System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012 as Private Cloud Enabler (1/5): Concepts

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This is the first article of a 5-part series examining the key architectural concepts and relevant operations of private cloud based on VMM 2012 including:

imageVMM, a member of Microsoft System Center suite, is an enterprise solution for managing policies, processes, and best practices with automations by discovering, capturing and aggregating knowledge of virtualization infrastructure.  In addition to the system requirements and the new features and capabilities, there are specific concepts presented in this article, although fundamental, nevertheless important to know before building a private cloud solution with VMM 2012. This blog series also assume a reader has a basics understanding of cloud computing. For those not familiar with cloud computing, I recommend first acquiring the baseline information form: my 6-part series, NIST definition, Chou’s 5-3-2 Principle, and hybrid deployment.

Private Cloud in VMM 2012

Private cloud is a “cloud” which is dedicated to an organization ,hence private. Notice that the classification of private cloud or public cloud is not based on where a service is run or who owns the employed hardware. Instead, the classification is based on whom, i.e. the users, that a cloud is intended to serve. Which is to say that deploying a cloud to a company’s hardware does not automatically make it a private cloud of the company’s. Similarly a cloud hosted in hardware owned by a 3rd party does not make it a public cloud by default either.

Nevertheless, as far as VMM 2012 is concerned, a private cloud is specifically deployed with an organization’s own hardware, provisioned and managed on-premises by the organization. VMM 2012 succeeding VMM 2008 R2 imagerepresents a significant leap in enterprise system management and acts as a private cloud enabler to accelerate transitioning enterprise IT from an infrastructure-focused deployment model into a service-oriented user-centric, cloud-ready and cloud-friendly environment, as a reader will learn more of the capabilities of VMM 2012 throughout this series. The best way to evaluate VMM 2012, download and try it yourself.

And There Is This Thing Called “Fabric’

The key architectural concept of private cloud in VMM 2012 is the so-called fabric. Similar to what is in Windows Azure Platform, fabric in VMM 2012 is an abstraction layer to shield the underlying technical complexities and denote the ability to manage defined resources pools of compute (i.e. servers), networking, and storage in the associated enterprise infrastructure. This concept is explicitly presented in the UI of VMM 2012 admin console as shown here on the right. With VMM 2012, an organization can create a private cloud from Hyper-V, VMware ESX, and Citrix XenServer hosts and realize the essential attributes of cloud computing including self-servicing, resource pooling, and elasticity.

Service in VMM 2012

One noticeable distinction of VMM 2012 compared with previous versions of VMM and other similar system management solutions is, in addition to deploying VMs, the ability to roll out a service. I have taken various opportunities in my previous blogs emphasizing the significance of being keen on what is a service and what is cloud to fully appreciate the business values brought by cloud computing. The term, service, is used often indiscreetly to explain cloud and without a grip on what is precisely a service, cloud can indeed be filled with perplexities.

Essentially, the concept of a service in cloud computing is “capacity on demand.” So delivering a service is to provide a business function which is available on demand, i.e. ideally with an anytime, anywhere, and any device access. In private cloud, this is achieved mainly by a combination of self-servicing model, management of resource pooling, and rapid elasticity which are the 3 of the 5 essential characteristics of cloud computing. Specific to private cloud, the 2 other characteristics, i.e. broad access to and chargeback business models in the service (or simply the application since in the context of cloud computing, an application is delivered as a service) are non-essential since in a private setting an organization may not want to offer broad access to a service and a chargeback model may not always be applicable or necessary as already discussed elsewhere.

Particularly, a service in VMM 2012 is implemented by a set of virtual machines (VMs) working together to collectively deliver a business function. To deploy a service in VMM 2012 is therefore to roll out a set of VMs as a whole, as opposed to individually VMs. Managing all the VMs associated with a service as an entity, i.e. a private cloud, has its advantages and at the same time introduces opportunities and challenges as well for better delivering business values. Service Template is an example.

Service Template

An exciting feature of VMM 2012 is the introduction of a service template, a set of definitions capturing all configuration settings for a single release of a service. As a new release of a service is introduced due to changes of the application, settings, or VM images, a new service template is as well developed. With a service template, a cloud administrator can deploy a service which consists of a set of VMs that are multi-tiered and possibly with multiple VM instances in individual tiers based on the service configuration. For instance, instead of deploying individual VMs, using a service template in VMM 2012 IT can now deploy and manage a typical web-based application with web frontends, business logic in a middle tier, and a database backend as a single service.

Private Cloud It Is

VMM 2012 signifies a milestone for enterprise IT to actually have a solution to operate like a service provider. As VMM 2012 soon to be released, IT as a service is becoming a reality. And while some IT professionals are concerning that cloud may take away their jobs, I am hoping on the contrary as reading through this series one will realize the energy and excitements cloud computing has already brought into our IT industry and broadened careers. I believe private cloud is as yet the greatest thing happens to IT. Every time anticipations and curiosities arise as I start envisioning so many possibilities IT can do with private cloud. It is inspiring to witness cloud computing coming true and be part of it. And I can’t help imagining an IT pro greases up hair, walking down the hall way of some datacenter, and shouting out….

I solve my problems and I see the light
We gotta plug and think, we gotta feed it right
There ain't no danger we can go too far
We start believing now that we can be what we are 
Cloud is the word
It's got groove, it's got meaning


[To Part 2, 3, 4 ,5]

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