Saturday, 18 April 2009

The move to private clouds

I was able to catch up and listen to the EMC roundtable discussion which was on Private cloud computing emergence within customer datacentres, and how EMC/Cisco and Vmware are enabling this between each other (think the death star strategy...only joking). Apart from the webcast being largely a promotional activity on what each individual companies vision was for private cloud and underlying infrastructure, they raised topic in discussion on how service providers will figure within the new private cloud world, discussion was pretty interesting and it brought a few ideas up in my head, So here is my ramblings which you may or may not agree with.

Definition of what a private cloud actually is are still a bit shoddy and mines no better but i'll give it a go, one example of Private cloud strategy is VMware's who have revealed there take on Private cloud, its on the basis of a completely onpremise internally purchased virtualised datacenter (VDC-OS) that has potential global flexible turn key delivery capability within your organisation and gives you the option to externally goto other external cloud hosting providers (Linked Vcenter mode), workloads within the private cloud can dynamically migrate internally (DRS) or move according to certain factors such as following the sun for internal support coverage models or cheaper utility that would be offered in certain locations (cloud vmotion it will come watch this space), so for example you could migrate a datacentre to make use of free cooling facility and use this capability to cool your datacenter at certain times of year for low costs. Private clouds although predominantly used for internally based IT departments allows flexibility dependant on network connectivity to go and use external cloud providers in the same way you would colocate rackspace today in a scenario where you may need additional overflow capacity or hosted DR.

Private clouds can also be used by organisations that outsource services and datacentres, except that the private cloud is spread across multiple service providers to gain business benefit and best value. When comparing at how you build and enter service agreements in today's Outsourcing and Managed Service/Hosting world in a nutshell you build a list of requirements, agree if it can be delivered within cost and budget over a period of years, define roles and responsibility within that binded contract
and sign a contract (then argue about SLA's when it doesn't work).

One question on how Private clouds compare is that when comparing more bleeding edge public cloud service offerings which bill in a "pay as you go" usage model within organisations like Amazon, Terremark and 3tera, will any future new "Cloud" service offerings from the likes of the big monolithic service providers such as IBM, EDS, CSC completely shift to providing a utility based model? This will mean they have to remodel how they define service catalogues and commercial billing frameworks, staffing structure etc etc. Will dramatic business model change be too much and will the model of hosting/mgd services continue in similar fashion as it does today with cloud really just being a fancy name in the portfolio offering which is really still the old age hosting and Managed service but with smoke and mirrors (and a lot of ball ache)?

Its probably a certainty that service provider's will refresh how they offer services across their current technological and the commercial portfolio and cater for basic "cloud" based services, it might not be the real deal but it will fool most people, plus I doubt they will have much option, with customers having a 100% Virtualised Datacenter will mean you can take your toys and play somewhere else a helluva lot easier than when you have hundreds of bits of tin to migrate that they previous impregnated themselves into, the 100% Virtualised estate will make the transition massively cheaper for the customer. All of these factors and upper hands the customer has will be most certainly a bandwagon they will jump on as they have had to do with early standard server virtualisation strategy organisations have followed so it maybe something they leech onto..who knows.

The other considerations with Private cloud is that if your outsourced today you have most likely signed a multiyear deal which has large amounts of contractual and commercial commitment for a number of years, moving across to a separate cloud provider will not be easy and will need to include heavy negotiations or financial write off to reap benefits of the efficiency you may obtain when using multiple cloud hosts.

To reap externally hosted private cloud benefits will for a number of years be dependant upon what your internal IT model is on both financially, operationally and technological fronts. If your IT is currently outsourced and host services within an off premise solution using multiple private cloud service will be easy to introduce to the department but difficult to move into due to embedded contract with current incumbents who may or may not offer what you want.

If your an internally hosted IT department the Private cloud will mean you can obtain freedom and flexibility to outsource pockets of your environment if ever required without the contractual mumbo jumbo that is present in todays outsource/colocation world, so for example an ERP system could be quite easily hosted within a cloud provider yet federate with your internal world as you would do when hosting that system internally.


Personally I cannot see the large outsourcers changing internal models in a hurry to cater for cloud for a long long time, the largest providers are all large oil tankers that need to be shifted, I suspect they have various business models internally that are designed with profit and margin in mind. If they have to alter this into a utility model like current Public Cloud offererings I'm not so sure they are ready to stomach this or whether they fully are confident cloud is even the way to go yet.

The good news I feel is likely to be for internally hosted organisations that are agile and have freedom to roam, your likely to be the sensible one who has not got yourself involved in shackled contracts that do not offer flexibility to roam and gain benefit of multiple different private clouds.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Windows 2008 Cluster webcasts

Some great webcasts to top up on new and future Windows 2008 Clustering capability...

Virtualisation of Production Workload Hurdling - Olympic Sport?

Day to day I see, hear and talk to with various organisations that are Virtualising current datacentre infrastructure. Being the Server Virtualisation advocate and evangelist I am It's always very good to hear this and see that people are currently aggressively reducing capital and operational cost and spreading the gospel (Praiseeee the lord) about what they have achieved. However with the proliferation of growth and volume of companies virtualising do we really see what lies beneath the cracks of the implementations?

This isn't a jibe or criticism at a vendor (for once), its not a post to single out any one company or individual, its a post to see what possibility may lie ahead for anyone who is in the early stages of Virtual maturity and are just starting to embark on a virtual journey or even go from Virtualisation being a point solution and into more of a fundamental enabler of your infrastructure ecosystem. It will provide you with some pointers and tips on what to do when faced with wanting to push the boundary of virtualisation into Production.

The Wow factor

Ok so you've virtualised 50-60% of your estate, mainly most of this is likely to be Dev and Test, and your cooking on gas, your finding it easy to deploy new VM's for your organisation needs, you can ensure you have clarity on when you are due to run out of capacity due to extensive monitoring capability, you can snapshot and make up for development team errors and cockups, backups are a breeze with VCB, DR for you would seem so much easier when used on your complete estate, and many more in built benefits of the core tech.

Importantly the Infrastructure team are the flavour of the month, your developers actually now talk to you at the coffee machine rather than grunt when they pass you in the corridor, they are your new best friend as hey you can spin them up a VM in hours not days you can make up for their mistakes with snapshot reverts, you can make up for there poor planning etc etc.
Your senior members of staff however see this new found ease and benefit differently, and most likely dont even care about the technical benefits, they maybe have provided the funds you to virtualise in the first place.

So after the success of the Development environment consolidation, the next natural stages are you are looking to virtualise your Prod workloads and need to go back with a solid case to Virtualise and increase overall Physical Infrastructure to support the consolidated environment. This is where it starts to become a problem, The P word now means core solid investment being needed, something any company will struggle to do if the current physical environment is stable, solid and able to facilitate the business need. Doubts and hurdles you may find are as follows;

"But the current hardware is a year old and needs to be depreciated"

This will be hard for anybody to argue against the kit being a sensible candidate for consolidating, would you sell your current petrol car and go and buy a diesel just because it paid back over a period of months and was easier to run, maintain etc. Chances are in that analogy no (and specially in todays car market), however possible arguements you may find benefit the decision in the server world include;
  • Reductions in Network and Storage connectivity
  • Removal of any breakfix maintenance on that box
  • Ability to now provide High Availability and zero downtime with VMotion/HA/DRS on a platform that was unable to have this in the physical world due to cost etc
  • Ability to clone into a Development environment in pristine fashion, not by a lenghty backup and restore process etc
Other benefits include the reuse of this physical platform, a few blog posts have popped up recently which have highlighted that reuse of kit to use as either a main Virtual Host platform or use as a DR Platform in todays current economic climate is much more of a reality for corporations. My background has always been to approach Virtualisation and consolidation activitys in this fashion, hey it is nice to have brand new kit for consolidation but using your Year old platform for a remote office consolidation exercise or Dev and Test will be perfect and suit most business need and the benefits of VMware on the licensing front certainly enable companies to do this cost effectively.

"My platform isnt suitable for Virtualisation due to performance"

As you may have experienced with any introduction of new technology this will be a common one, and hey as your the new guy with the new ideas it will be you that has the "its his fault for bad app performance" tagged to your Active Directory profile for all of the company to see that its your fault, hey if your gona virtualise production you gota be used to putting your head on the block remember :).

With recent developments in new generation server platforms which are now tailored for Virtualisation such as HP Proliant and Bladesystem G6 Ranges this issue is now becoming less of a problem for people to consolidate more IO intensive workloads. Couple this with improvements which will come in VMware Vsphere VI4 and it will no longer be as much of a problem (I didnt say it wont be a problem). Remember with Consolidation you are still slicing and dicing a physical host, this has a layer of indirection which will if not suitably planned cause you problems when the workload demands more compute power.

Companies adopting virtualisation really should invest in tools which allow you to analyse the complete estate, VMware capacity planner can do this, Novell Platespin Power recon is also a good tool to use, however some companies cannot afford to do this and larger companies may do a scoping exercise 6-12 months before they actually start to consolidate workloads so it cannot cover all workloads, within this time you may have had new applications put in, or your business requirements and processes may have changed which means your application workload is increased.The key to this are obvious ones but maybe of use, these include;

  • Get to know your application, its no good just asking the app bods for the thumbs up, they most likely do not know the infrastructure layer components and the four main bottlenecks that affect virtualisation performance, Network, Disk, CPU and RAM. Using monitoring tools before this in even the simpliest form such as Perfmon will enable you to observe the platform in more detail and observe factors such as Page Faults, heavey disk paging, high Disk queues and excessive process threads.
  • Test test test, yes you can do this. Building a Virtual Machine and OS from scratch and then asking application teams to install the app on a clean build is an easy reality for you to be able to test and derisk. If your looking for a quick turnaround and are confident that you only need a slight amount of confidence instilled into application teams, then one option is if you have dev and test environments then using a P2V tool such as VMware converter or Platespin Powerconvert to migrate your physical workload to test in a quarantined environment will enable you and your application bod to ensure you know how the workload will perform and its possible problem areas when virtualised. The alternative to testing in a dev environment is to completely reinstall the application from scratch, this would be my prefferred.
  • Consult the ISV, these guys will if a big software house be able to provide at least some partial advice on performance profile which is expected, take some of this with a pinch of salt though. Unless they are a SAP or an Oracle mould then chances are they will not know Virtualisation as indepth as you, hey didnt they get us in this mess in the first place by speccing highly rediculous minimum hardware specifications :)

Other core drivers

Other drivers to virtualise production workloads which have been implemented recently maybe;

  • Turnkey DR, DR may not have been in scope of the project so was not funded, remember you can easily replicate VM's now, something that provides 1-2 Hour RTO Times against what is probably if no funding was provided a 24-48 Hour RTO from backup process.
  • Snapshots and instant restores for Future software upgrades,
  • Improved Performance monitoring being available, improvements in future releases with Vmware Appspeed will enhance this even further.


Well thats enough hopefully to kick you off, obviously being the VMware evangelist you are now and knowing how much confidence you have in the product the above will assist, your passion and drive will hopefully instill confidence within itself. You know the more extended benefits brought to the table in areas of Business continuity and agility, something which is usually a key driver.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Use Powershell?

Darren Woollard has compiled a PDF to provide standard requirements for installing and being able to use Powershell in angst, this is based on using a number of great free tools available to interrogate using the VC SDK.

Powershell is extremely powerful and can be all downloaded for Zero, this is great if you are a small shop or a roaming consultant and don't have the opportunity to use extended management tools to interogate Virtualised Infrastructure.


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