Saturday, February 01, 2020

vSphere Integrated Containers - PoC in my home lab

vSphere Integrated Containers (aka VIC) is VMware Enterprise Container Infrastructure. Any VMware customer having VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus can get enterprise container infrastructure to help IT Ops run traditional and containerized applications side-by-side on a common platform with vSphere Integrated Containers. Supporting containers in your virtualized environments means IT teams get the security, isolation, and management of VMs, while developers enjoy the speed and agility of containers—all within vSphere. The VIC project is available on GitHub at

The overall concept is very interesting, especially for customers willing to use Docker containers but not having requirements or skills to operate Kubernetes. The most interesting part of VIC is the networking concept very well explained in following video

As one of my customers is considering VIC to provide containers to their developers, I have decided to test it in my home lab.

The first step is to deploy VIC from OVF. It's pretty straight forward so I'm not going to document any details.

The second step is to create the first VCH (Virtual Container Host), which acts as a remote Docker server. You can have multiple VCH's and they can be grouped into projects. Let's keep architectural decisions besides at the moment and focus on testing the technology itself.

VCH deployment is typically done via vic-machine CLI Utility as GUI is too slow interface for DevOps approach. Documentation is available at

VIC-MACHINE ... is the primary tool for DevOps admin. I will discuss roles, tooling, and RBAC for particular actors in DevOps approach in the next blog post together with the overall architecture.

We can download vic-machine from VIC appliance deployed in step 1. In my case, it is available at

When we have vic-machine available in our DevOps workstation we can start act as a DevOps engineer.

Note 1: 
If you have self-signed certificate as I have in my lab, you need to get vCenter Thumbprint.You have to ssh to vCenter Server Appliance and get the fingerprint.
openssl x509 -in /etc/vmware-vpx/ssl/rui.crt -fingerprint -sha1 -noout
The vCenter thumbprint in my lab is
SHA1 Fingerprint=64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9
Note 2: 
vic-machine tool is available for various operating systems (windows, linux, darwin).  As my workstation is Mac OS X (aka darwin), in commands below I will use ./vic-machine-darwin

Before the first VCH deployment, we have to enable the firewall rules in a particular vSphere cluster (the name of vSphere Cluster in my home lab is CLUSTER).

./vic-machine-darwin update firewall --target --thumbprint 64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9 --user --compute-resource CLUSTER --allow

Now we are ready to create our first VCH.

Here is the command, how to create VCH.

./vic-machine-darwin create --name vch01 --container-name-convention vch01-{name} --compute-resource CLUSTER --image-store vsan-Underlay --base-image-size 8GB --bridge-network VCH01-BRIDGE --bridge-network-range --public-network MGMT --dns-server --container-network CONTAINER01:container01 --container-network-ip-range CONTAINER01: --container-network-gateway CONTAINER01: --container-network-dns CONTAINER01: --container-network-firewall CONTAINER01:published --tls-cname vch01 --certificate-key-size 2048 --no-tlsverify --user admin@UW.CZ --thumbprint 64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9 --target --ops-user administrator

The output from the command looks similar to ...

INFO[0068] VCH Admin Portal:                            
INFO[0068] VCH Default Bridge Network Range: 
INFO[0068] VCH Default Bridge Network Width: 16         
INFO[0068] Published ports can be reached at:           
INFO[0068] Management traffic will use:                 
INFO[0068] Docker environment variables:                
INFO[0068] Environment saved in vch2/vch2.env           
INFO[0068] Connect to docker:                           
INFO[0068] docker -H --tls info      
INFO[0068] Installer completed successfully             

Davids-MacBook-Pro:vic-machine dpasek$ 

My first VCH has been created with a single container network (network name CONTAINER01). To add another container network (CONTAINER02) we need to know VCH id, therefore inspect command has to be used.

./vic-machine-darwin inspect --target --thumbprint 64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9 --user --compute-resource CLUSTER --name vch2

INFO[0005] VCH ID: vm-299                               
INFO[0005] VCH Admin Portal:                            
INFO[0005] VCH Default Bridge Network Range: 
INFO[0005] VCH Default Bridge Network Width: 16         
INFO[0005] Published ports can be reached at:           
INFO[0005] Management traffic will use:                 
INFO[0005] Docker environment variables:                
INFO[0005] Connect to docker:                           
INFO[0005] docker -H --tls info      

INFO[0005] Completed successfully  

Note that to configure additional network we have to add all already existing networks into the command as well.

./vic-machine-darwin configure --target --thumbprint 64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9 --user --id vm-299 --container-network CONTAINER01 --container-network CONTAINER02

Docker client is using VCH (aka Virtual Container Host) as a docker server

docker --tls info
docker --tls network ls

Here is the output of the networks available in my Docker host (aka Virtual Container Host)

dpasek@photon-machine [ ~ ]$ docker --tls network ls   
NETWORK ID          NAME                DRIVER              SCOPE
4313b6b0ab2e        CONTAINER01         external            
6eb9e8911266        bridge              bridge              

dpasek@photon-machine [ ~ ]$ 

and after vic-machine command to add additional network CONTAINER02 you can see the network in container host (VCH) and use it for our containers.

dpasek@photon-machine [ ~ ]$ docker --tls network ls
NETWORK ID          NAME                DRIVER              SCOPE
4a8318cb2738        CONTAINER01         external            
a011cf3ced72        CONTAINER02         external            
7445a9e714ed        bridge              bridge              

dpasek@photon-machine [ ~ ]$ 

Of course, we can use other standard docker commands to manage our docker images and containers.

docker --tls images -a
docker --tls ps -a

Run NGINX and access the service through NAT
docker --tls run --name nginx1 -d –p 8080:80 nginx
docker --tls ps -a
docker --tls images -a

Run NGINX and access the service directly through container network (IP address assigned via DHCP) 
docker --tls run --name nginx2 --network="container01" -d -p 80 nginx

Run NGINX and access the service directly through container network (IP address assigned staticaly) 
docker --tls run --name nginx30 --network="container01" --ip="" -d -p 80 nginx

Execute a Shell Command from a Container
docker --tls run busybox date
docker --tls ps -a

In the screenshot below you see what vSphere Admin has in his environment.

Containers visibility for vSphere Admin

Specific container (nginx) visibility for vSphere Admin
Docker Volumes

If you need persistent storage for your containers, you can create volumes which are persistently stored in your enterprise infrastructure and visible not only to DevOps admin and Developer, but also to your infrastructure administrator.

Create a Docker Volume
docker --tls volume create --opt Capacity=2GB --name volume-test
docker --tls volume ls
docker --tls volume inspect volume-test

Attach a Docker Volume to a Container
docker --tls run --name busybox -it -v volume-test:/data/volume-test busybox
# cd /data
/data # ls
/data # ls –l
total 4
/data # df -h
This is what Developer and DevOps admin see via Docker Client

dpasek@photon-machine [ ~ ]$ docker --tls volume ls

vsphere             volume-test

And this is what vSphere Admin can see in his environment

Docker volume (2 GB) is visible as 1.92 GB Hard Disk
List VCH instances

DevOps admin manages Virtual Container Hosts. Here is the command to list all VCH's from a particular vCenter.

./vic-machine-darwin ls --target --thumbprint 64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9 --user

Davids-MacBook-Pro: vic-machine dpasek$ ./vic-machine-darwin ls --target --thumbprint 64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9 --user 
INFO[0000] vSphere password for    
INFO[0003] ### Listing VCHs ####                        
INFO[0003] Validating target                            

ID            PATH                                         NAME        VERSION                      UPGRADE STATUS
vm-299        /SDDC/host/UNDERLAY/CLUSTER/Resources        vch2        v1.5.4-21221-b3d3b06f        Up to date

Davids-MacBook-Pro:vic-machine dpasek$ 

Delete VCH

And here is the command to destroy particular VCH.

./vic-machine-darwin delete --target --thumbprint 64:06:CD:4E:D8:39:8B:E8:80:2D:D3:25:50:C7:B9:7D:E1:6F:8B:E9 --user --name vch2 --compute-resource CLUSTER


DevOps is a big topic nowadays. It is worth to say that DevOps is about methodology and not the tooling. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you use Docker, Kubernetes, Ansible or even more traditional tools. What matters is the final product which has to be developed in sync with the business owner, otherwise, there is a high chance you are not meeting business owner expectations. I'm ex-developer, Software Engineer / Architect and now I work as an Infrastructure Technical Designer / Architect, therefore I know, the DevOps methodology is the best way how to develop and deliver a business application to the business owner. The key principles of DevOps methodology are to identify the core business requirements, quickly develop the application prototype, present it to the business owner, validate if the business owner expectations are met and if so, move the prototype into production and continuously develop and deploy additional business requirements in short iterations with continuous feedback from the business owner. For such an approach, you need to deploy your application into infrastructure dynamically and quickly. Traditional Enterprise Infrastructure is not ready for such agility.

In this blog post, we were testing the tool (VMware vSphere Integrated Containers) which can help Developers, DevOps admins and infrastructure admins cooperate in an agile fashion. It might or might not help to deliver successfully the business project. However, it definitely helps DevOps teams to have agile DevOps infrastructure with Enterprise level of support, security, availability, and cooperation between Developers, Security, and Infrastructure (compute, storage, network) teams which each lives in the totally different world and they do not understand each other :-)

In my opinion, vSphere Integrated Containers is a great technology to start DevOps in the Enterprise environment. We all know that Enterprises will eventually adopt Kubernetes as it is nowadays a "de facto" standard for DevOps infrastructure, however huge Docker Hosts backed by solid enterprise infrastructure (VMware vSphere) is good enough for anybody just starting with DevOps methodology. In the near future, VMware vSphere will have integrated Kubernetes (watch the Project Pacific) and DevOps teams will be able to transform their DevOps tooling into another level.

In the next post, I will focus on the Architecture Design of DevOps environment leveraging VMware vSphere Integrated Containers.

Hope this blog post helps at least one other person in the great VMware community.


Abyss said...

Can I use docker compose instead of docker to have multiple containers in individual C-VM ? so basically not have to ideally have one VM per container but rather one C-VM for group of containers that are stateless (like a Kubernetes POD definition that can have multiple container)

David Pasek said...

Well, you can use docker compose, but there are some limitations due to Docker API emulation VMware is doing in VIC implementation. Read further details at

David Pasek said...

And I have the question ... why not use Kubernetes when you want K8s features? VMware has vSphere 7 with Kubernetes and other Tanzu K8s clusters options for enterprise use cases or you can choose RedHat Openshift or Vanilla Kubernetes if VMware Tanzu does not fit your requirements. Can you share the reasons why you would consider VIC rather than K8s? To be honest, this container world is still very new to me so I’m interested in real user use cases and thoughts.