VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations on VMware Cloud on AWS Reference Design

Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations simplifies operating Kubernetes for multi-cloud deployment by centralizing management and governance for clusters and teams across on-premises, public clouds, and edge. Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations delivers an open source aligned Kubernetes distribution with consistent operations and management to support infrastructure and application modernization.

This document lays out a reference design for deploying VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations on VMware Cloud on AWS.

Note: The scope of this document is limited to Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (multi-cloud), which is a customer-managed solution.

The following reference design is based on the architecture and components described in VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations Reference Architecture.

Tanzu Edition reference architecture diagram

Supported Component Matrix

The following table provides the component versions and interoperability matrix supported with the reference design:

Software Components Version
Tanzu Kubernetes Grid 1.6.0
VMC on AWS SDDC Version 1.18 and later
NSX Advanced Load Balancer 21.1.4

For up-to-date information about which software versions can be used together, check the Interoperability Matrix here.

Benefits of Running VMware Tanzu on VMware Cloud on AWS

VMware Cloud on AWS enables your IT and operations teams to add value to your investments in AWS by extending your on-premises VMware vSphere environments to the AWS cloud. VMware Cloud on AWS is an integrated cloud offering jointly developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware. It is optimized to run on dedicated, elastic, bare-metal Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) infrastructure and supported by VMware and its partners. To learn more about VMware Cloud on AWS, see VMware Cloud on AWS Documentation.

VMware Cloud on AWS enables the following:

  1. Cloud Migrations
  2. Data Center Extension
  3. Disaster Recovery
  4. Next Generation Applications

By running VMware Tanzu within the same infrastructure as the general VM workloads enabled by the first three use cases, organizations can start their next generation application modernization strategy immediately without incurring additional cost. For example, SDDC spare capacity can be used to run Tanzu Kubernetes Grid to enable next generation application modernization, or compute capacity not used by disaster recovery can be used for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters.

The following additional benefits are enabled by the Elastic Network Interface that connects the VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC to the AWS services within the Amazon VPC:

  • Enable developers to modernize existing enterprise apps with AWS cloud capabilities and services.
  • Integrate modern application tools and frameworks to develop next generation applications.
  • Remove egress charges as all traffic is internal of the Amazon availability zone.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Components

VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG) provides organizations with a consistent, upstream-compatible, regional Kubernetes substrate that is ready for end-user workloads and ecosystem integrations. You can deploy Tanzu Kubernetes Grid across software-defined datacenters (SDDC) and public cloud environments, including vSphere, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon EC2.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid comprises the following components:

  • Management Cluster - A management cluster is the first element that you deploy when you create a Tanzu Kubernetes Grid instance. The management cluster is a Kubernetes cluster that performs the role of the primary management and operational center for the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid instance. The management cluster is purpose-built for operating the platform and managing the lifecycle of Tanzu Kubernetes clusters.
  • Tanzu Kubernetes Cluster - Tanzu Kubernetes clusters are the Kubernetes clusters in which your application workloads run. These clusters are also referred to as workload clusters. Tanzu Kubernetes clusters can run different versions of Kubernetes, depending on the needs of the applications they run.
  • Shared Services Cluster - Each Tanzu Kubernetes Grid instance can have only one shared services cluster. You deploy this cluster only if you intend to deploy shared services such as Contour and Harbor.
  • Cluster API - Tanzu Kubernetes Grid functions through the creation of a Management Kubernetes cluster that houses Cluster API. The Cluster API then interacts with the infrastructure provider to service workload Kubernetes cluster lifecycle requests.
  • Tanzu Kubernetes Cluster Plans - A cluster plan is a blueprint that describes the configuration with which to deploy a Tanzu Kubernetes cluster. It provides a set of configurable values that describe settings like the number of control plane machines, worker machines, VM types, and so on.

The current release of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid provides two default templates, dev and prod.

  • Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Instance - A Tanzu Kubernetes Grid instance is the full deployment of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, including the management cluster, the workload clusters, and the shared services cluster that you configure.
  • Tanzu CLI - A command-line utility that provides the necessary commands to build and operate Tanzu management and Tanzu Kubernetes clusters.
  • Carvel Tools - Carvel is an open-source suite of reliable, single-purpose, composable tools that aid in building, configuring, and deploying applications to Kubernetes. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid uses the following Carvel tools:

    • ytt - A command-line tool for templating and patching YAML files. You can also use ytt to collect fragments and piles of YAML into modular chunks for reuse.
    • kapp - The application deployment CLI for Kubernetes. It allows you to install, upgrade, and delete multiple Kubernetes resources as one application.
    • kbld - An image-building and resolution tool.
    • imgpkg - A tool that enables Kubernetes to store configurations and the associated container images as OCI images, and to transfer these images.
    • yq - a lightweight and portable command-line YAML, JSON, and XML processor. yq uses jq-like syntax but works with YAML files as well as JSON and XML.
  • Bootstrap Machine - The bootstrap machine is the laptop, host, or server on which you download and run the Tanzu CLI. This is where the initial bootstrapping of a management cluster occurs before it is pushed to the platform where it will run.

  • Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Installer - The Tanzu Kubernetes Grid installer is a graphical wizard that you launch by running the tanzu management-cluster create --ui command. The installer wizard runs locally on the bootstrap machine and provides a user interface to guide you through the process of deploying a management cluster.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Storage

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid integrates with shared datastores available in the vSphere infrastructure. The following types of shared datastores are supported:

  • vSAN
  • VMFS
  • NFS
  • vVols

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid uses storage policies to integrate with shared datastores. The policies represent datastores and manage the storage placement of such objects as control plane VMs, container images, and persistent storage volumes. vSAN storage policies are the only option available for VMware Cloud on AWS.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is agnostic about which storage option you choose. For Kubernetes stateful workloads, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid installs the vSphere Container Storage interface (vSphere CSI) to automatically provision Kubernetes persistent volumes for pods.

VMware vSAN is a recommended storage solution for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters.

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-STG-001 Use vSAN storage for TKO By using vSAN as the shared storage solution, you can take advantage of more cost-effective local storage. Minimizes storage platform complexity by standardizing on a single type.

While the default vSAN storage policy can be used, administrators should evaluate the needs of their applications and craft a specific vSphere Storage Policy. vSAN storage policies describe classes of storage (e.g., SSD, NVME, etc.) along with quotas for your clusters.

TKG  Storage integration example with vSAN

Starting with vSphere 7.0 environments with vSAN, the vSphere CSI driver for Kubernetes also supports the creation of NFS File Volumes, which support ReadWriteMany access modes. This allows for provisioning volumes, which can be read and written from multiple pods simultaneously. To support this, you must enable vSAN File Service.

Note: vSAN File Service is available only in the vSAN Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions.

Tanzu Kubernetes Clusters Networking

A Tanzu Kubernetes cluster provisioned by the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid supports two Container Network Interface (CNI) options:

Both are open-source software that provide networking for cluster pods, services, and ingress.

When you deploy a Tanzu Kubernetes cluster using Tanzu Mission Control or Tanzu CLI, Antrea CNI is automatically enabled in the cluster. To provision a Tanzu Kubernetes cluster using a non-default CNI, see the following instructions:

Each CNI is suitable for a different use case. The following table lists some common use cases for the three CNIs that Tanzu Kubernetes Grid supports. This table helps you select the most appropriate CNI for your Tanzu Kubernetes Grid implementation.

CNI Use Case Pros and Cons
Antrea Enable Kubernetes pod networking with IP overlay networks using VXLAN or Geneve for encapsulation. Optionally encrypt node-to-node communication using IPSec packet encryption.
Antrea supports advanced network use cases like kernel bypass and network service mesh.
- Antrea leverages Open vSwitch as the networking data plane. Open vSwitch supports both Linux and Windows.
- VMware supports the latest conformant Kubernetes and stable releases of Antrea.
Calico Calico is used in environments where factors like network performance, flexibility, and power are essential.
For routing packets between nodes, Calico leverages the BGP routing protocol instead of an overlay network. This eliminates the need to wrap packets with an encapsulation layer, resulting in increased network performance for Kubernetes workloads.
- Support for Network Policies
- High network performance
- SCTP support

- No multicast support
Multus Multus CNI can give multiple interfaces per each Kubernetes pod. Using Multus CRDs, you can specify which pods get which interfaces and allow different interfaces depending on the use case. Pros
- Separation of data/control planes.
- Separate security policies can be used for separate interfaces.
- Supports SR-IOV, DPDK, OVS-DPDK, and VPP workloads in Kubernetes with both cloud-native and NFV-based applications in Kubernetes.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Infrastructure Networking

You can deploy Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on various networking stacks, including:

  • VMware NSX-T Data Center Networking.
  • vSphere Networking (VDS) with NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

Note: The scope of this document is limited to VMware NSX-T Data Center Networking with NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on NSX-T Networking with NSX Advanced Load Balancer

When deployed on VMware NSX-T Networking, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid uses the NSX-T logical segments and gateways to provide connectivity to Kubernetes control plane VMs, worker nodes, services, and applications. All hosts from the cluster where Tanzu Kubernetes clusters are deployed are configured as NSX-T Transport nodes, which provide network connectivity to the Kubernetes environment.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid leverages NSX Advanced Load Balancer to provide L4 load balancing for the Tanzu Kubernetes clusters control plane HA and L7 ingress to the applications deployed in the Tanzu Kubernetes clusters. Users access the applications by connecting to the Virtual IP address (VIP) of the applications provisioned by NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Components

NSX Advanced Load Balancer is deployed in No-Orchestrator mode in VMC on AWS environment because the cloudadmin user does not have all required permissions to perform write operations to the vCenter API, which is essential. Therefore, the NSX Advanced Load Balancer controller cannot orchestrate the deployment of service engines.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer service engines must be deployed before load balancing services can be requested by Kubernetes.

The following are the core components of NSX Advanced Load Balancer:

  • NSX Advanced Load Balancer Controller - NSX Advanced Load Balancer Controller manages Virtual Service objects and interacts with the vCenter Server infrastructure to manage the lifecycle of the service engines (SEs). It is the central repository for the configurations and policies related to services and management and provides the portal for viewing the health of virtual services and SEs and the associated analytics provided by NSX Advanced Load Balancer.
  • NSX Advanced Load Balancer Service Engine - The service engines (SEs) are lightweight VMs that handle all data plane operations by receiving and executing instructions from the controller. The SEs perform load balancing and all client- and server-facing network interactions.
  • Avi Kubernetes Operator (AKO) - An Avi Kubernetes operator runs as a pod in the management cluster and Tanzu Kubernetes clusters and provides ingress and load balancing functionality. AKO translates the required Kubernetes objects to NSX Advanced Load Balancer objects and automates the implementation of ingresses, routes, and services on the service engines (SE) through the NSX Advanced Load Balancer controller.
  • AKO Operator (AKOO) - The AKO operator takes care of deploying, managing, and removing AKO from Kubernetes clusters. When deployed, this operator creates an instance of the AKO controller and installs all the relevant objects, including:

    • AKO StatefulSet
    • ClusterRole and ClusterRoleBinding
    • ConfigMap (required for the AKO controller and other artifacts)

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management clusters have an AKO operator installed out-of-the-box during cluster deployment. By default, a Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster has a couple of AkoDeploymentConfig objects created, which dictate when and how AKO pods are created in the workload clusters. For more information on the AKO operator, see the VMware documentation.

Each environment configured in NSX Advanced Load Balancer is referred to as a cloud. Each cloud in NSX Advanced Load Balancer maintains networking and NSX Advanced Load Balancer service engine settings. The cloud is configured with one or more VIP networks to provide IP addresses to load balancing (L4/L7) virtual services created under that cloud.

The virtual services can be spanned across multiple service engines if the associated service engine group is configured in Active/Active HA mode. A service engine can belong to only one service engine group at a time.

IP address allocation for virtual services can be over DHCP or via NSX Advanced Load Balancer in-built IPAM functionality. The VIP networks created/configured in NSX Advanced Load Balancer are associated with the IPAM profile.

Network Architecture

For deployment of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid in VMware Cloud on AWS SDDCs, separate segments are built for the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid shared services cluster, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload clusters, NSX Advanced Load Balancer management, Cluster-VIP segment for control plane HA, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Mgmt VIP/Data segment, and Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload Data/VIP segment.

The network reference design can be mapped into this general framework.

Network Layout for TKG in VMC on AWS

This topology provides the following benefits:

  • Isolates and separates SDDC management components (vCenter, ESX) from the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid components. This reference design allows only minimum connectivity between the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters and NSX Advanced Load Balancer and the vCenter Server.
  • Isolates and separates the NSX Advanced Load Balancer management network segment from the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management segment and the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload segments.
  • Depending on the workload cluster type and use case, multiple workload clusters can leverage the same logical segments or new segments can be used for each workload cluster. To isolate and separate Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload cluster networking from each other, VMware recommends that you use separate logical segments for each workload cluster and configure the required firewall between these networks. See Firewall Recommendations for more details.
  • Separates provider and tenant access to the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid environment.
    • Only provider administrators need access to the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster. Allowing only administrators to access the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster prevents tenants from attempting to connect to the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster.

Network Requirements

As per the defined architecture, the list of required networks includes:

Network Type DHCP Service

Description & Recommendations

NSX ALB management network Optional

NSX ALB controllers and SEs are attached to this network.

DHCP is not a mandatory requirement on this network as IP addresses to NSX ALB controllers can be static. IP addresses can be assigned statically to SE interfaces or by making use of NSX ALB IPAM profiles.

TKG management network Yes Control plane and worker nodes of TKG management cluster clusters are attached to this network
TKG shared services network Yes Control plane and worker nodes of TKG shared services cluster are attached to this network.
TKG workload network Yes Control plane and worker nodes of TKG workload clusters are attached to this network.
TKG cluster VIP/data network Optional Virtual services for Control plane HA of all TKG clusters (management, shared services, and workload).
TKG management VIP/data network Optional Virtual services for all user-managed packages (such as Contour and Harbor) hosted on the shared services cluster.
TKG workload VIP/data network Optional Virtual services for all applications hosted on the workload clusters.

Subnet and CIDR Examples

For the purpose of demonstration, this document makes use of the following Subnet CIDR for deployment.

Network Type Segment Name Gateway CIDR DHCP Pool NSX ALB IP Pool
NSX ALB management network NSX-ALB-Mgmt - NA
TKG management network TKG-Management - NA
TKG workload network TKG-Workload - NA
TKG cluster VIP network TKG-Cluster-VIP - -
TKG management VIP network TKG-Management-VIP - -
TKG workload VIP network TKG-Workload-VIP - -
TKG shared services network TKG-Shared-Service - NA

Firewall Recommendations

To prepare the firewall, you need to gather the following:

  1. NSX Advanced Load Balancer controller nodes and Cluster IP address.
  2. NSX Advanced Load Balancer management network CIDR.
  3. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management network CIDR
  4. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid shared services network CIDR
  5. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload network CIDR
  6. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid cluster VIP address range
  7. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Management VIP address range
  8. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Workload VIP address range
  9. Client machine IP address
  10. Bootstrap machine IP address
  11. Harbor registry IP address
  12. vCenter Server IP address.
  13. DNS server IP address(es).
  14. NTP server(s).

VMware Cloud on AWS uses a management gateway and compute gateway. These gateways need firewall rules to allow traffic for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid deployments.

The following table provides a list of firewall rules based on the assumption that there is no firewall within a subnet/VLAN.

Source Destination Protocol:Port Description
Client machine NSX ALB controller nodes and cluster IP address. TCP:443 To access NSX ALB portal for configuration.
Client machine vCenter Server TCP:443 To create resource pools, VM folders, etc, in vCenter.

Bootstrap machine

projects.registry.vmware.com TCP:443 To pull binaries from VMware public repo for TKG installation.

Bootstrap machine

TKG VIP network (cluster endpoint) TCP:6443 Allows bootstrap machine to communicate with cluster.

TKG management network CIDR

TKG shared services network CIDR.

TKG workload network CIDR.

DNS Server

NTP server



DNS service

Time synchronization

TKG management network CIDR

TKG shared services network CIDR.

TKG workload network CIDR.

vCenter IP TCP:443 Allows components to access vCenter to create VMs and storage volumes

TKG management network CIDR.

TKG shared services network CIDR.

TKG workload network CIDR.

TKG cluster VIP Range. TCP:6443 For management cluster to configure shared services and workload clusters.

TKG management network

TKG shared services network

TKG workload networks

Internet TCP:443 For interaction with Tanzu Mission Control, Tanzu Observability, and Tanzu Service Mesh.

TKG management network

TKG shared services network

TKG workload networks

NSX ALB controllers and cluster IP address. TCP:443 Allow Avi Kubernetes Operator (AKO) and AKO Operator (AKOO) access to NSX ALB controller.
NSX ALB controllers. vCenter and ESXi Hosts TCP:443 Allow NSX ALB to discover vCenter objects and deploy SEs as required
NSX ALB management network CIDR.

DNS server

NTP server



DNS service

Time synchronization

Optional Firewall Rules

Source Destination Protocol:Port Description

TKG management network CIDR

TKG shared services network CIDR.

TKG workload network CIDR.

Harbor registry


TCP:443 Allows components to retrieve container images from a local image registry.

Client machine





To access cloud Services portal to configure networks in VMC SDDC.

To access the TMC portal for TKG clusters registration and other SaaS integration.

To pull binaries from VMware public repo for TKG installation.

Client machine

TKG management VIP range.

TKG Workload VIP range.



To http/https workloads in shared services and workload cluster.

Installation Experience

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster is the first component that you deploy to get started with Tanzu Kubernetes Grid.

There are two ways to deploy the management cluster:

  1. Run the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid installer, a wizard interface that guides you through the process of deploying a management cluster. VMware recommends this method if you are installing a Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Management cluster for the first time.
  2. Create and edit YAML configuration files to use with CLI commands to deploy the management cluster.

The Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Installation user interface shows that, in the current version, it is possible to install Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on vSphere (including VMware Cloud on AWS), AWS EC2, and Microsoft Azure. The UI provides a guided experience tailored to the IaaS, in this case on VMware Cloud on AWS.

TKG installer user interface

The installation of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on VMware Cloud on AWS is done through the same UI as mentioned above but tailored to a vSphere environment.

TKG installer user interface for vSphere

This installation process takes you through setting up TKG Management Cluster on your vSphere environment. Once the management cluster is deployed, you can register the management cluster with Tanzu Mission Control and deploy Tanzu Kubernetes shared services and workload clusters directly from the Tanzu Mission Control UI or Tanzu CLI to deploy Tanzu Kubernetes shared service and workload clusters.

Design Recommendations

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Recommendations

The following table provides the recommendations for configuring NSX Advanced Load Balancer for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid deployment in a VMC on AWS environment.

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-ALB-001 Deploy NSX ALB controller cluster nodes on a segment dedicated to NSX-ALB Isolate NSX ALB traffic from infrastructure management traffic and Kubernetes workloads. Using the same network for NSX ALB Controller Cluster nodes allows for configuring a floating cluster IP address that is assigned to the cluster leader.
TKO-ALB-002 Deploy 3 NSX ALB controller nodes. To achieve high availability for the NSX ALB platform. In clustered mode, NSX ALB availability is not impacted by an individual controller node failure.
TKO-ALB-003 Use static IPs for the NSX ALB controllers if DHCP cannot guarantee a permanent lease. NSX ALB Controller cluster uses management IPs to form and maintain the quorum for the control plane cluster. Any changes would be disruptive. NSX ALB Controller control plane might go down if the management IPs of the controller node changes.
TKO-ALB-004 Connect service engines to VIP networks and Server networks manually. NSX ALB service engine deployment is manual in VMC on AWS. The controllers can’t reconfigure service engines for network connectivity when virtual services are created.
TKO-ALB-005 Reserve an IP in the NSX ALB management subnet to be used as the cluster IP for the controller cluster. The NSX ALB portal is always accessible over the cluster IP even if a specific individual controller node fails. NSX ALB administration is not affected by the failure of an individual controller node.
TKO-ALB-006 Use separate VIP networks per TKC for application load balancing. Separate dev/test and prod workloads L7 load balancing traffic. Install AKO in TKG clusters manually by creating AkodeploymentConfig.
TKO-ALB-007 Create separate SE Groups for TKG management and workload clusters. This allows isolating load balancing traffic of the management and shared services cluster from workload clusters.

Create dedicated service engine Groups under the no-orchestrator cloud configured manually.

TKO-ALB-008 Share service engines for the same type of workload (dev/test/prod) clusters. Minimize the licensing cost

Each service engine contributes to the CPU core capacity associated with a license.

An SE group can be shared by any number of workload clusters as long as the sum of the number of distinct cluster node networks and the number of distinct cluster VIP networks is not more than 8.

TKO-ALB-009 Enable DHCP in the No-Orchestrator cloud. Reduce the administrative overhead of manually configuring IP address pools for the networks where DHCP is available.

Network Recommendations

The following are the key network recommendations for a production-grade Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on VMC deployment:

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-NET-001 Use separate networks for TKG management and workload clusters. To have a flexible firewall and security policies Sharing the same network for multiple clusters can complicate the creation of firewall rules.
TKO-NET-002 Use separate networks for workload clusters based on their usage. Isolate production Kubernetes clusters from dev/test clusters.

A separate set of service engines can be used to separate dev/test workload clusters from prod clusters.

TKO-NET-003 Configure DHCP for TKG clusters. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid does not support static IP assignments for Kubernetes VM components Enable DHCP on the logical segments that are used to host TKG clusters.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Cluster Recommendations

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-TKG-001 Deploy TKG management cluster from TKG installer UI Simplified method of installation.

When you deploy a management cluster by using the installer interface, it populates a cluster configuration file for the management cluster with the required parameters.

You can use the created configuration file as a model for future deployments from the CLI

TKO-TKG-002 Register TKG management cluster with Tanzu Mission Control Tanzu Mission Control automates the creation of the Tanzu Kubernetes clusters and manages the life cycle of all clusters centrally. Tanzu Mission Control also automates the deployment of Tanzu Packages in all Tanzu Kubernetes clusters associated with TMC.
TKO-TKG-003 Use NSX ALB as your Control Plane endpoint provider. Eliminates the requirement for the external load balancer and additional configuration changes in TKG clusters configuration. NSX ALB is a true SDN solution and offers a flexible deployment model and automated way of scaling load balancer objects when needed.
TKO-TKG-004 Deploy Tanzu Kubernetes clusters in large form factor Allow TKG clusters integration with Tanzu SaaS components (Tanzu Mission Control, Tanzu Observability, and Tanzu Service Mesh)

TKG shared services and workload clusters also hosts tanzu packages such as cert-manager, contour, harbor, etc.

TKO-TKG-005 Deploy Tanzu Kubernetes clusters with Prod plan. This deploys multiple control plane nodes and provides High Availability for the control plane. TKG infrastructure is not impacted by single node failure.
TKO-TKG-006 Enable identity management for TKG clusters. This avoids usage of admin credentials and ensures required users with the right roles have access to TKG clusters. The pinniped package helps with integrating TKG with LDAPS/OIDC Authentication.
TKO-TKG-007 Enable Machine Health Checks for TKG clusters vSphere HA and Machine Health Checks interoperably work together to enhance workload resiliency A MachineHealthCheck is a resource within the Cluster API that allows users to define conditions under which Machines within a Cluster should be considered unhealthy. Remediation actions can be taken when MachineHealthCheck has identified a node as unhealthy.

Kubernetes Ingress Routing

The default installation of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid does not install an ingress controller. Users can install Contour (available for installation through Tanzu Packages) or any third-party ingress controller of their choice.

Contour is an open-source controller for Kubernetes Ingress routing. Contour can be installed in the shared services cluster on any Tanzu Kubernetes Cluster. Deploying Contour is a prerequisite if you want to deploy the Prometheus, Grafana, and Harbor Packages on a workload cluster.

For more information about Contour, see Contour site and Implementing Ingress Control with Contour.

Another option for ingress control is to use the NSX Advanced Load Balancer Kubernetes ingress controller which offers an advanced L7 ingress for containerized applications that are deployed in the Tanzu Kubernetes workload cluster.

NSX Advanced Load Balancing capabilities for VMware Tanzu

For more information about the NSX Advanced Load Balancer ingress controller, see Configuring L7 Ingress with NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

Tanzu Service Mesh, a SaaS offering for modern applications running across multi-cluster, multi-clouds, also offers an ingress controller based on Istio.

Each ingress controller has its own pros and cons. The following table provides general recommendations for choosing an ingress controller for your Kubernetes environment.

Ingress Controller Use Cases

Use contour when only north-south traffic is needed in a Kubernetes cluster. You can apply security policies for north-south traffic by defining the policies in the applications manifest file.

It’s a reliable solution for simple Kubernetes workloads.

Istio Use Istio ingress controller when you intend to provide security, traffic direction, and insight within the cluster (east-west traffic) and between the cluster and the outside world (north-south traffic)
NSX ALB Ingress controller

Use NSX ALB ingress controller when a containerized application requires features like local and global server load balancing (GSLB), web application firewall (WAF), performance monitoring, etc.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer as in L4+L7 Ingress Service Provider

As a load balancer, NSX Advanced Load Balancer provides an L4+L7 load balancing solution for vSphere. It includes a Kubernetes operator that integrates with the Kubernetes API to manage the lifecycle of load balancing and ingress resources for workloads.

Legacy ingress services for Kubernetes include multiple disparate solutions. The services and products contain independent components that are difficult to manage and troubleshoot. The ingress services have reduced observability capabilities with little analytics, and they lack comprehensive visibility into the applications that run on the system. Cloud-native automation is difficult in the legacy ingress services.

In comparison to the legacy Kubernetes ingress services, NSX Advanced Load Balancer has comprehensive load balancing and ingress services features. As a single solution with a central control, NSX Advanced Load Balancer is easy to manage and troubleshoot. NSX Advanced Load Balancer supports real-time telemetry with an insight into the applications that run on the system. The elastic auto-scaling and the decision automation features highlight the cloud-native automation capabilities of NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer also lets you configure L7 ingress for your workload clusters by using one of the following options:

  • L7 ingress in ClusterIP mode
  • L7 ingress in NodePortLocal mode
  • L7 ingress in NodePort mode
  • NSX Advanced Load Balancer L4 ingress with Contour L7 ingress

L7 Ingress in ClusterIP Mode

This option enables NSX Advanced Load Balancer L7 ingress capabilities, including sending traffic directly from the service engines (SEs) to the pods, preventing multiple hops that other ingress solutions need when sending packets from the load balancer to the right node where the pod runs. The NSX Advanced Load Balancer controller creates a virtual service with a backend pool with the pod IP addresses which helps to send the traffic directly to the pods.

However, each workload cluster needs a dedicated SE group for Avi Kubernetes Operator (AKO) to work, which could increase the number of SEs you need for your environment. This mode is used when you have a small number of workload clusters.

L7 Ingress in NodePort Mode

The NodePort mode is the default mode when AKO is installed on Tanzu Kubernetes Grid. This option allows your workload clusters to share SE groups and it is fully supported by VMware. With this option, the services of your workloads must be set to NodePort instead of ClusterIP even when accompanied by an ingress object. This ensures that NodePorts are created on the worker nodes and traffic can flow through the SEs to the pods via the NodePorts. Kube-Proxy, which runs on each node as DaemonSet, creates network rules to expose the application endpoints to each of the nodes in the format “NodeIP:NodePort”. The NodePort value is the same for a service on all the nodes. It exposes the port on all the nodes of the Kubernetes Cluster, even if the pods are not running on it.

L7 Ingress in NodePortLocal Mode

This feature is supported only with Antrea CNI. The primary difference between this mode and the NodePort mode is that the traffic is sent directly to the pods in your workload cluster through node ports without interfering Kube-proxy. With this option, the workload clusters can share SE groups. Similar to the ClusterIP Mode, this option avoids the potential extra hop when sending traffic from the NSX Advanced Load Balancer SEs to the pod by targeting the right nodes where the pods run.

Antrea agent configures NodePortLocal port mapping rules at the node in the format “NodeIP:Unique Port” to expose each pod on the node on which the pod of the service is running. The default range of the port number is 61000-62000. Even if the pods of the service are running on the same Kubernetes node, Antrea agent publishes unique ports to expose the pods at the node level to integrate with the load balancer.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer L4 Ingress with Contour L7 Ingress

This option does not have all the NSX Advanced Load Balancer L7 ingress capabilities but uses it for L4 load balancing only and leverages Contour for L7 Ingress. This also allows sharing SE groups across workload clusters. This option is supported by VMware and it requires minimal setup.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer L7 Ingress Recommendations

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-ALB-L7-001 Deploy NSX ALB L7 Ingress in ClusterIP mode. 1. Leverage NSX-ALB L7 Ingress capabilities with direct routing from SE to pod.
2. Use this mode when you have a small number of clusters.
1. SE groups cannot be shared across clusters.
2. Dedicated SE group per cluster increases the license consumption of NSX ALB SE cores.
TKO-ALB-L7-002 Deploy NSX ALB L7 Ingress in NodePort mode. 1. Default supported configuration of most of the CNI Providers.
2. TKG clusters can share SE Groups, optimizing/maximizing capacity and license consumption.
3. This mode is suitable when you have a large number of workload clusters.
1. Kube-Proxy does secondary hop of load balancing to re-distribute the traffic amongst the Pod and increases the east-west traffic in the cluster.
2. For load balancers that perform SNAT on the incoming traffic, session persistence does not work.
3. NodePort configuration exposes a range of ports on all Kubernetes nodes irrespective of the Pod scheduling. It may hit the port range limitations as the number of services (of type nodePort) increases.
TKO-ALB-L7-003 Deploy NSX ALB L7 Ingress in NodePortLocal mode. T1. Network hop efficiency is gained by by-passing the kube-proxy to receive external traffic to applications.
2. TKG clusters can share SE Groups, optimizing/maximizing capacity and license consumption.
3. Pod’s node port only exists on nodes where the Pod is running, and it helps to reduce the east-west traffic and encapsulation overhead.
4. Better session persistence.
1. This is supported only with Antrea CNI.
2. The NodePortLocal mode is currently only supported for nodes running Linux or Windows with IPv4 addresses. Only TCP and UDP service ports are supported (not SCTP). For more information, see Antrea NodePortLocal Documentation.

VMware recommends using NSX Advanced Load Balancer L7 ingress with the NodePortLocal mode as it gives you a distinct advantage over other modes as mentioned below:

  • Although there is a constraint of one SE group per Tanzu Kubernetes Grid cluster, which results in increased license capacity, ClusterIP provides direct communication to the Kubernetes pods, enabling persistence and direct monitoring of individual pods.

  • NodePort resolves the issue for needing a SE group per workload cluster, but a kube-proxy is created on each and every workload node even if the pod doesn’t exist in it, and there’s no direct connectivity. Persistence is then broken.

  • NodePortLocal is the best of both use cases. Traffic is sent directly to the pods in your workload cluster through node ports without interfering with kube-proxy. SE groups can be shared and load balancing persistence is supported.

Container Registry

VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations using Tanzu Kubernetes Grid includes Harbor as a container registry. Harbor provides a location for pushing, pulling, storing, and scanning container images used in your Kubernetes clusters.

Harbor registry is used for day-2 operations of the Tanzu Kubernetes workload clusters. Typical day-2 operations include tasks such as pulling images from Harbor for application deployment, pushing custom images to Harbor, etc.

There are three main supported installation methods for Harbor:

  • Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Package deployment on a Tanzu Kubernetes Grid shared services cluster. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid includes signed binaries for Harbor, which you can deploy into a shared services cluster to provide container registry services for other Tanzu Kubernetes (workload) clusters. This installation method is recommended for general use cases.
  • Helm-based deployment to a Kubernetes cluster - this installation method may be preferred for customers already invested in Helm.
  • VM-based deployment using Docker Compose. VMware recommends this installation method when Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is installed in an air-gapped environment and there are no pre-existing Kubernetes clusters on which to install Harbor.

Harbor Container Registry

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Monitoring

Monitoring for the Tanzu Kubernetes clusters is provided through Prometheus and Grafana. Both Prometheus and Grafana can be installed on Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters using Tanzu Packages.

Prometheus is an open-source system monitoring and alerting toolkit. It can collect metrics from target clusters at specified intervals, evaluate rule expressions, display the results, and trigger alerts if certain conditions arise. The Tanzu Kubernetes Grid implementation of Prometheus includes Alert Manager, which you can configure to notify you when certain events occur.

Grafana is an open-source visualization and analytics software. It allows you to query, visualize, alert on, and explore your metrics no matter where they are stored. Both Prometheus and Grafana are installed through user-managed Tanzu packages by creating the deployment manifests and invoking the tanzu package install command to deploy the packages in the Tanzu Kubernetes clusters.

The following diagram shows how the monitoring components on a cluster interact.

TKG monitoring components

You can use out-of-the-box Kubernetes dashboards or you can create new dashboards to monitor compute, network, and storage utilization of Kubernetes objects such as Clusters, Namespaces, Pods, etc.

You can also monitor your Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters using Tanzu Observability which is a SaaS offering by VMware. Tanzu Observability provides various out-of-the-box dashboards. You can customize the dashboards for your particular deployment. For information on how to customize Tanzu Observability dashboards for Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations, see Customize Tanzu Observability Dashboard for Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations.


Fluent Bit is a lightweight log processor and forwarder that allows you to collect data and logs from different sources, unify them, and send them to multiple destinations. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid includes signed binaries for Fluent Bit, that you can deploy on management clusters and on Tanzu Kubernetes clusters to provide a log-forwarding service.

Fluent Bit integrates with logging platforms such as vRealize LogInsight, Elasticsearch, Kafka, Splunk, or an HTTP endpoint. Details on configuring Fluent Bit to your logging provider can be found in the documentation here.

You can deploy Fluent Bit on any management cluster or Tanzu Kubernetes clusters from which you want to collect logs. First, you configure an output plugin on the cluster from which you want to gather logs, depending on the endpoint that you use. Then, you deploy Fluent Bit on the cluster as a package.

vRealize Log Insight (vRLI) provides real-time log management and log analysis with machine learning-based intelligent grouping, high-performance searching, and troubleshooting across physical, virtual, and cloud environments. vRLI already has a deep integration with the vSphere platform where you can get key actionable insights.

The vRealize Log Insight appliance is available as a separate on-premises deployable product. You can also choose to go with the SaaS version vRealize Log Insight Cloud.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid and Tanzu SaaS Integration

The SaaS products in the VMware Tanzu portfolio are in the critical path for securing systems at the heart of your IT infrastructure. VMware Tanzu Mission Control provides a centralized control plane for Kubernetes, and Tanzu Service Mesh provides a global control plane for service mesh networks. Tanzu Observability provides Kubernetes monitoring, Application observability and Service insights.

To learn more about Tanzu Kubernetes Grid integration with Tanzu SaaS, see Tanzu SaaS Services.

Customize Tanzu Observability Dashboards

Tanzu Observability provides various out-of-the-box dashboards. You can customize the dashboards for your particular deployment. For information on how to customize Tanzu Observability dashboards for Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations, see Customize Tanzu Observability Dashboard for Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations.


Tanzu on VMware Cloud on AWS offers high-performance potential, convenience, and addresses the challenges of creating, testing, and updating Kubernetes platforms in a consolidated production environment. This validated approach results in a production quality installation with all the application services needed to serve combined or uniquely separated workload types through a combined infrastructure solution.

This plan meets many day-0 needs for aligning product capabilities, such as configuring firewall rules, networking, load balancing, and workload compute, to the full stack infrastructure.

Deployment Instructions

For instructions on how to deploy this reference design, see Deploy Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations in VMware Cloud on AWS.

Supplemental Information

Automating Deployment of Service Engines

As discussed, Avi Vantage is installed in No Orchestrator mode on VMWare Cloud on AWS. Therefore, the deployment of service engines (SE) on VMware Cloud on AWS is not orchestrated by the Avi Controller. Once SE is integrated with the Avi Controller, virtual service placement and scaling can be handled centrally from the Avi Controller. A pair of service engines provide HA for load balancing.

It is troublesome to manually deploy a pair of service engines for each tenant using the Import OVA workflow in VMware Cloud on AWS. Therefore, we recommend using GOVC in conjunction with Python to obtain the OVF properties as a JSON file and then customizing the JSON file for each service engine.

The following example JSON file can be used to automate the provisioning of service engines ready for use with Tanzu Kubernetes Grid.

  "DiskProvisioning": "flat",
  "IPAllocationPolicy": "fixedPolicy",
  "IPProtocol": "IPv4",
  "PropertyMapping": [
      "Key": "AVICNTRL",
      "Value": "<ip-address-of-avi-controller>"

      "Key": "AVISETYPE",
      "Value": "NETWORK_ADMIN"
      "Value": "<avi-controller-auth-token>"
      "Value": "<avi-controller-cluster-id>"
      "Key": "avi.mgmt-ip.SE",
      "Value": "<management-ip-address-of-service-engine>"
      "Key": "avi.mgmt-mask.SE",
      "Value": ""
      "Key": "avi.default-gw.SE",
      "Value": "<avi-management-network-gateway>"
      "Key": "avi.DNS.SE",
      "Value": "<dns-server>"
      "Key": "avi.sysadmin-public-key.SE",
      "Value": ""
  "NetworkMapping": [
      "Name": "Management",
      "Network": "avi-management"
      "Name": "Data Network 1",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-1-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 2",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-2-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 3",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-3-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 4",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-4-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 5",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-5-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 6",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-6-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 7",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-7-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 8",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-8-cluster-network-segment-name>"
      "Name": "Data Network 9",
      "Network": "<tkg-workload-9-cluster-network-segment-name>"
  "MarkAsTemplate": false,
  "PowerOn": true,
  "InjectOvfEnv": false,
  "WaitForIP": false,
  "Name": "se-1"

Provision each service engine using the following code.

export GOVC_URL=<fqdn-of-vcenter-in-vmware-cloud-on-aws>
export GOVC_USERNAME=cloudadmin@vmc.local
export GOVC_PASSWORD=<clouadmin@vmc.local-password>
export GOVC_INSECURE=false
govc import.spec /home/admin/se.ova | python -m json.tool > se-1.json
govc import.ova -pool=*/Resources/Compute-ResourcePool/TKG/SEs -ds=WorkloadDatastore --options=/home/admin/se-1.json /home/admin/se.ova

This deploys a new service engine with a VM name of _se-1_ into the resource pool _Compute-ResourcePool/TKG/SEs_. Since the _PowerOn_ parameter is set to _true_, the service engine boots up automatically and since we have set the key value pairs for the following, the service engine is automatically registered with Avi Controller and is ready for further configuration in Avi Vantage:

"Key": "AVICNTRL",
"Value": "<ip-address-of-avi-controller>"
"Value": "<avi-controller-cluster-id>"
"Key": "avi.mgmt-ip.SE",
"Value": "<management-ip-address-of-service-engine>"

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Sizing Guidelines

Controller Sizing Guidelines

Controllers are classified into the following categories:

Classification vCPUs Memory (GB) Virtual Services Avi SE Scale
Essentials 4 12 0-50 0-10
Small 8 24 0-200 0-100
Medium 16 32 200-1000 100-200
Large 24 48 1000-5000 200-400

The number of virtual services that can be deployed per controller cluster is directly proportional to the controller cluster size. See the NSX Advanced Load Balancer Configuration Maximums Guide for more information.

Service Engine Sizing Guidelines

The service engines can be configured with a minimum of 1 vCPU core and 2 GB RAM up to a maximum of 64 vCPU cores and 256 GB RAM. The following table provides guidance for sizing a service engine VM with regards to performance:

Performance metric Per core performance Maximum performance on a single Service Engine VM
HTTP Throughput 5 Gbps 7 Gbps
HTTP requests per second 50k 175k
SSL Throughput 1 Gbps 7 Gbps
SSL TPS (RSA2K) 750 40K
SSL TPS (ECC) 2000 40K

Multiple performance vectors or features may have an impact on performance. For instance, to achieve 1 Gb/s of SSL throughput and 2000 TPS of SSL with EC certificates, NSX Advanced Load Balancer recommends two cores.

Service engines can be deployed in Active/Active or Active/Standby mode depending on the license tier used. The NSX Advanced Load Balancer Essentials license does not support Active/Active HA mode for service engines.

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-ALB-SE-001 Configure the High Availability mode for SEs To mitigate a single point of failure for the NSX ALB data plane. Configure SE group for Active/Active HA mode. Provides optimum resiliency, performance, and utilization. Certain applications might not work in Active/Active HA mode. For instance, applications that require preserving client IP address. In such cases, use the legacy Active/Standby HA mode.

Configure Node Sizes

The Tanzu CLI creates the individual nodes of management clusters and Tanzu Kubernetes clusters according to settings that you provide in the configuration file. On vSphere, you can configure all node VMs to have the same predefined configurations, set different predefined configurations for control plane and worker nodes, or customize the configurations of the nodes. By using these settings, you can create clusters that have nodes with different configurations to the management cluster nodes. You can also create clusters in which the control plane nodes and worker nodes have different configurations.

Use Predefined Node Configurations

The Tanzu CLI provides the following predefined configurations for cluster nodes:

  1. small: 2 CPUs, 4 GB memory, 20 GB disk
  2. medium: 2 CPUs, 8 GB memory, 40 GB disk
  3. large: 4 CPUs, 16 GB memory, 40 GB disk
  4. extra-large: 8 CPUs, 32 GB memory, 80 GB disk

To create a cluster in which the control plane and worker node VMs are the same size, specify the SIZE variable. If you set the SIZE variable, all nodes are created with the configuration that you set.

SIZE: “large”

To create a cluster in which the control plane and worker node VMs are different sizes, specify the CONTROLPLANE_SIZE and WORKER_SIZE options.

WORKER_SIZE: "extra-large"

You can combine the CONTROLPLANE_SIZE and WORKER_SIZE options with the SIZE option. For example, if you specify SIZE: "large" with WORKER_SIZE: "extra-large", the control plane nodes are set to large and worker nodes are set to extra-large.

SIZE: "large"
WORKER_SIZE: "extra-large"

Define Custom Node Configurations

You can customize the configuration of the nodes rather than using the predefined configurations.

To use the same custom configuration for all nodes, specify the VSPHERE_NUM_CPUS, VSPHERE_DISK_GIB, and VSPHERE_MEM_MIB options.


To define different custom configurations for control plane nodes and worker nodes, specify the VSPHERE_CONTROL_PLANE_* and VSPHERE_WORKER_*

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