HCX Overview

Author: Dave Davis Sr. Data Center Architect

Dave Davis is senior data center architect at Eastern Computer Exchange and a 2018 NSX vExpert Award winner. A specialist in various VMware products (vSphere, vRA, NSX-V & NSX-T), Dave brings a wealth of design and operation experience regarding VMware solutions. He also manages and supports our Technical Solutions Center (TSC). Dave has a passion for virtualization so much so that he has built a virtualization home lab that he leverages for education and hands-on experience during his off hours.

As more organizations leverage the capabilities of VMware Cloud on AWS, it’s essential to understand the connectivity options: VPN, Direct Connect and Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX). I recently had the privilege of deploying HCX in our Technical Solutions Center (TSC). Today’s discussion aims to provide a high-level overview of HCX and the associated components.

Before doing so, it’s important to highlight some of the migration challenges experienced by organizations today:

  • Dispersed versions of vSphere along with a mixture of legacy/new hardware across sites
  • Difficult post-migration testing
  • The potential for routing/firewall misconfiguration
  • Legacy applications with hard-coded IP addresses and reliance on on-premises infrastructure components

HCX Introduction

To address these challenges, HCX provides an abstraction layer allowing for vSphere on-premises and cloud resources to be presented to the application as a single resource, regardless of vSphere version (vSphere 5.5 +). VMware refers to this as “infrastructure hybridity.” That allows application mobility across multiple clouds without the need to reconfigure virtual machines or infrastructure. HCX also packs a capable disaster recovery solution that’s easy to set up and manage, and allows organizations to scale their DR capabilities. Organizations that currently leverage VMware Cloud providers like IBM and OVH can also utilize HCX. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on VMC on AWS implementation of HCX.

HCX Cloud vs. HCX Enterprise

Before we jump into the components, it’s best to clarify HCX Cloud vs. HCX Enterprise:

  • HCX Cloud (Target) – HCX Management VM deployed into VMC on AWS SDDC
  • HCX Enterprise (Source) – HCX Management VM deployed into on-premises data center

If you’re a VMC on AWS customer, then you already have access to HCX at no additional cost. To automatically provision the HCX Cloud VM into your SDDC instance, simply press the “Deploy” button from the VMC console. Once deployed, you can log into the HCX cloud web console where you can download the HCX Enterprise OVA for use with the on-premises data center.

HCX Enterprise is responsible for the following:

  • Integration with on-premises vCenter instance
  • Site pairing with HCX Cloud
  • Deployment of additional HCX service appliances:
    • HCX WAN Interconnect
    • HCX WAN Optimization
    • HCX Network Extension
  • Restful API and the HCX API documentation (https://<HCX Enterprise>/hybridity/docs)

Pro Tip #1: Deployment of HCX services into the on-prem site automatically initiates deployment of their “peer” counterparts into the SDDC instance, as shown in step 4 of the above diagram.

Infrastructure Hybridity Components

The additional HCX service appliances mentioned above provide the “infrastructure hybridity.” Let’s explore each of the components.

HCX WAN Interconnect – Handles the migration and cross-cloud vMotion capabilities over the internet or private lines to the target site. The WAN Interconnect also provides strong encryption, traffic engineering and virtual machine mobility.

Pro Tip #2: The WAN Interconnect appliance also shows up as a fictitious ESXi host in vCenter at both sites acting as a secure proxy for cross-cloud vMotions.

WAN Optimization – Allows organizations to onboard to the cloud faster by leveraging existing internet connectivity for migrations until their preferred connectivity option (Direct Connect/MPLS circuits) is available. Regardless of connectivity options, HCX WAN Optimization improves performance by utilizing techniques like de-duplication and compression.

HCX Network Extension – Extends L2 networks from on-premises to the cloud without the need to change the virtual machine’s IP or MAC addresses or on-premises infrastructure.

Pro Tip #3: Extension of NSX universal wires are not currently supported but is on the roadmap.

A great feature on the horizon for VMC customers is proximity routing (HCX-PR), which allows for optimized routing that eliminates the need for hair-pinning between sites. There are some caveats:

  1. HCX-PR requires dynamic routing between both sites
  2. HCX-PR isn’t supported yet for VMC customers but is on the roadmap

Those currently using VMware Cloud providers like IBM and OVH can take full advantage of HCX-PR.

Pro Tip #4: The configuration/connectivity of the IPsec VPN is automatic between the source and target sites for their respective service (HCX WAN Interconnect and HCX Network Extension). For a visual, reference step 5 in the above diagram.

A Hybrid Cloud Readiness & Costing Assessment is a vital step in developing the most effective and efficient infrastructure as it identifies challenges and business goals specific to each customer. Customized deployment provides the best results.

With data breaches on the rise, more organizations are adapting a “zero-trust model,” which essentially boils down to not trusting anything within your network until communication (source/destination) has been verified and deemed necessary. To combat this, it is highly recommended to perform a Virtual Network Assessment to provide insightful traffic analysis, identify opportunities to optimize network performance, and strengthen the security posture of your vSphere infrastructure.

That’ll wrap up this post. Please contact Eastern with feedback or questions.

Contact Eastern Computer for a Hybrid Cloud Readiness & Costing Assessment, HCI Assessment, Virtual Network Assessment and other useful services, or fill out the form here.

Eastern will continue to provide future posts on HCX deployment. Please let us know if you’d like to see a blog on a specific topic and we will do our best to address all requests.

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