One of the things I wanted to do this year was get back into technologies, applications, platforms or solutions that I have drifted away from over recent years. The reason for this is two-fold… Firstly, I’m interested to see how far they have progressed over the years (or maybe they have not) and secondly get a feel for how they have evolved and changed to suit modern day IT.
This is “Revisited” on Virtualization is Life!

Last week I was on the hunt for a visual network analyser tool for a demo I was working on. I needed a way to visualize network flows to and from the internet and, if possible see the flow between different machines if more than one was involved. While I finally settled on something else, a response to a Tweet I put out asking for suggestion mentioned vRNI. My immediate response to that was… I don’t think I have the resources to run that! I got a quick reply saying that vRNI was now a SaaS Based product… or at the least it had a SaaS based option via VMware Cloud.

I remember being pretty excited about the and I wrote about that in this blog post back in 2016 as this was touted as a pretty big and important acquisition by VMware at the time. Arkin had a strong following and some good people working for them who transitioned over to VMware as part of the deal.

vRNI Recap

vRealize Network Insight (Cloud) is a network and security analysis service, purpose-built for software defined data centers, branch locations, and public clouds. The Service Offering provides comprehensive network visibility and granular understanding of traffic flows between applications to enable cloud security planning and network troubleshooting. Best practices checks, as well as intuitive user interface and search capabilities, simplify monitoring and administration of a customer’s network traffic, making it easier for cloud administrators to manage and troubleshoot cloud deployments at scale.

  • Application Discovery & Visibility Gain visibility into your applications and construct meaningful insights. Use machine learning to discover which VMs are part of each app.
  • Secure Migration Planning Leverage granular visibility to speed up network segmentation rollouts and migration plans. Minimize risk by mapping topology so you can migrate to the cloud with confidence.
  • Enhanced Troubleshooting Proactively optimize your network to minimize application latency, improve performance and increase reliability.

Walkthrough of Install and Initial Configuration

Firstly, you need to get an account on VMware Cloud Services and log into the Console. Once that has been done you should see a list of services associated with your organization. Click on VMware vRealize Network Insight Cloud.

There is a 30 Day Trial Offer Setup Wizard which start off by asking you what region to deploy the services into.

vRealize Network Insight

Once the region is selected, the next step is to download and configure the Collector VM. This is an appliance that is deployed via OVF into the remote vCenter that is going to be montiored.

I’m not going to go through, step by step the OVF deployment, but the Sizing Guides can be found here. One comment to make is that the Remote Collector Nodes are a lot easier on the resources that the on-premises editions.

An important step in this process is to take a note of the Shared Secret (My trial is over so i’m not worried about the below not being hidden). You will note that in the image below, it shows in green that the New Collector VM has been detected. This was only done after I modified the IP Settings from the VM console and also preformed the initial configuration.

So what you see below is what needs to be done to configure the appliance and make it talk back to the VMware Cloud.

Once that is done, you can go back and complete the adding of the new vCenter. You need to select the VDS and can also selectively choose which portgroups to monitor as well.

Enabling NetFlow (IPFIX) on the vCenter

This is an important step to get deeper flow analytics from the vCenter networks and the VMs sitting on the PortGroups. To get that done… follow this guide.

A Quick Look after Initial Deployment

Once all that is done and a little time has passed to do the initial collection, you should start seeing at least a list of your VMs populated in the Console.

After a few days you start to get more and more flow data which leads to more and more useful analytics.

And even more data…

Which allows you to break down into the specific network flows between VMs and their egress/ingress destinations.

Final Revisited Thoughts

So after nearly five and half years since I last tested vRNI, it’s clear to see that it’s been integrated and expanded by VMware. Getting a SaaS based Cloud Version is perfect for a lot of people and allowing for a 30 Day Trial means that it can be used without much hassle or overhead to see if it does the job. Expanding that out to VMware Cloud on AWS use cased, it offers VMware customers a strong network analyzation product… though it must be said, at some significant cost.

Again, Arkin was made to become SaaS based and it was interesting to revisit the platform so long after the last time I got into the weeds with it. The network visualizations are still impressive and the extended reporting into the VMware environment at the granular VM level to work out flows makes it attractive.