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Get to know the VMware HCX platform

HCX connects on-premises systems, private clouds, VMware Cloud on AWS and hosted cloud infrastructures, creating a hybrid or multi-cloud environment for vSphere workloads.

IT administrators who want to extend their virtual server environments to the cloud face challenges related to cost, complexity and the time it takes to make the transition. But VMware offers a solution: Hybrid Cloud Extension. HCX is a set of integrated components that enable you to link your on-premises environments to multiple cloud platforms, making it easier to migrate workloads, distribute applications, implement disaster recovery and in other ways support a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy.

Introducing Hybrid Cloud Extension

VMware HCX establishes interconnectivity between on-premises and cloud-based environments that are based on vSphere virtualization technologies. HCX creates an abstraction layer between the environments that enables secure and seamless bi-directional mobility, with minimal operational overhead.

You don't need to modify your applications or OSes to use HCX, nor do you need to re-architect any of your existing vSphere infrastructures. With HCX, you can move workloads freely between multiple on-premises environments and between on-premises environments and multiple cloud platforms.

HCX makes it possible to tether any two vSphere environments together, as long as they're running vSphere 5.0 or later. You can implement HCX across multiple administrative domains, without needing to join single sign-on (SSO) domains. To maximize network performance, the service includes built-in WAN optimizations and intelligent routing, along with such features as compression and deduplication. HCX supports any VMware network topology, including vSphere Distributed Switch and VMware NSX.

HCX's ability to interconnect environments can help accelerate cloud adoption by eliminating many of the challenges that come with a cloud strategy, such as having to retrofit infrastructures or negotiate connectivity issues. In addition, HCX makes it easier to adopt the cloud in manageable stages, helping to reduce the risks that come with implementing new technologies.

The HCX components

VMware HCX is made up of a set of components that create an abstraction layer between vSphere environments, making it possible to tether the environments together. Once they're tethered, you can stretch your Layer 2 networks across them. A stretched network gives you seamless VM mobility, enabling you to easily span or move your workloads across environmental boundaries.

HCX is made up of four basic components, which the system implements as virtual appliances.

The system installs the HCX Manager appliance in the management zone at both source and destination sites, adjacent to each site's vCenter Server. The appliance provides a management plugin for vCenter that bootstraps the HCX services and manages the deployment and connectivity for the other virtual appliances. Together, the HCX Manager appliances form a single framework for deploying HCX across all participating sites.

The HCX Interconnect appliance offers a secure pipeline for migrating, extending and protecting VMs across the HCX sites, using site pairing to provide connectivity. The appliance supports replication and vMotion migration and provides WAN optimizations such as traffic engineering and intelligent routing. HCX Interconnect also uses IPsec with Suite B encryption to protect data. The system deploys the appliance at each HCX site pair.

The HCX WAN Optimization appliance employs technologies such as compression, deduplication and line conditioning to improve performance across WAN connections. The system deploys the appliance deployed at each HCX site pair.

HCX supports three primary use cases: application mobility, VM migrations and DR.

The HCX Network Extension appliance provides Layer 2 network extension capabilities. The appliance makes it possible for a VM to keep its same IP and MAC addresses during migration. The system deploys the HCX Network Extension appliance for each vSphere Distributed Switch.

The HCX Network Extension appliance deploys a high-throughput Layer 2 concentrator on the source and deploys a mirror image of the concentrator on the destination. The concentrator performs proximity routing, which ensures symmetrical VM forwarding in a stretched network. The concentrator is also disaster recovery (DR)- and vMotion-aware, and it supports stateful intermediate devices such as firewalls and intrusion prevention systems.

When you set up HCX, you'll find that the last three appliances are listed as services, rather than appliances, as in the HCX Interconnect Service. You can choose which of these services to install, but you must install the HCX Manager appliance before you can enable or configure the other three appliances.

HCX use cases

VMware HCX makes it possible to create a hybrid or multi-cloud infrastructure for your vSphere workloads. You can use HCX to connect an on-premises vSphere environment to a variety of other vSphere environments, including on-premises systems, private clouds, VMware Cloud on AWS environments and hosted cloud infrastructures available through VMware partners that participate in the VMware Cloud Provider Program.

HCX supports three primary use cases: application mobility, VM migrations and DR. The application mobility features make it possible to seamlessly move VMs between vSphere environments. HCX supports bi-directional VM movement, enabling you to relocate applications across boundaries according to changing workload requirements. In this way, you can implement a hybrid cloud infrastructure that maximizes resources while minimizing costs.

HCX also makes it easier to migrate workloads off older vSphere environments and to extend the data center to the cloud at a pace that works with your organization's timelines and budgets. In addition, HCX supports bi-directional migrations, so you can move VMs in either direction between source and destination sites. HCX supports four migration types:

Cold: HCX uses VMware's Network File Copy protocol to transfer files when the workloads are offline.

Live: HCX uses vMotion technologies to provide seamless migrations with no downtime.

Bulk: HCX uses vSphere Replication to move VMs in bulk based on a predefined schedule.

Cloud Motion: HCX uses vSphere Replication to migrate workloads with zero downtime.

You can also use HCX as part of a DR strategy. For example, you can copy your VMs to another vSphere environment at regular intervals. If service is disrupted in the primary site, you can power on the secondary VMs without having to change their IP or MAC addresses.

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