Every hypervisor provider is talking private cloud and Microsoft is no different. With System Center 2012, the company's latest line of systems management software, shops now have the ability to virtualize
Virtual machine management is central to a good virtual server infrastructure, and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) has been doing that in Hyper-V environments for a while, but other aspects of the data center are also important to establish a private cloud. Specifically, you'll need the ability to integrate your storage and networking into your overall virtual management. Microsoft wants to drive the integration of these separate but related pieces of the infrastructure. Those individual pieces become a part of the available resource pools. All of these related resources are referred to as your fabric and fabric management is key to the SCVMM 2012 product.
What if you wanted to deploy an n-tier application? You’ve got front-end web servers, a mid-tier with your middleware, and the back-end database. Of course, spinning out a virtual server should be easy, but getting all the components of a complete solution automated so that the complete system is ready to commit those compute resources in a quick fashion is difficult. What about IP addresses or storage LUNs? SCVMM can create an approach where you can pull from a resource pool of IP addresses and a resource pool of storage, and employ automation so that your front-end IP load balancer is taking traffic to the new virtual server once its services are up and online.
Private clouds provide the means to make your applications and services elastic. This concept is not new, and you are likely doing many of these tasks manually today, but automation is what will set the private cloud layer apart and allow you to quickly deploy new resources towards a service. System Center App Controller 2012 is designed to take role view of your applications. In this view, you delegate resources towards a library of templates to easily spin up needed resources. If you need more complex automation beyond what you could implement with scripting through PowerShell , and you need the ability to automatically scale quickly and test these runbooks, then you can take advantage of System Center Orchestrator 2012. This component of the System Center suite aims to provide a solution for complex deployment scenarios, allowing you to add and remove resources quickly based on monitoring.
Private clouds are also supposed to provide better efficiency for your people. One thing you’ll notice about public clouds is how quick and easy it can be to create and manage cloud instances and their associated resources. You’ll want to extend that ease of access to your private cloud. If you take advantage of the automation available, and you understand the services and applications that are available within your cloud, then you can present that to other users wrapped up into a role view of your services. Present control over those services via System Center Service Manager 2012, with a focus on self-service. With this tool, you can present customized options to deploy and control services in the cloud and hand off the details, without losing high-level control of your resources. This is great in so many ways. Think of the time you spend making resources available for the lifecycle of development as an example. Now you can give the ability to deploy those resources in an automated way without worrying about losing control of your storage or servers. You can integrate a change management style workflow to push approvals down the chain of responsibility, but maintain efficiency for frequently repeating requests. App Controller will also play a role in full application control, expanding that service-oriented view by tying those necessary resources together with the necessary resource pools.
Monitoring the Cloud
One big question about public clouds is performance monitoring, but that isn’t a problem when you control the fabric. System Center Operations Manager helps you monitor your service level agreements (SLAs) via alarming and reporting of server resources; the new version offers deeper monitoring of applications and network devices such as your IP load balancer. With this integration, you can trigger automated elasticity, not just a page and ticket with this information.
Keeping track of your configurations of systems and services will be more critical than ever, and automation will be a must. System Center Configuration Manager, the modern integration of good old SMS, will provide that deep look into your resources and their configurations in a central place that will provide a true repository database.
Although these new System Center 2012 tools are just getting out the door at Microsoft, you can still start planning to see how a cloud can work for your organization. Recall the process of field testing Hyper-V virtualization and remember there will be lessons learned as you go from lab to full-time, mission-critical workloads on a private cloud. Download the tools and play.
Eric Beehler has been working in the IT industry since the mid-'90s, and has been playing with computer technology since well before that. He currently provides consulting and training through his co-ownership in Consortio Services, LLC.
This was first published in November 2011