infrastructures.

With this in mind, we thought it would be a good time to recap how easy it is to deploy Red Hat CloudForms in a VMware virtualized environment. Deploying CloudForms for VMware is very straightforward and consists of three steps to get to an implemented solution that gives full visibility of your VMware infrastructure.

Step One – Obtain the appliance image and import it in VMware

The latest CloudForms appliance is available for download from the Red Hat Customer Portal. CloudForms is provided as a virtual appliance for Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Hyper-V, Red Hat Virtualization, Red Hat OpenStack and VMware. In the case of VMware, CloudForms is distributed as an OVA (open virtual appliance) image template. You can find it labelled as ‘CFME VMware Virtual Appliance’ in the download section.

Once downloaded, the appliance file needs to be uploaded onto VMware. There are different ways to proceed but the most common is to use vSphere Client and its ‘Deploy OVF Template’ functionality. The associated wizard prompts for a source location which should point to the OVA template file we downloaded. The deployment configuration options can be left as pre-configured (e.g. memory settings, number of CPUs, etc) but we need to specify the host and cluster where the appliance will be deployed and launched. The resource pool and datastore need to be able to accommodate the appliance and associated virtual disk files. Both thin or thick storage provisioning can be used. Select your network and IP allocation as required. You are now ready to deploy the CloudForms appliance. Click Finish to proceed.

Documentation for this step is available: Installing CloudForms on VMware vSphere


Step Two – Configure CloudForms appliance

After few seconds, the appliance appears in the inventory. Before powering it on, we add an additional disk which will be used for the internal VMDB database. A typical size for the disk is 50GB but further guidelines are provided as part of the CloudForms Deployment Planning Guide. We can now power on the VM.

Before accessing the CloudForms UI, we need to ensure the configuration is suitable for our environment. We will use the appliance_console configuration tools which can be accessed from the Bash prompt. Login to the appliance, using SSH or remote console, as the root user and type appliance_console command. A summary of the configuration settings is displayed. Common configuration requires setting the network configuration (e.g. static), a fully qualified hostname, timezone, date & time, as well as configuring a database. Each setting can be configured by typing the associated number and pressing Enter.


CloudForms Appliance Console


The VMDB database can be internal or external. In our case we want to use the additional disk to configure an internal PostgreSQL database on the appliance. We simply follow the prompt, creating a new key, selecting ‘internal’ database, choosing our additional disk and setting a digit region ID (for example 99 to set this instance as master region database). CloudForms will automatically deploy and configure the database for us.

Once all of the settings are configured, we can start the server by selecting ‘Start Server Processes’. After a few seconds, we are able to navigate to CloudForms from our browser. We can exit the appliance_console tool.

Finally let’s change the default root password with the passwd command.

Documentation for this step is available: Installing CloudForms on VMware vSphere


Step Three – Configure vCenter as a provider in CloudForms

The last steps are performed from the CloudForms UI. Login as admin and navigate to ‘Settings > Configuration’.

From there, select our appliance server in the tree and make sure appropriate server roles are enabled in the Server Control section. A single appliance deployment is usually configured with the following roles:


CloudForms Server Roles


Next, we ensure Capacity & Utilization (C&U) data is captured by clicking on the CFME Region and selecting the ‘C & U Collection’ tab. Both collection for Clusters and Datastores must be selected.


CloudForms C&U Selection


We are all set for the basic CloudForms configuration. The last part is to configure a VMware provider. This will allow CloudForms to connect to VMware vCenter and its managed hypervisors.

Navigate to ‘Compute > Infrastructure > Providers’ and select ‘Configuration > Add a New Infrastructure Provider’.


CloudForms Add New Infrastructure Provider


From there, select the VMware vCenter provider type and fill in the administrative user credentials as required. You can validate the connection using the ‘Validate’ button. The configuration should look like the following:


CloudForms New Infrastructure Provider


Once saved, we can start discovery by selecting ‘Configuration > Refresh Relationships & Power States’ from the provider. This will authenticate to VMware vCenter API and query for all existing entities (e.g. ESX hosts, Clusters, Datastores, VMs, Templates, Snapshots, etc). After a few seconds, CloudForms gets a complete view of the virtual environment and starts monitoring events.


CloudForms vCenter Provider


Documentation for this step is available: Managing Providers


Optional Step – Configure SmartState Analysis

SmartState Analysis is a CloudForms capability that allows to inspect the contents of virtual machines, templates, hosts & containers without the need for an agent. The collected data (e.g. users/groups, packages/applications, files/registries) can be used with policies to validate compliance on hosts and guests. This step describes what is required to enable this functionality in CloudForms.

First, we install the VMware VDDK (Virtual Disk Development Kit) on the appliance. The VDDK is used to perform SmartState Analysis on virtual machines running on VMware. We download the installer from VMware Support website and follow their instructions for installation on the appliance via SSH or remote console. Do not forget to run the ‘ldconfig’ command once installed to make sure CloudForms is aware of the library.

SmartState Analysis on a virtual machine requires an analysis profile named ‘default’. We can navigate to  ‘Settings > Configuration’ in the CloudForms UI and simply create a ‘default’ profile by copying the existing ‘sample’ profile and renaming it. The Analysis Profiles can be found in the Settings tree under your CFME Region. The ‘default’ profile is used as a starting point, but it can be further enhanced to capture specific files or registries.

The last configuration requirement is to specify credentials on each ESX host to perform SmartState Analysis. Navigate to ‘Compute > Infrastructure > Hosts / Nodes’ and select the ESX hypervisor(s) your want to configure. Select ‘Configuration > Edit Selected Items’ to open the configuration screen. The ESX credentials are specified under the ‘Default’ tab in the ‘Endpoints’ section. Connections can be verified using the ‘Validate’ button.

The next steps are to perform SmartState Analysis on the ESX hosts, on the attached datastores, as well as on templates and virtual machines (running on not). This can be done manually by clicking ‘Perform SmartState Analysis’ on the ‘Configuration’ button, or automatically by scheduling a the task in ‘Settings > Configuration > Schedules’.


CloudForms Perform SmartState Analysis



That’s it! We have just deployed a CloudForms appliance, configured it and connected a VMware provider. With SmartState Analysis enabled, we get complete visibility of the infrastructure, including guests details (e.g. installed packages, user and group configuration, file or registry content, etc) as well as capacity and utilization consumption. All the collected data is used to provide insights and reporting on resource utilization, performance optimization, operation management, as well as compliance and governance.
Come and see us at VMworld to learn more about Red Hat CloudForms and see all the other advanced virtualization capabilities the platform can offer your VMware virtualization environment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s