As IT architectures, methodologies, solutions, and cloud computing are rapidly converging, system management plays an increasingly critical role and has become a focal point of any cloud initiative. A system management solution now must identify and manage not only physical and virtualized resources, but those deployed as services to private cloud, public cloud, and in hybrid deployment scenarios. An integrated operating environment with secure access, self-servicing mechanism, and a consistent user experience is essential to be efficient in daily IT routines.
App Controller is a component and part of the self-service portal solution in System Center 2012 SP1. By connecting to System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) servers, Windows Azure subscriptions, and 3rd-party host services, App Controller offers a vehicle that enables an authorized user to administer resources deployed to private cloud, public cloud, and those in between without the need to understand the underlined fabric and physical complexities. It is a single pane of glass to manage multiple clouds and deployments in a modern datacenter where a private cloud may securely extend it boundary into Windows Azure, or a trusted hosting environment. The user experience and operations are consistent with those in Windows desktop and Internet Explorer. The following is a snapshot showing App Controller securely connected to both on-premise SCVMM-based private cloud and cloud services deployed to Windows Azure.
A key delivery of App Controller is the ability to delegate authority by allowing a user to connect to multiple resources based on user’s authorities, while hiding the underlying technical complexities.
An user can then manage those authorized resources by logging in App Controller and authorized by an associated user role, i.e. profile. In App Controller, a user neither sees, nor needs to know the existence of cloud fabric, i.e. under the hood how infrastructure, storage virtualization, network virtualization, and various servers and server virtualization hosts are placed, configured, and glued together.
When first logging into App Controller, a user needs to connect with authorized datacenter resources including SCVMM servers, Windows Azure Subscriptions, and 3rd party host services.
The user experience of App Controller is much the same with that of operating a Windows desktop. Connecting App Controller with a service provider on the other hand is per the provider’s instructions. However the process will be very similar with that of connecting with a Windows Azure subscription.
Connecting App Controller with Windows Azure on the other hands requires certificates and information of Windows Azure subscription id. This routine although may initially appear complex, it is actually quite simple and logical.
Establishing a secure channel for connecting App Controller with a Windows Azure subscription requires a private key/public key pair. App Controller employs a private key by installing the associated Personal Information Exchange (PFX) format of a chosen digital certificate, and the paired public key is in the binary format (.CER) of the digital certificate and uploaded to an intended Windows Azure subscription account. The following walks through the process.
For those who are familiar with PKI, use Microsoft Management Console, or MMC, to directly export a digital certificate in PFX and CER formats from local computer certificate store. Those relatively new to certificate management should first take a look into what certificates IIS are employing first to better understand which certificate to use.
Since App Controller is installed with IIS, acquiring a certificate is quite simple to do. When installing App Controller with IIS, a self-signed certificate is put in place for accessing App Controller web UI with SSL.
The certificate store of an OS instance can be accessed with MMC.
The two export processes, for example, created two certificates for connecting App Controller with Windows Azure as the following.
Upon connecting to on-premise and off-premise datacenter resources, App Controller is a secure vehicle enabling a user to manage authorized resources in a self-servicing manner. It is not just the technologies are fascinating. It is about shortening the go-to-market, so resources can be allocated and deployed based on a user’s needs. This is a key step in realizing of IT as a Service.