There’s been lots of terms thrown around by Microsoft over the past 5 years. Dynamic systems initiative (DSI) was one. It focused on using System Center and Active Directory to manage an optimized infrastructure, or an IT infrastructure that was centrally managed with as much automation as possible. A few years ago the term Dynamic Datacenter started to appear in the form of the Dynamic Datacenter Toolkit. That was a beta product aimed at the normal internal network. A hosting variant of that was also in the works. Eventually the term was split giving us:
- The Private Cloud and
- The Dynamic Datacenter
Confused yet? Yes? That’s to be expected. Some theorise that there is a team of people in a basement in Redmond that is paid in two ways:
- Cause as much confusion as possible: the best are headhunted to rename products in Citrix.
- Paid by the letter: you’ll see what I mean by that in a few minutes.
The private cloud is a variation on the public cloud – makes sense right? The public cloud is what you’ve always called the cloud. In other words, the public cloud is something you subscribe to on the Internet like Salesforce, Google Apps, Office365, and so on. It could be an application, it could be an application platform, or it could be a set of virtual machines. You don’t care about the underlying infrastructure, you just want instant access with no delays caused by the service provider. You pay, you get, you activate your service. Simple.
The private cloud takes those concepts and applies them internally into your internal network. Why the hell would you want to do that? Well, maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. But your business might very well want to. And here’s why:
The business does not give a damn about servers, SANs, network cards, virtualisation, or any of the other stuff that we IT pros are concerned with. They are only concerned with applications and information. Applications allow business to happen and information allows decisions to be made. Compare the salary of a Windows admin with that of an equal grade .NET dev. The developer will be driving the nicer car and living in the nicer house. That’s your proof.
Here’s how the business sees us. They go and buy some new LOB application or the MIS department develops something. They come to us to deploy it. We’re busy. We want to go through various processes to control what’s deployed. From their point of view, we are slowing things down. What they think should happen in a matter of hours may end up taking weeks. That really happens – I’ve heard of helpdesk calls taking 6 weeks in one corporation in Munich. And I’ve met countless developers who think we IT pros are out to sabotage their every effort (OK, who told them? The first rule of being an IT pro is we don’t tell developers that we are out to get them. The second rule of being an IT pro is we don’t tell developers that we are out to get them).
So something has to give. That’s where the private cloud comes in. It shifts the power of deploying servers from the IT pro to the business (typically application admins, faculty admins, developers, and so on … not the end user). This is all made possible by hardware virtualisation. Let’s face it: we don’t want to open up physical access to the computer room or data centre to just anyone who says they need it.
The Microsoft private cloud is made possible by the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal (SCVMM SSP – lots of letters there, eh?) 2.0. That’s a free download that sits in front of SCVMM. It has it’s own SQL database and allows for a layer of abstraction above the virtualisation management tool.
Now the role of the IT pro changes. You now take care of the infrastructure. You manage the Hyper-V compute cluster. That’s the set of virtualisation hosts that VMM manages. You manage VMM: preparing and patching (VMST 3.0) templates, loading ISOs, and so on. You monitor systems using OpsMgr (and enable delegated operator access/notifications for application owners). You manage backups. You do not deploy virtual machines anymore.
In SCVMM SSP 2.0, you will add the ability for people to get access to SANs, network load balancer appliances, and gain access to VM templates in the VMM library. You also will define networks. This allows you to optionally define static IP ranges that can be automatically assigned to VMs that are placed in those networks.
The business user (the dev, etc) can access the private cloud by logging into the SCVMM SSP 2.0 web portal. There they can create a business unit (requiring admin approval). That allows you to verify this super cloud user (super as in they are the overall admins of their business unit which will contain virtual machines). You might also have a cross charging process and set up a process via Accounts. The business unit owner now creates one or more services. A service is an application architecture. Each service has service roles. The best way to describe them is to think of them as a tier in an n-tier application. For example, a web application may have web servers (one service role with an associated network), application servers (a second service role with a different network), and database servers (a third service role with a third network). Any VM created for a service role will be automatically placed in the appropriate network and have TCP/IP configured as required. Nice! No admin work to do! Fewer helpdesk calls! The admin gets the chance to review the service architecture before approving/denying/modifying.
Once the service is approved, the business unit owner, or any delegated admins (that they delegate from existing AD users) can create VMs, and manage them. They get remote console access via the portal. They can log in and install software as required. No administrator (you) involvement is required to deploy, delete, shut down, install, etc. You’re off monitoring, backing up (there’s a place where they can tell you what they need backed up in the service creation request), and adding hosts to the cluster.
Things will evolve more with SCVMM 2012 … but there’ll be more on that later.
From the business’s point of view, they feel empowered. The blocker (us) is removed from the process and they get the cloud experience they’ve had from the public cloud with the associated instant gratification. From your point of view, you are less stressed, able to spend more time on systems management, and don’t have pestering emails looking for new servers. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
For you folks in the SME (small/medium enterprise) market there will be no change. Who manages those applications in your environment? You do. There are no application admins. It makes little sense to implement this cloud layer on top of SCVMM because it’s just more process for you. Sorry!
OK, what about this dynamic datacenter thingy? Well, that’s the addition of System Center to manage everything in the compute cluster (hardware, virtualisation and operating systems): monitor everything from hardware to applications, backup, deploy, patch, automate process, manage compliance, and so on. In other words, build automated expertise and process into the network. But that’s a whole other story.
This blog post is the property of Aidan Finn (@joe_elway / http://www.aidanfinn.com) and may not be reused in any manner without prior consent of Aidan Finn. You may quote one paragraph from this blog post if you link to the original blog post.
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