Anthos clusters on VMware overview

Anthos clusters on VMware (GKE on VMware), a component of Google Distributed Cloud Virtual (GKE on Google Distributed Cloud) is software that brings Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) to on-premises data centers. Anthos clusters on VMware is part of Anthos (GKE Enterprise): Google's modern application platform with tools and features that help you manage, govern, and operate containerized workloads at enterprise scale, including in on-premises environments. With Anthos clusters on VMware, you can create, manage, and upgrade Kubernetes clusters on your own premises, while using Google Cloud features.

Anthos clusters on VMware runs on your premises in a vSphere environment. vSphere is VMware's virtualization platform. The two main components of vSphere are ESXi and vCenter Server.

This page provides an overview of how Anthos clusters on VMware works, giving you the background you need before going on to a minimal or production installation.

How it works

Anthos clusters on VMware extends Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) to let you create GKE clusters in a vSphere environment on your own premises, and manage them in Google Cloud along with regular Google Kubernetes Engine clusters and clusters in other environments as part of a fleet.

Because Anthos clusters on VMware runs in your data center rather than on Google Cloud (where the Kubernetes control plane and network infrastructure are managed by Google Cloud), it requires you to install some admin and control plane software in addition to the GKE software itself. The software that runs in your data center is downloaded as part of the installation and upgrade processes.

The following diagram shows the simplified result of a completed installation.

Diagram of an admin cluster and a user cluster
Anthos clusters on VMware architecture with one user cluster (Click to enlarge)

Key components

The following components make up an Anthos clusters on VMware installation:

  • A user cluster is where the workloads that implement your applications run, like in GKE on Google Cloud. Each node in a user cluster is called a worker node.

  • The admin cluster is where the Kubernetes control planes for the admin cluster itself and its associated user clusters run, as well as any add-ons. Updates to user clusters are managed through the admin cluster. A single admin cluster can manage multiple user clusters.

  • The admin workstation is a separate VM that includes the tools cluster creators and developers need to manage Anthos clusters on VMware, with appropriate permissions:

    • Running gkectl from the admin workstation lets you create and update clusters and perform some other administrative tasks
    • Running kubectl from the admin workstation lets you interact with your admin and user clusters, including deploying and managing workloads
  • The Google Cloud console provides a web interface for your Google Cloud project, including Anthos clusters on VMware. You can perform a subset of Anthos clusters on VMware administrative tasks from the Google Cloud console as an alternative to logging into the admin workstation, including creating new user clusters.

  • Cluster admins and developers using kubectl access the control planes in the admin cluster using virtual IP addresses (VIPs) that you configure as part of setup. Users/developers calling workloads in your user clusters use Service and Ingress VIPs. Each node in the installation also has its own IP address. You can learn more about IP planning for Anthos clusters on VMware in Plan your IP addresses.

Connecting to the fleet

All Anthos clusters on VMware user clusters (and optionally admin clusters) are members of a fleet: a logical grouping of Kubernetes clusters. Fleets let your organization uplevel management from individual clusters to entire groups of clusters, and can help your teams adopt similar best practices to those used at Google. You can view and manage fleet clusters together in the Google Cloud console, and use fleet-enabled Anthos features to help you manage, govern, and operate your workloads at scale. You can see a complete list of available fleet features for on-premises environments in Anthos deployment options.

Each fleet cluster's connection to Google Cloud is managed by a Connect Agent, which is deployed as part of the Anthos clusters on VMware installation process. You can learn more about how this agent works in the Connect Agent overview.

Fleet membership is also used to manage Anthos clusters on VMware pricing, as described in the next section.

For a deeper discussion of Anthos features and how they work together, see the Anthos technical overview.

Purchasing Anthos clusters on VMware

Enabling the Anthos (GKE Enterprise) platform lets you use all Anthos features, including Anthos clusters on VMware, for a single per-vCPU charge for fleet clusters. You enable the platform by enabling the Anthos API in your Google Cloud project.

For full pricing information, including pay-as-you-go and subscription options and how to contact sales, see Anthos pricing.


To learn about Anthos clusters on VMware versions, see Version history.

Installing Anthos clusters on VMware

Because Anthos clusters on VMware runs in your own infrastructure, it is highly configurable to meet your particular organizational and use case needs: you can choose from a range of supported load balancing modes, vSphere configurations, IP addressing options, security features, connectivity options, and more. This means that setting up Anthos clusters on VMware involves making decisions before and during installation in consultation with your networking, vSphere, and application teams to ensure that your installation meets your needs. This documentation set includes guides to help your team make these decisions.

However, if you just need to see Anthos clusters on VMware in action, we also provide a simple installation path for a small test installation where we've made a lot of these choices for you, letting you quickly get a workload up and running.

In each case, the installation process is as follows:

  1. Plan your installation. Minimally this includes ensuring you can meet the resource and vSphere requirements for Anthos clusters on VMware, as well as planning your IP addresses.
  2. Set up your on-premises environment to support Anthos clusters on VMware, including setting up vSphere inventory objects and your connection to Google.
  3. Set up Google Cloud resources, including the Google Cloud project you will use when setting up and managing Anthos clusters on VMware.
  4. Create an admin workstation with the resources and tools you need to create clusters.
  5. Create an admin cluster to host the Kubernetes control plane for your admin and user clusters and to manage and update user clusters.
  6. Create user clusters to run your actual workloads.

What's next?

  • To start a minimal proof-of-concept installation, see Set up minimal infrastructure.
  • To review some of the considerations needed to plan a Anthos clusters on VMware installation and/or start a production installation, see the installation overview.