For a rather long period of time EMC has been working on enabling various Cloud solutions. In the Microsoft space, we have been developing and delivering Private Clouds of varying styles. All of them providing high levels of performance, all of them elastic, all of them automated … but it always felt like there could be more. The infrastructure piece was always robust, but the way that users would consume resources from the system seemed needing more attention. We have demonstrated multiple ways to consume these services, and even Microsoft System Center took multiple runs at this interaction. Self-service portals are now becoming a necessary component of Private Cloud solutions.
Consumers of cloud services should not be burdened with the details of which physical server runs their service, or other physical aspects that relate to the infrastructure. They should be more concerned about access to, and availability of, their services. They may also care about service levels for access and performance. But they should not be concerned about which physical server, or even which Cloud their services are running in … rather that they are running, and running optimally.
For those that have used a public cloud service, you will rarely have been presented details on the physical server your service will be running on. Certainly you may have geographic information, but not that your service is running on a particular physical server in a given datacenter. You do have choice about characteristics of the service, for example, if you are deploying a Virtual Machine in an Infrastructure as a Service model, you will want to define CPU, memory and possibly storage sizing.
Ideally, Private Cloud solutions should abstract away the physical infrastructure from the consumer, leaving them with choices that matter to their service. For hybrid cloud solutions, this would infect be a mandatory requirement. Services in a hybrid world should be dynamically moved between an on-premises solution and a public cloud solution. So choices selected would need to be limited to those valid in both offerings (or you would need to be able to translate between characteristics in one versus the other).
So it’s great to see that the next evolution from Microsoft seems like it’s going to fit the self-service bill! This incarnation is called the Windows Azure Pack, and it’s delivered on a Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 family. While much of the discussion around the Microsoft sites talks in terms of using the Windows Azure Pack (WAP) for Service Providers/Hosters … an Enterprise style customer is also acting very much like a Service Provider internally to their business groups. It’s a great way to deliver services internally!
From the Public to the Private Cloud
With the introduction of Windows Azure Pack, Microsoft Private Cloud consumers can now enjoy many of the benefits of an “As a Service” model. Be that as an Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS), Windows Azure Pack can fit the bill.
Implementing both an Administrative Portal and a Consumer (Tenant) Portal, IT organizations are now able to behave much like a Service Provider to their internal customers. Customers as consumers, can then select service offerings that their IT organizations develops for them from a gallery. The mechanics of what happens during deployment is then fully automated within the System Center 2012 R2 framework. For example, should virtual machines be required to be deployed to a cloud system, then System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2 will execute the required steps to deploy from its library the necessary templates, and execute any required customizations. The consumer can then access the resources once they are deployed. Importantly, no IT operations involvement is required – it’s fully automated.
For IT staff, they are now able to focus on building service offerings to meet the requirements of the consumers. They are also able to look at overall status of their environment, including consumption rates, availability, etc. They are also enabled with tools to allow for Chargeback services to the consumers of the provided services. These are the sorts of functions that Public Clouds have provided for some time – features that Private Clouds have been wanting to deliver.
Being Scalable and Elastic
There’s still a very important role for the infrastructure in all of this. Private Clouds, like Public Clouds, are assumed to have limitless scale and elasticity .. and a good degree of automation. Nothing will derail a good Private Cloud more than having to call an IT person at each and every step. Indeed in many cases, the scale and size of a consumers environment may change over time, and they may want to mitigate costs by sizing their system appropriately for different events. Classically, finance systems need to scale to a much larger degree when they approach end of month, and of quarter and end of year processing. Allowing the customer to increase and decrease resources dynamically is ideal (of course this assumes that the service itself is designed for such functionality).
If the Private Cloud needs to have the elasticity, scale and automation that the consumers are looking for, then so too does the underlying infrastructure. Given that the Private Cloud solution offering is based on Windows Server 20012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, then features like Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX), SMB 3.0 and even UNMAP operations can benefit the solution, providing performance, flexibility and optimizations that the environment can utilize. We’ve dealt with many of these features in earlier posts, and they all apply to Windows Azure Pack, as it consumes this services implicitly.
Deploying Windows Azure Pack
As mentioned. Windows Azure Pack consumes the services of the underlying infrastructure, both hardware and software. As a result, the minimum requirements are to have a System Center 2012 R2 deployment that manages one or more Clouds as defined within System Center Virtual Machine Manager. These clouds are surfaced up to the Windows Azure Pack through the integration with System Center Orchestrator and its Service Provider Foundation service (a separately installable feature within Orchestrator).
There is guidance provided at the TechNet site here. A minimal installation can be a great starting point, and that’s available as the “Azure Pack: Portal and API Express” option.
Summary of EMC & Windows Azure Pack
Demo of Windows Azure Pack on an EMC Private Cloud