VMware Telco Cloud Automation: Overview and Deployment Walkthrough with vCloud Director

As you are probably aware, a few weeks ago (April 2020) VMware released the VMware Telco Cloud Automation (TCA) platform, an innovative new platform designed to help CSPs (Telcos) onboard new applications, automate the design and deployment both VNFs and CNFs.

Note: this blog post focuses on a brief overview and the deployment of TCA, subsequent posts (coming soon) will walk through deploying and operating your first application (application and TOSCA manifest provided .. watch this space), so at the end of this you’ll have a working deployment of VMware TCA but nothing to do with it… I’ll address that in my next post !

What are the problems that this product is trying to solve, first there are a number of challenges in the MANO (Management and Orchestration) space, Telcos are seeing a real lack of cloud expertise by many of the vendors; it is indeed true that this has come a long way, however there are still challenges.
The vendor lock-in approach is also common, take my VNF, take my MANO / VNFM stack, this helps with efficiency but doesn’t really solve the promise of an open, agnostic NFV Infrastructure. There are also challenges with integration, adhering to ETSI standards that have made the progress towards MANO slower than most would have liked.

Most would like to avoid a monolithic, slow development cycle and vendor lock-in approach commonly offered, pure OSS/BSS providers offer a rich integration approach but requiring a lot of work, and boutique players offering pure-play orchestration have challenges keeping up with a multi-cloud approach.

Levergaging the VMware Cloud-First approach, coupled with compliance to ETSI standards and VMwares agnostic approach towards Vendor Functions allows TCA users to achieve the following at a minimum.

  • Orchestrate & Automate Virtual Network and Container Network Functions, from private to public cloud infrastructure, innovating and automating workloads.
  • Unify the management of any vendor functions with a focus on ETSI compliance, leveraging VMware open ecosystem and wide range of partners under the NFV Ready program

As can be see, VMware Telco Cloud Automation supports multiple clouds, both public and private, this delivers on the promise of effectivness as delivered through the traditional NEP MANO offerings while offering the multi-vendor approach delivered by the integrated solutions

VMware Telco Cloud Automation delivers on multiple pillars, acting as a Generic VNFM with a TOSCA based composer for Network Functions (VM or Container) AND Network Services (a service comprised of multiple VNFs and/or CNFs), with full lifecycle management.

The NFVO porting leverages the Network Services element, allowing the deployment not not just a single element, but multiple elements built together to create a overall network service

Lastly through intelligent placement and policy VMware Telco Cloud Automation delivers a wide range of automaton capabilites and placement opportunities, delivering services across a single or multiple cloud components, providing monitoring and reporting of faults in the environment and offering the ability to heal and scale network functions and services.

As part of this walkthrough we will be using VMware vCloud NFV stack as documented below.

For this walkthrough, this is the stack that we will be using, there are 4 elements that need to be properly configured before we can get to the stage where we are ready to onboard our first VNF, these four applications need to be properly configured:

  • vCloud Director – used in this exampe as the NFV VIM
  • RabbitMQ – Used by vCD for notifications and blocking tasks, also used by HCX to collect vCloud Director Inventory
  • VMware HCX (v 3.53)
  • VMware Telco Cloud Automation

Step 1: Configuring vCloud Director

We won’t go through the deployment of vCloud Director here, suffice to say there are enough blogs out there that cover this, however we will ensure the Extensibility settings are configured correctly.

Whats important here is the AMPQ settings, the following elements need to be accurately configured, you should also test these to make sure they are working correctly.
Here I have used an Exchange called systemExchange97m, I used this specific exchange so I use the same RabbitMQ implementation for different versions of vCloud Director, so here whats important is the Exchange and Prefix.

Note: I’m just using guest here to keep it simple, its the default user for RabbitMQ, Also, make sure you have a signed or self-signed certificate for vCloud Director. In my case i’m using a self-signed certificate.

Step 2: Configure RabbitMQ

As before, i’m not going to go through the setup and configuration of Rabbitmq, here we can see the systemExchange97 Exchange, this is of type topic

Also, make sure the user has the correct permissions for this exchange:

Step 3: Deploy HCX

So, start off by deploying the HCX OVA into vCenter, There’s nothing overly complicated here – the VM has a requirement for a single interface, so nothing complex here.

One the VM has been deployed, power it on and wait a few minutes, open a web browser and goto the url / ip address where you deployed HCX.

The first thing you will need to do is enter your HCX License key (you DO have a license right?? πŸ™‚ ), once you’ve entered the correct license the VM will connect to VMware and download the relevant software.
Note: the same installer will be used to deploy TCA, however a different license key will be used for that deployment

You should see two screen as follow, click continue and then want for the upgrade; Note the license description here is HCX for Telco Cloud, you will see this will be different when we install TCA later.

The upgrade will kick off wait a few minutes, go get a coffee ! πŸ™‚

Almost Done !

Step 4: Configure HCX

Now that the system has been upgraded, we need to go back to our TCA application, only this time on port 9443, this allows us to start configuring HCX, in thie case we will use a vCloud director endpoint as discussed.

The first thing you’ll be prompted for is to configure the location of your datacenter.

Pick a system name — go on be innovative ! πŸ™‚

Now we get to pick our cloud, we have the following options:

vSphere – native vCenter environments (not used in Telco for lack of real Multi-Tenancy)
vCloud Director – our VIM of choice here (maybe i’ll do a VIO post later)
VMware Integrated Openstack (just in case you’re not a fan of vCD)
Kubernetes – leveraging TKG or some Kubernetes deployment..

So, go through and pick vCloud director and then use a system account (default administrator@system) to register against vCloud director, you need to ensure two things are properly configured to have vCD properly registered.

  • Ensure Public address is set – this is important as in vCloud Director 9.7 this sets specific parameters that allow HCX to connect to it , if you try using vCloud Director 10.0 you will need to first enable the Flex client and set the public address via the FlexUI.. For some reason this sets additional information that is not configured when setting this through the System H5 client (/provider).
  • Ensure you’ve configured AMQP as discussed earlier.

Once vCloud Director is registered, you will need to configure AMQP as part of HCX, this is used to collect all the inventory information from vCloud Director – we will see how it does this through RMQ later.

Thats it ! youre done, restart the application service and you will have a functioning HCX deployment.

Note: 9443 is where you log in to administer HCX, normal https (443) is where you login to HCX generally (for the purposes of TCA we don’t need to do this !)

Step 5 – Trust Certificates

One thing to do is go in and add your trusted root certificate (if you have one) and your NSX certificates also, to do this login to the administration portal of your fresh HCX deployment (port 9443) and goto Adminstration / Certificates.

Use the import button to import either from a file or from a URL, I imported the ROOT cert from file and then went on to add vCloud Director (although this should already be imported) and NSX-V certificates (by URL to make it easier).

While you’re here — check the rest of the setting to to make sure everything is good… now lets move onto the TCA side of things

Step 6 – Installing TCA

As before, deploy (again) the same OVA that we just used for HCX, once deployed and powered on you can https to the ip/url and you will will go through the same steps – note here that when adding the TCA license key you will see that the actual description and graphic changes slightly (note the red: you are here icon).

Ready for another coffee.? wait a few minute for the package to download and install….

Once the upgrade has completed, you’ll have to go back through the config stages like we did with HCX, configuring where the System is located and what the system name is as shown in the below diagrams.

Whats interesting next is that we we asked for a vCenter to connect to — wait why do we need to connect to a vCenter if we already configured HCX to talk to vCloud Director ?

So,, the reasoning is that VMware TCA uses the vCenter / SSO login for its internal RBAC, thus you configure access to TCA based on the users / groups in vCenter (using local domain or AD) – my home SSO domain is home.lab (I just wanted to use something other than vsphere.local), so go ahead and configure your vCenter / SSO domain as shown below

Once this is configured the base TCA should be up and configured, as with the HCX deployment, login to the administrative console (port 9443) and ensure to trust the certificates of the HCX node we just deployed, if needs be then restart the web / application service before logging into the VMware TCA UI.

Step 8 – Login to VMware Telco Cloud Automation

So, now we’re ready to login to VMware Telco Cloud Automation – goto the URL for and login, Initially you will need to use the user you configured as part of step 7 when configuring the vCenter connection, for now only that use will be able to login – you can create more users with different roles and permissions, i’ll make a blog post about that later..

OK ! Congratulations

So now we have VMware Telco Cloud Automation deployment, but how do we onboard a VNF to this … Watch for my next blog post (coming soon) where we will learn how to onboard a vCloud director environment (OrgvDC into VMware Telco Cloud Automation, create deployment profiles, and then onboard our first workload (I’ll supply a dummy workload / CSAR also)…

Happy playing, hopefully the follow-up post will come in the next day or two…

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