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System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 as Private Cloud Enabler

Private cloud concepts

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

VMM, a member of Microsoft System Center suite, is an enterprise solution for managing physical, virtualized, private cloud, and public cloud resources. 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 is for readers with a basics understanding of cloud computing. For those new to cloud computing, I recommend first acquiring the baseline information form: my 6-part series of cloud computing essential, NIST definition, Chou's 5-3-2 Principle, and hybrid deployment.

Private Cloud in VMM 2012
Private cloud is a "cloud" of which the infrastructure 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. This 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.

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 represents 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 entire System Center 2012 suite is designed with cloud computing in mind. And a productive way to learn more about building a private cloud is to review recommended material followed by downloading and trying VMM 2012 yourself.

And There Is This Thing Called "Fabric'

scvmm 2012 admin consoleThe 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 components. This concept is explicitly presented in the UI of VMM 2012 admin console as shown here on the left. 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, has been so much used and often indiscreetly to explain cloud. Without a firm grip on what is precisely a "service", cloud can indeed be filled with perplexities.

Essentially, the concept of a service in the context of 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 a 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 not considered as requirements for the technical architecture of a private cloud, 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 defined as a set of virtual machines (VMs) to be managed as one entity. This set of VMs works together to collectively deliver a business function. To deploy a service in VMM 2012 is therefore to roll out and manage a set of VMs as a whole, as opposed to individual VMs. Managing all the VMs associated with a service as an entity, i.e. a service, has its advantages and at the same time introduces opportunities and challenges as well for better delivering business values. A new feature in VMM 2012 called Service Template is an example.scvmm 2012 service template

Service Template

A service template in VMM 2012 is conceptually a set of definitions capturing the application architecture, contents, configurations, operations, and intelligence for creating an instance of a release of a service. This may include deploying multiple VMs with multiple instances in multiple tiers of application architecture. For instance, instead of deploying individual VMs, 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 using a service template in VMM 2012.

As a new release of a service is introduced due to changes of the application, settings, or VM images, a new service template is developed accordingly. To upgrade a running service from Release X to Release Y can now be achieved easily by simply setting and applying the service template of Release Y. And depending on the configuration of a service, there can be no downtime during an upgrade process.

Private Cloud It Is
VMM 2012 signifies a milestone for enterprise IT to actually have a solution to operate like a service provider. With VMM 2012, 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 as reading through this series one will on the contrary realize the energy and excitements cloud computing has already brought into our IT industry and broadened our careers. I believe a private cloud is as yet the greatest thing has happened to IT. Every time anticipations and curiosities arise as I start envisioning so many possibilities IT can do with a private cloud. It is inspiring to witness cloud computing coming true and be in the middle of it. And I can't help imagining IT professionals to grease up hair, walk down the hall way of some datacenter, and shout 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]

[This is a cross-posting from]

More Stories By Yung Chou

Yung Chou is a Technology Evangelist in Microsoft. Within the company, he has had opportunities serving customers in the areas of support account management, technical support, technical sales, and evangelism. Prior to Microsoft, he had established capacities in system programming, application development, consulting services, and IT management. His recent technical focuses have been in virtualization and cloud computing with strong interests in hybrid cloud and emerging enterprise computing architecture. He is a frequent speaker in Microsoft conferences, roadshow, and TechNet events.

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