VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations on vSphere Reference Design

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

This document describes a reference design for deploying VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations on vSphere backed by vSphere Networking (VDS).

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

Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations components

Supported Component Matrix

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

Software Components Version
Tanzu Kubernetes Grid 2.1.x
VMware vSphere ESXi 7.0 U3 and later
VMware vCenter (VCSA) 7.0 U3 and later
VMware vSAN 7.0 U3 and later
NSX Advanced LB 22.1.2

For the latest information, see VMware Product Interoperability Matrix.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG) 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.

ClusterClass API - Tanzu Kubernetes Grid 2 functions through the creation of a management Kubernetes cluster which holds ClusterClass API. The ClusterClass API then interacts with the infrastructure provider to service workload Kubernetes cluster lifecycle requests. The earlier primitives of Tanzu Kubernetes Clusters will still exist for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid 1.X. A new feature has been introduced as a part of Cluster API called ClusterClass which reduces the need for redundant templating and enables powerful customization of clusters. The whole process for creating a cluster using ClusterClass is the same as before but with slightly different parameters.

Workload Clusters - Workload Clusters are the Kubernetes clusters in which your application workloads run. These clusters are also referred to as Tanzu Kubernetes clusters. Workload Clusters can run different versions of Kubernetes, depending on the needs of the applications they run.

Shared Service Cluster - Each Tanzu Kubernetes Grid instance can only have one shared services cluster. You will deploy this cluster only if you intend to deploy shared services such as Contour and Harbor.

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. This 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

Many storage options are available and Kubernetes is agnostic about which option you choose.

For Kubernetes stateful workloads, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid installs the vSphere Container Storage interface (vSphere CSI) to provision Kubernetes persistent volumes for pods automatically. While the default vSAN storage policy can be used, site reliability engineers (SREs) and administrators should evaluate the needs of their applications and craft a specific vSphere Storage Policy. vSAN storage policies describe classes of storage such as SSD and NVME, as well as cluster quotas.

In vSphere 7u1+ environments with vSAN, the vSphere CSI driver for Kubernetes also supports creating 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, the vSAN File Service must be enabled.

You can also use other types of vSphere datastores. There are Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Cluster Plans that operators can define to use a certain vSphere datastore when creating new workload clusters. All developers would then have the ability to provision container-backed persistent volumes from that underlying datastore.

Tanzu Kubernetes Clusters Networking

A Tanzu Kubernetes cluster provisioned by 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.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid also supports Multus CNI which can be installed through Tanzu user-managed packages. Multus CNI lets you attach multiple network interfaces to a single pod and associate each with a different address range.

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 will help you with information on selecting the right CNI in your Tanzu Kubernetes Grid implementation.

CNI Use Case Pros and Cons

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.


- Provides an option to configure egress IP pool or static egress IP for Kubernetes workloads.

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 provides 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.


- 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

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on vSphere can be deployed on various networking stacks including

  • VMware NSX-T Data Center Networking
  • vSphere Networking (VDS)

The scope of this document is limited to vSphere Networking.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on vSphere Networking with NSX Advanced Load Balancer

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid when deployed on the vSphere networking uses the distributed port groups 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 connected to the distributed switch that provides connectivity to the Kubernetes environment.

You can configure NSX ALB in Tanzu Kubernetes Grid as:

  • L4 load balancer for an application hosted on the TKG cluster
  • The L7 ingress service provider for the application hosted on the TKG cluster
  • L4 load balancer for the Kubernetes cluster control plane API server.

Each workload cluster integrates with NSX ALB by running an NSX ALB Kubernetes Operator (AKO) on one of its nodes. The cluster’s AKO calls the Kubernetes API to manage the lifecycle of load balancing and ingress resources for its workloads.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Licensing

NSX ALB requires a license to enable and utilize the available load balancing features. The following license editions are supported for VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations:

  • VMware NSX Advance Load Balancer Enterprise Edition.
  • VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer essentials for Tanzu.

The Enterprise Edition is the default licensing tier for an Avi Controller. A new Avi Controller is set up in the Enterprise Edition licensing tier, and the Controller can be switched from one edition to another. For more information about NSX ALB Feature comparison, see NSX Advanced Load Balancer Editions.

VMware NSX ALB Enterprise Edition

The VMware NSX ALB Enterprise Edition is a full-featured Avi Vantage license that includes load balancing, GSLB, WAF, and so on.

For more information about VMware NSX ALB Enterprise edition, see VMware NSX ALB Enterprise Edition.

VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer essentials for Tanzu

VMware NSX ALB essentials for Tanzu edition is supported on Avi Vantage 20.1.2 and later. NSX ALB essentials for Tanzu has been introduced to provide basic Layer 4 load balancing services for VMware Tanzu Basic and Standard editions.

For more information about VMware NSX ALB essentials for Tanzu edition, see VMware NSX ALB essentials for Tanzu.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Components

NSX ALB is deployed in Write Access Mode in the vSphere environment. This mode grants NSX ALB Controller full write access to the vCenter which helps in automatically creating, modifying, and removing service engines (SEs) and other resources as needed to adapt to changing traffic needs. The core components of NSX ALB are as follows:

  • NSX Advanced Load Balancer Controller - NSX ALB 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 it provides the portal for viewing the health of VirtualServices and SEs and the associated analytics that NSX ALB provides.

  • 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.

  • Cloud - Clouds are containers for the environment that NSX ALB is installed or operating within. During initial setup of NSX Advanced Load Balancer, a default cloud, named Default-Cloud, is created. This is where the first controller is deployed into Default-Cloud. Additional clouds may be added, containing SEs and virtual services.

  • NSX ALB Kubernetes Operator (AKO) - It is a Kubernetes operator that runs as a pod in the Supervisor Cluster and Tanzu Kubernetes clusters, and it provides ingress and load balancing functionality. AKO translates the required Kubernetes objects to NSX ALB objects and automates the implementation of ingresses, routes, and services on the service engines (SE) through the NSX ALB Controller.

  • AKO Operator (AKOO) - This is an operator which is used to deploy, manage, and remove the AKO pod in Kubernetes clusters. This operator when deployed creates an instance of the AKO controller and installs all the relevant objects like:
    • 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 created which dictates when and how AKO pods are created in the workload clusters. For more information, see AKO Operator documentation.

Each environment configured in NSX ALBis referred to as a cloud. Each cloud in NSX ALB maintains networking and NSX ALB Service Engine settings. The cloud is configured with one or more VIP networks to provide IP addresses to load balancing (L4 or L7) virtual services created under that cloud.

The virtual services can span across multiple service engines if the associated Service Engine Group is configured in the 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 using NSX ALB in-built IPAM functionality. The VIP networks created or configured in NSX ALB are associated with the IPAM profile.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Clusters Recommendations

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-TKG-001 Register the 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. Only Antrea CNI is supported on Workload clusters created from the TMC portal.
TKO-TKG-002 Use NSX ALB as your control plane endpoint provider and for application load balancing. NSX ALB is tightly coupled with TKG and vSphere. Since NSX ALB is a VMware product, customers will have single point of contact for support. Adds NSX ALB License Cost to the solution
TKO-TKG-003 Deploy Tanzu Kubernetes Management clusters in large form factor Large form factor should suffice to integrate TKG Mgmt Cluster with TMC, pinniped and velero deployment. This must be capable of accommodating 100+ Tanzu Workload Clusters Consume more Resources from Infrastructure
TKO-TKG-004 Deploy Tanzu Kubernetes clusters with prod plan(Management Cluster and Workload Clusters ). This deploys multiple control plane nodes and provides high availability for the control plane. Consume more Resources from Infrastructure.
TKO-TKG-005 Enable identity management for TKG clusters Role-based access control to Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters Required External Identity Management
TKO-TKG-006 Enable Machine Health Checks for TKG clusters MachineHealthCheck controller helps to provide health monitoring and auto-repair for management and workload clusters Machines. NA

Generic Network Architecture

For the deployment of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid in the vSphere environment, it is required to build separate networks for the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster and workload clusters, NSX ALB management, cluster-VIP network for control plane HA, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management VIP or data network, and Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload data or VIP network.

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

Tanzu for Kubernetes Grid network layout

This topology enables the following benefits:

  • Isolate and separate SDDC management components (vCenter, ESX) from the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid components. This reference design allows only the minimum connectivity between the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters and NSX ALB to the vCenter Server.
  • Isolate and separate NSX ALB management network 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 may leverage the same workload network or new networks can be used for each workload cluster. To isolate and separate Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload cluster networking from each other it’s recommended to make use of separate networks for each workload cluster and configure the required firewall between these networks. For more information, see Firewall Requirements.
  • Separate provider and tenant access to the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid environment.
    • Only provider administrators need access to the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster. This prevents tenants from attempting to connect to the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster.
  • Only allow tenants to access their Tanzu Kubernetes Grid workload clusters and restrict access to this cluster from other tenants.

Network Requirements

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

Network Type

DHCP Service

Description & Recommendations

NSX ALB Management Network Optional

NSX ALB controllers and SEs will be attached to this network.

DHCP is not a mandatory requirement on this network as NSX ALB can take care of IPAM.

TKG Management Network Yes Control plane and worker nodes of TKG management cluster and shared service clusters will be attached to this network.

Creating shared service cluster on a separate network is also supported.
TKG Workload Network Yes Control plane and worker nodes of TKG workload clusters will be attached to this network.
TKG Cluster VIP/Data Network No Virtual services for control plane HA of all TKG clusters (management, shared service, and workload).

Reserve sufficient IP addresses depending on the number of TKG clusters planned to be deployed in the environment. NSX ALB takes care of IPAM on this network.
TKG Management VIP/Data Network No Virtual services for all user-managed packages (such as Contour, Harbor, Contour, Prometheus, Grafana) hosted on the Shared service cluster. For more information, see User-Managed Packages.
TKG Workload VIP/Data Network No Virtual services for all applications are hosted on the workload clusters.

Reserve sufficient IP addresses depending on the number of applications that are planned to be hosted on the workload clusters and scalability considerations.

Network Recommendations

The key network recommendations for a production-grade Tanzu Kubernetes Grid deployment with NSX-T Data Center Networking are as follows:

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-NET-001 Use Dedicated networks for the Management Cluster Nodes and Workload Cluster Nodes. To have a flexible firewall and security policies Additional VLAN Required (OPEX overhead)
TKO-NET-002 Use Dedicated VIP network for the Application Hosted in Management and Workload Cluster. To have a flexible firewall and security policies Additional VLAN Required (OPEX overhead)
TKO-NET-003 Shared Service Cluster uses Management network and Application VIP network of Management Cluster Host Shared Services like Harbor VLAN Based Firewall Policies are not possible

Subnet and CIDR Examples

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

Network Type Port Group Name Gateway CIDR DHCP Pool NSX ALB IP Pool
NSX ALB Mgmt Network sfo01-w01-vds01-albmanagement N/A
TKG Management Network sfo01-w01-vds01-tkgmanagement N/A
TKG Mgmt VIP Network sfo01-w01-vds01-tkgmanagementvip N/A
TKG Cluster VIP Network sfo01-w01-vds01-tkgclustervip N/A
TKG Workload VIP Network sfo01-w01-vds01-tkgworkloadvip N/A -
TKG Workload Segment sfo01-w01-vds01-tkgworkload N/A

3-Network Architecture

For POC environments and minimal networks requirement, you can proceed with 3 network architecture. In this design, we deploy the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid into 3 networks as Infrastructure Management Network, TKG Management Network and TKG Workload Network. This design allows us to use only 3 networks and ensures the isolation between Infra VMs, TKG Management and TKG Workload components.

This network reference design can be mapped into this general framework:

Tanzu for Kubernetes Grid network layout

This topology enables the following benefits: - Deploy the NSX ALB components on the existing infrastructure management network which reduces an additional network usage. - Isolate and separate the NSX ALB, SDDC management components (vCenter and ESX) from the VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid components. - Club TKG Mgmt Cluster VIP, TKG Mgmt Data VIP, TKG Mgmt into a single network TKG-Mgmt-Network, that ensures that the TKG Management components are deployed in a common network, and removes additional network overhead and firewall rules. - Club TKG Workload Cluster VIP, TKG Workload Data VIP, TKG Workload into a single network TKG-Workload-Network, that ensures that the TKG Workload components are deployed in a common network. - Separate the Management control plane/Data VIP and the Workload control plane/Data VIP into different networks to enhance the isolation and security.

Network Requirements

Network Type

DHCP Service


Infrastructure Management Network Optional NSX ALB controllers and Service Engines (SE) are attached to this network. DHCP is not a mandatory requirement on this network as NSX ALB manages the SE networking with IPAM.

This network also hosts core infrastructure components such as, vCenter, ESXi hosts, DNS, NTP, and so on.

TKG Management Network Yes Control plane and worker nodes of the TKG Management cluster and the shared services clusters are attached to this network. The IP Assignment is managed through DHCP.

TKG Management cluster VIP and TKG Management Data VIP assignment is also managed from the same network using NSX ALB Static IP pool.

Ensure that DHCP range does not interfere with the NSX ALB IP Block reservation.

TKG Workload Network Yes Control plane and worker nodes of the TKG Workload cluster and the shared services clusters are attached to this network. IP Assignment is managed done through DHCP.

TKG Workload cluster VIP and TKG Workload Data VIP assignment is also managed from the same network using NSX ALB Static IP pool.

Ensure that DHCP range does not interfere with the NSX ALB IP Block reservation.

Subnet and CIDR Examples:

Network Type Gateway CIDR DHCP Pool NSX ALB IP Pool
Infrastructure Management N/A
TKG Management Network - -
TKG Workload Network - -

Firewall Requirements

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

  • NSX ALB management network CIDR
  • TKG Management cluster network CIDR
  • TKG Cluster VIP network CIDR
  • TKG Management VIP network CIDR
  • TKG Workload cluster CIDR
  • VMware Harbor registry IP address
  • vCenter server IP address
  • DNS server IP addresses
  • NTP servers
Source Destination Protocol:Port Description
TKG management and workload networks DNS Server
NTP Server
DNS Service
Time Synchronization
TKG management and workload Networks DHCP Server UDP: 67, 68 Allows hosts to get DHCP addresses.
TKG management and workload Networks vCenter IP TCP:443 Allows components to access vCenter to create VMs and storage volumes.
TKG management, shared service, and workload cluster CIDR Harbor Registry TCP:443

Allows components to retrieve container images.

This registry can be a local or a public image registry (projects.registry.vmware.com).

TKG management cluster network TKG cluster VIP network TCP:6443 For management cluster to configure shared service and workload cluster.
TKG shared service cluster network
(Required only if using a separate network for shared service cluster)
TKG cluster VIP network TCP:6443 Allow shared cluster to register with management cluster.
TKG workload cluster network TKG cluster VIP network

Note: In a 3 network design, destination network is “TKG Management Network”

TCP:6443 Allow workload cluster to register with management cluster.
TKG management, shared service, and workload Networks NSX ALB Controllers (NSX ALB Management Network) TCP:443 Allow NSX ALB Kubernetes Operator (AKO) and AKO Operator (AKOO) access to NSX ALB Controller.
NSX ALB Management Network vCenter and ESXi Hosts TCP:443 Allow NSX ALB to discover vCenter objects and deploy SEs as required.
NSX ALB Controller Nodes DNS server
NTP Server
DNS Service
Time Synchronization
Admin network Bootstrap VM SSH:22 To deploy, manage and configure TKG clusters.
deny-all any any deny

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Recommendations

The following table provides the recommendations for configuring NSX ALB in a vSphere with Tanzu environment.

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-ALB-001 Deploy NSX ALB controller cluster nodes on a network dedicated to NSX-ALB. Isolate NSX ALB traffic from infrastructure management traffic and Kubernetes workloads. Additional Network (VLAN ) is required.
TKO-ALB-002 Deploy 3 NSX ALB controllers 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. None
TKO-ALB-003 Under Compute policies create ‘VM-VM anti-affinity’ rule that prevents collocation of the NSX ALB Controllers VMs on the same host. vSphere places NSX ALB Controller VMs in a way that always ensures maximum HA. Affinity Rules needs to be configured manually.
TKO-ALB-004 Use static IP addresses for the NSX ALB controllers NSX ALB Controller cluster uses management IP addresses to form and maintain quorum for the control plane cluster. Any changes to management IP addresses will be disruptive. None
TKO-ALB-005 Use NSX ALB IPAM for service engine data network and virtual services. Simplify the IP address management for Virtual Service and Service engine from NSX ALB None
TKO-ALB-006 Reserve an IP address in the NSX ALB management subnet to be used as the cluster IP address for the controller cluster. NSX ALB portal is always accessible over cluster IP address regardless of a specific individual controller node failure. Additional IP is required.
TKO-ALB-007 Create a dedicated resource pool with appropriate reservations for NSX ALB controllers. Guarantees the CPU and Memory allocation for NSX ALB Controllers and avoids performance degradation in case of resource contention. None
TKO-ALB-008 Replace default NSX ALB certificates with Custom CA or Public CA-signed certificates that contains SAN entries of all Controller nodes. To establish a trusted connection with other infra components, and the default certificate does not include SAN entries which is not acceptable by Tanzu. None,
SAN entries are not applicable if wild card certificate is used.
TKO-ALB-009 Configure NSX ALB backup with a remote server as backup location Periodic backup of NSX ALB configuration database is recommended. The database defines all clouds, all virtual services, all users, and others. As a best practice, store backups in an external location to provide backup capabilities in case of entire cluster failure Additional Operational Overhead.
Additional infrastructure Resource.
TKO-ALB-010 Configure Remote logging for NSX ALB Controller to send events on Syslog. For operations teams to be able to centrally monitor NSX ALB and escalate alerts, events must be sent from the NSX ALB Controller Additional Operational Overhead.
Additional infrastructure Resource
TKO-ALB-011 Use LDAP/SAML based Authentication for NSX ALB Helps to Maintain Role based Access Control. Additional Configuration is required.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Service Engine Recommendations

Decision ID Design Decision Design Justification Design Implications
TKO-ALB-SE-001 NSX ALB Service Engine High Availability set to Active/Active Provides higher resiliency, optimum performance, and utilization compared to N+M and/or Active/Standby. Requires NSX ALB Enterprise Licensing. Only the Active/Standby mode is supported with NSX ALB essentials for Tanzu license.

Certain applications might not work in the Active/Active mode. For example, applications that preserve the client IP use the Legacy Active/Standby HA mode.
TKO-ALB-SE-002 Dedicated Service Engine Group for the TKG Management SE resources are guaranteed for TKG Management Stack and provides data path segregation for Management and Tenant Application Dedicated service engine Groups increase licensing cost.

TKO-ALB-SE-003 Dedicated Service Engine Group for the TKG Workload Clusters Depending on the nature and type of workloads (dev/prod/test) SE resources are guaranteed for single or set of workload clusters and provides data path segregation for Tenant Application hosted on workload clusters Dedicated service engine Groups increase licensing cost.

TKO-ALB-SE-004 Enable ALB Service Engine Self Elections Enable SEs to elect a primary amongst themselves in the absence of connectivity to the NSX ALB controller. Requires NSX ALB Enterprise Licensing. This feature is not supported with NSX ALB essentials for Tanzu license.
TKO-ALB-SE-005 Enable ‘Dedicated dispatcher CPU’ on Service Engine Groups that contain the Service Engine VMs of 4 or more vCPUs.

Note: This setting should be enabled on SE Groups that are servicing applications and has high network requirements.
This will enable a dedicated core for packet processing enabling high packet pipeline on the Service Engine VMs.
Note: By default, the packet processing core also processes load-balancing flows.
Consume more Resources from Infrastructure.
TKO-ALB-SE-006 Set ‘Placement across the Service Engines’ setting to ‘Compact’. This allows maximum utilization of capacity (Service Engine ). None
TKO-ALB-SE-007 Set the SE size to a minimum 2vCPU and 4GB of Memory This configuration should meet the most generic use case For services that require higher throughput, these configuration needs to be investigated and modified accordingly.
TKO-ALB-SE-008 Under Compute policies Create a ‘VM-VM anti-affinity rule for SE engines part of the same SE group that prevents collocation of the Service Engine VMs on the same host. vSphere will take care of placing the Service Engine VMs in a way that always ensures maximum HA for the Service Engines part of a Service Engine group. Affinity Rules needs to be configured manually.
TKO-ALB-SE-009 Reserve Memory and CPU for Service Engines. The Service Engines are a critical infrastructure component providing load-balancing services to mission-critical applications. Guarantees the CPU and Memory allocation for SE VM and avoids performance degradation in case of resource contention. You must perform additional configuration to set up the reservations.

Kubernetes Ingress Routing

The default installation of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid does not have any ingress controller installed. Users can use Contour (available for installation through Tanzu Packages) or a 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 Prometheus, Grafana, and Harbor packages on a workload cluster.

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

Another option is to use the NSX ALB Kubernetes ingress controller that 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 ALB ingress controller, see Configuring L7 Ingress with NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

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

The following table provides general recommendations on when you should use a specific 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 the north-south traffic by defining the policies in the application’s 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 insights 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, direct routing from LB to pod, and so on.

NSX ALB as in L4+L7 Ingress Service Provider

As a load balancer, NSX ALB 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 ALB has comprehensive load balancing and ingress services features. As a single solution with a central control, NSX ALB is easy to manage and troubleshoot. NSX ALB 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 ALB with Enterprise Licensing 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 ALB L4 ingress with Contour L7 ingress

L7 Ingress in ClusterIP Mode

This option enables NSX ALB 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 ALB 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 NSX ALB 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 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. You must enable this feature on a workload cluster before its creation. 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 ALB 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 ALB L4 Ingress with Contour L7 Ingress

This option does not have all the NSX ALB 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 NodePortLocal mode. - Provides better Network hop efficiency.
- Helps to reduce the east-west traffic and encapsulation overhead.
- Shared Service Engine groups across clusters and supports the load-balancing persistence.
Supported with Antrea CNI with IPV4 addressing.

To configure L7 Ingress, you need NSX ALB Enterprise Licensing.

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, and so on.

You may use one of the following methods to install Harbor:

  • Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Package deployment - VMware recommends this installation method for general use cases. The Tanzu packages, including Harbor, must either be pulled directly from VMware or be hosted in an internal registry.

  • VM-based deployment using OVA - VMware recommends this installation method in cases where Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is being installed in an air-gapped or Internet-restricted environment, and no pre-existing image registry exists to host the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid system images. VM-based deployments are only supported by VMware Global Support Services to host the system images for air-gapped or Internet-restricted deployments. Do not use this method for hosting application images.

If you are deploying Harbor without a publicly signed certificate, you must include the Harbor root CA in your Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters. To do so, follow the procedure in Trust Custom CA Certificates on Cluster Nodes.

Harbor Container Registry

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Monitoring

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid provides cluster monitoring services by implementing the open source Prometheus and Grafana projects.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid includes signed binaries for Prometheus and Grafana that you can deploy on Tanzu Kubernetes clusters to monitor cluster health and services.

  • Prometheus is an open source systems 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. Grafana is used for visualizing Prometheus metrics without the need to manually write the PromQL queries. You can create custom charts and graphs in addition to the pre-packaged options.

You deploy Prometheus and Grafana on Tanzu Kubernetes clusters. The following diagram shows how the monitoring components on a cluster interact.

Monitoring components interaction in a cluster

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, and so on.

You can also monitor your Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters with 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.


Metrics and logs are critical for any system or application as they provide insights into the system’s or application’s activity. It is important to have a central place to observe a multitude of metrics and log sources from multiple endpoints.

Log processing and forwarding in Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is provided via Fluent Bit. Fluent bit binaries are available as part of extensions and can be installed on management cluster or in workload cluster. Fluent Bit is a light-weight log processor and forwarder that allows you to collect data and logs from different sources, unify them, and send them to multiple destinations. VMware 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 makes use of the Input Plug-ins, the filters, and the Output Plug-ins. The Input Plug-ins define the source from where it can collect data, and the Output plug-ins define the destination where it should send the information. The Kubernetes filter will enrich the logs with Kubernetes metadata, specifically labels and annotations. Once you configure Input and Output plug-ins on the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid cluster. Fluent Bit is installed as a user-managed package.

Fluent Bit integrates with logging platforms such as VMware Aria Operations for Logs, Elasticsearch, Kafka, Splunk, or an HTTP endpoint. For more details about configuring Fluent Bit to your logging provider, see Implement Log Forwarding with Fluent Bit.

Bring Your Own Images for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Deployment

You can build custom machine images for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid to use as a VM template for the management and Tanzu Kubernetes (workload) cluster nodes that it creates. Each custom machine image packages a base operating system (OS) version and a Kubernetes version, along with any additional customizations, into an image that runs on vSphere, Microsoft Azure infrastructure, and AWS (EC2) environments.

A custom image must be based on the operating system (OS) versions that are supported by Tanzu Kubernetes Grid. The table below provides a list of the operating systems that are supported for building custom images for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid.

vSphere AWS Azure

- Ubuntu 20.04

- Ubuntu 18.04

- RHEL 7

- Photon OS 3

- Ubuntu 20.04

- Ubuntu 18.04

- Amazon Linux 2

- Ubuntu 20.04

- Ubuntu 18.04

For additional information on building custom images for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, see the Build Machine Images.

Compliance and Security

VMware published Tanzu Kubernetes releases (TKrs), along with compatible versions of Kubernetes and supporting components, use the latest stable and generally-available update of the OS version that it packages, containing all current CVE and USN fixes, as of the day that the image is built. The image files are signed by VMware and have file names that contain a unique hash identifier.

VMware provides FIPS-capable Kubernetes OVA that can be used to deploy FIPS compliant Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management and workload clusters. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid core components, such as Kubelet, Kube-apiserver, Kube-controller manager, Kube-proxy, Kube-scheduler, Kubectl, Etcd, Coredns, Containerd, and Cri-tool are made FIPS compliant by compiling them with the BoringCrypto FIPS modules, an open-source cryptographic library that provides FIPS 140-2 approved algorithms.

Installation Experience

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

You can deploy the management cluster in two ways:

  • Run the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid installer, a wizard interface that guides you through the process of deploying a management cluster. This is the recommended method if you are installing a Tanzu Kubernetes Grid management cluster for the first time.
  • Create and edit YAML configuration files, and use them to deploy a management cluster with the CLI commands.

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, VMware vSphere.

Tanzu for Kubernetes Grid installer welcome screen

The installation of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on vSphere is done through the same installer UI but tailored to a vSphere environment.

Tanzu for Kubernetes Grid installer UI for vSphere

This installation process will take you through the setup of a management cluster on your vSphere environment. Once the management cluster is deployed, you can make use of Tanzu Mission Control or Tanzu CLI to deploy Tanzu Kubernetes shared service and workload clusters.

Deployment Instructions

For instructions on how to deploy this reference design, see Deploy Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations on vSphere with VMware VDS.


Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on vSphere on hyper-converged hardware offers high-performance potential, convenience, and addresses the challenges of creating, testing, and updating on-premises Kubernetes platforms in a consolidated production environment. This validated approach will result in a near-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 quickly aligning product capabilities to full stack infrastructure, including networking, firewalling, load balancing, workload compute alignment, and other capabilities.

Appendix A - Configure Node Sizes

The Tanzu CLI creates the individual nodes of management clusters and Tanzu Kubernetes clusters according to the 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:

Size CPU Memory (in GB) Disk (in GB)
Small 2 4 20
Medium 2 8 40
Large 4 16 40
Extra-large 8 32 80

To create a cluster in which all of the control plane and worker node VMs are the same size, specify the SIZE variable. If you set the SIZE variable, all nodes will be 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: "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 will be set to large and worker nodes will be 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_*


Appendix B - NSX Advanced Load Balancer Sizing Guidelines

NSX Advanced Load Balancer Controller Sizing Guidelines

Controllers are classified into the following categories:

Classification vCPUs Memory (GB) Virtual Services NSX ALB 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 ALB 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 ALB recommends two cores.

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