Cloud Insights from Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Enterprise Client & Mobility
In this final section of the Success with Hybrid Cloud series, I want to get technical. The following posts are going to dive into the technical elements that make a Hybrid environment tick.
This first technical post is an important one: How IT Pro’s can provide their users with a self-service experience on-prem that matches what application owners are experiencing in Windows Azure.
This is an important subject in the enterprise for infrastructure operations because it is critically important for on-prem infrastructure operations to be able to clearly articulate their value-add and eliminate any process hurdles to provisioning so that the experience is just as seamless as a public cloud. The way to do this is with Windows Azure Pack – a free solution with an “out of box” capability to provide a self-service front end for Microsoft servers that includes: Web Application PaaS environments, Database PaaS environments, VM IaaS environments, and your own extensions via a WAP custom resource.
The user experience for Windows Azure Pack is designed to be seamless with the online experience of Windows Azure. Once you have setup federated authentication, the application owner signs in using their standard Active Directory credentials.
Windows Azure Pack allows tenants to provision two different types of VMs: A Standalone VM and VM Roles. The difference between these is simple: Imagine a tenant that wants a VM with a pre-configured application like Exchange, SharePoint, or Lync. VM Roles offer the ability to deploy software after the operating system setup is complete. They also allow the tenant to use a slider bar in the web portal to scale out the number of nodes and address increased demand. In an upcoming blog post I’ll get into detail about VM Roles.
Imagine a tenant that wants a simple VM with just an operating system to deploy his or her own application. Later they might want to change the VM size to address increased utilization of the service. They might also want to attach additional virtual hard disks or additional network connections. It all starts with a tenant that opens a web portal and subscribes to a plan that you allocate as the service provider. This allows them to act with autonomy when building their environment – but not without some control (to prevent them from deploying more VMs than your supporting infrastructure capacity can support).
Your application owner can then leverage the self service options of Windows Azure Pack on-prem to create a new VM, including options to customize storage, networking, and compute power. They can also create their own isolated virtual network. An additional option is to automate this step by triggering a runbook on the Service Management Automation platform.
Provisioning a new Standalone VM without any process hurdles is amazing, and something many enterprise organizations are still working towards. Windows Azure Pack gives you even more by provisioning from VM Templates. This is exactly like the experience in Windows Azure, where the end result is deployment of a VM that includes your choice of Operating System.
This is the flexibility and elasticity of the cloud at your fingertips.
At any given time, when the tenant needs to re-size the VM, they can choose from a list of instances – just like they do in Azure.
This experience is designed to provide flexibility for both the service provider and the tenant. As the service provider you decide which capabilities to make available, and as the tenant you make your own choices about individual VMs to meet your solution requirements.
Once a VM has been created, we publish the console connection directly into the browser. This means the tenant has a stable experience even if the workload includes heavy customization during reboots or other disruptive procedures.
We know that when you implement self-service, it is important that you leverage your existing investments in Microsoft virtualization – WAP has been developed with this in mind. Behind the scenes, System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) is driving the VM deployments and ensuring you can plug directly into your existing System Center environment
Administrators that are experienced in using SCVMM know that the process to create a VM Template is very much a point-and-click operation. Everything has been streamlined so that the entire process (including creating the machine image, which has traditionally been a very manual process) is now driven end-to-end through a wizard interface.
Virtual Machine Manager also allows fabric administrators to create new hardware profiles that can be made available to tenants for custom sizing of VM Templates within Windows Azure Pack.
The hardware profile specifies the hardware configuration for the VM, such as the number of virtual processors and the amount of memory. Windows Azure allows customers to choose from A0 to A4, and each instance offers a specific configuration. You achieve consistency with Azure by doing the same with hardware profiles. This allows tenants to change their VM size based on their needs.
In other words: Start small and grow as needed. This is the flexibility and elasticity of a Hybrid Cloud working for you!
Our goal in developing these interfaces and processes is to create an environment that is as flexible, adaptable, and responsive as possible. We understand that every organization is looking at using a private cloud in different ways, and it is important that as you look at your own options for Self-Service you have something that can be tailored to your specific needs and scenarios.
The Windows Server System Center CAT team (the authors of the Building Clouds blog) has been hard at work delivering content to help you build out your own WAP environment. I recommend the articles below for more information.