Anatomy of a Private Cloud

Anatomy of a Private Cloud

March 08, 2011 2:00 pm

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Online Tech's Systems Engineer, Mike Flaherty will examine the anatomy of a private cloud infrastructure with a look into the components that come together to create a cloud computing platform.

Tuesday 3.8.11 @ 2pm

Anatomy of a Private Cloud

Mike Flaherty of Online Tech describes cloud architecture – the history, platforms and various resources for a cloud computing storage network and management framework.




Good afternoon, my name is Mike Flaherty and I will be hosting today’s webinar: Anatomy of a Private Cloud. Today’s webinar is the third in the cloud computing series designed to provide you with a high level overview of cloud architecture. Today we will discuss Anatomy of a Private Cloud. Next week at 2pm on March 15, we will host the fourth and final webinar entitled: Disaster Recovery in the Cloud. Finally, on March 22 we will be hosting a live seminar at the Hilton Garden Inn located in Southfield, MI entitled: The Business Case for Cloud Computing. At this seminar we will have several cloud computing users and technical experts to share their experiences with you. To register please visit:

In today’s webinar we will discuss cloud computing history, platform choices and design and look at the compute storage network and management components that go into a cloud. Finally, we will discuss the management framework for the cloud. So let us get started with a quick history lesson.

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked” (Gall’s Law). So with the cloud we take the building blocks from the past components that worked and stitch them together in a way that adds big value. In the case of cloud computing that value translates to high performance, resiliency and cost savings. We take a few components of the past like memory and processor, storage and network and layer on the management wrapper you get a cloud architecture from that.

Years ago when modern computing started taking shape the big iron main frames appeared. Time sharing and centralized computing was the norm. As PC’s began to appear, we began seeing computers on or under our desks. Although powerful for their day, these PCs were limited in what they could process and connect to. They were usually connecting to a local server in the same building, but then the web appeared and now PCs could connect to servers on the other side of the planet.

Amazing disruptive changes began to take shape. As the web and commercial internet matured, connectivity speed increased with broadband DSL and cable connections. Terms like ASP began to appear. Imagine that, an application hosted somewhere else. Buzz words filled the airways like Utility Computing, On Demand Computing and Software as a Service. As we approach the present day, enterprise class virtualization began to capture the attention of businesses and soon after the cloud was born. But where do you start when you are thinking of cloud computing? What platform do you choose for your cloud?

Online Tech has chosen the following systems for its entire back office, customer portal and our website. We took what we learned over the last few years and now offer the same architecture to our clients as Private Cloud Managed Services. Our cloud components include Dell servers and EqualLogic SAN (which exceed expectations for high performance, scalability and reliability). Dell servers and EqualLogic SAN technology provide enterprise class performance and five nine’s reliability.

To connect the cloud we rely on a layer 3 stacking switch from Cisco. For security we use Cisco and Fortinet firewall security devices to secure the cloud computing experience. For the virtualization layer Online Tech chose VMware’s vSphere and ESXi. While Microsoft’s Hyper-V and Citirx XenServer have matured, VMware has the most mature, stable and scalable virtualization platform compared to other vendors.

Analysts like Gartner admits that Hyper-V is under performing against their expectations. In markets where Hyper-V was supposed to make an impact, such as mid-markets, VMware is still gaining new customers. Since the virtualization layer is the corner stone to our cloud computing architecture, lets spend a few more minutes on why VMware is our chosen cloud virtualization platform.

So based on our extensive testing and production experience with VMware and in talking to industry leaders and customers, Online Tech has identified the core requirements of what it takes to deliver the best solution to meet the customers cloud and virtualization needs:

  1. Vmware offers a complete platform solution. VMware offers a full breadth of features and infrastructure to maximize efficiency and boost application up-time, scalability and security that can put you on the path towards the cloud.
  2. The foundation must be rock solid. That is the hypervisor. Look for the most proven and reliable hypervisor. Vmware is now in its fourth generation platform and the EFXI hypervisor has a tiny footprint of only 70 Megs (that is compared to 2 Gigs for a standard Hyper-V). The larger footprints give a larger impact surface for threats and the threats continue to grow.
  3. Above the hypervisor you need the right management tool to help you go from 0 to 100% virtual. VMware offers the right tools like vCenter to manage your VM’s from a centralized view
  4. You also want a solution that works with a broad set of hardware, operating systems and applications to maintain maximum flexibility and choice
  5. Finally, look for a solution that is broadly proven across companies of all sizes and of all industries. VMware offers all of this in a cloud framework that offers low total cost of ownership for a cloud ready, virtualization platform.

A critical element to any cloud implementation is to have a powerful dynamic, yet easy to use management framework. Without great management framework you are fighting your servers and your IT. Lets take a look at managing the cloud next.

For a solid, single pane of glass management tool Online Tech relies on VMware vCenter. vCenter allows flexibility in provisioning through automation, permits great scalability and gives deep visability into your entire cloud infrastructure. VMware currently has (and is also in the developing phase) of a new tool geared towards enterprise cloud and Online Tech will adopt those tools as needed in the future. For now we consider VMware vCenter a very sharp tool. What can this sharp tool do? VMware gives you the power through vCenter to cut through your largest IT and business problems and leverage a powerful cloud experience. Sharp tools and skills save time.

So what does vCenter allow you to do exactly? VMware vCenter server is the simplest, most efficient way to manage your private cloud. Whether you have ten or hundreds of VM it provides unified management of all hosts and Vm’s in your cloud from a single console. VMware vCenter server give administrators deep insight into the status and configuration of clusters, hosts, VM, storage, SOS and other critical components of a virtual infrastructure all from one place. vCenter helps to deeply understand issues before they become problems. vCenter ggives great visability into every level of the infrastructure. vCenter also allows you to rapidly provision more resources if needed and automated workload across resources. You can also scale to about 10,000 VM’s with this vCenter.

What does it mean to manage it in the cloud? Managing the cloud means managing the resources like processing, memory and network. You have to ask what are the common cloud characteristics that give you value. What gives you value in the cloud? Vmware and cloud virtualization technologies certainly create a more powerful IT cloud framework and here is why it gives you value:

Pooling. With pooling you leverage virtualization to change the model from machine based to highly elastic shared resource pools that are shared across applications and users. This enables on demand resource allocation in the most efficient manner.

Zero-touch Infrastructure.This is one concept in virtualization and the cloud yielding a hands off policy. Policy driven management system that is all automated.

Self-service. The beauty of a virtualized cloud infrastructure is that provisioning and deployment are dramatically simplified through the self-service model.

Control. Through Vmware in the cloud you gain control of new server build-out, high availability with with the ability to optimize resource allocation to meet service levels.

Evolutionary. There is no need to forklift all of your hardware and applications in one swoop into the cloud. You can leverage existing assets and weave these into the cloud computing model in an evolutionary manner.

The private cloud powered with VMware offers a platform that is scalable, flexible and dynamic. All required for today’s applications that demand high Service Level Agreements (SLA’s).

What is the secret formula for the best cloud experience? Simple. It is P+M+S+N. Put simply, when you laminate the cloud beyond its management framework and virtualization layers, you are left with several component that create the cloud infrastructure. This yields the P+M+S+N. So we have the compute resources, shared storage resources, data storage and the network fabric that ties the system all together. Taken together these resources can be used when and where they are needed. Saving you time and money and creating a more resilient computing experience. Dedicated resources are no longer needed with the adaptable, powerful cloud.

First, lets take a look at processors and memory. Since the majority of servers and applications are using less processing power and more memory today, we can take advantage of virtualization in the cloud to place the resources exactly where they are needed. This prevents the mistake we see often of overspending on compute resources. Many times you see a dedicated server sitting at 10% utilization of the processor. This wastes hardware money, energy and labor. Current intel processors like the Quad and Hex-core processors allow for extreme physical to virtual server consolidation. Again, more power in a compact footprint. It is easier to manage, maintain and save labor money.

With features like VMware’s Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) your cloud can continually monitor utilization across a resource pool and intelligently allocate available resources among the virtual machines according to business needs. So the idea here is to do more with less, right? Again, nothing new.

“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less” a twist on Occam’s Razor, but applies perfectly to what we are discussing today. Within today’s IT landscape, many organizations are wasting too much time and too many resources trying move to the cloud. Lets look at storage next.

The amount of data continues to grow. A solid storage plan in any enterprise is critical to success. While local disks work perfectly fine with the VMware server, SAN storage is by far the preferred method of storage. Online Tech uses iSCSI SAN storage from Dell and EqualLogic. SAN storage for your VM’s offer several advantages for your cloud strategy. Like the processors and memory resources pool storage allows for improved storage resource utilization, reduced management overhead and better up-time. With VMFS you can store VM’s in a centralized repository and support advance features like Live Migration, Automatic VM restart on the secondary host and clustering.

With vMotion you have the ability to live migrate a running virtual machine from one host to another. Within provisioning storage administrators can increase their storgae utilization by dedicating more storage in the actual capacity and over subscription of capacity to the virtual machine eliminates the need to dedicate full storage capacity upfront. Also the virtual machine is encapsulated which means backup and disaster recovery are much easier. Offsite backup copies can also be used for daily, weekly, monthly backup copies. Online Tech uses technology from VEEAM and R1Soft to backup the cloud virtual servers. Next we will move on to the network.

Tying the cloud together we use a number of features and enhancements for virtual networking. Each cloud server or host uses multiple NIC cards for redundancyand segregation by traffic type. This redundancy is mirrored in the switch and firewall fabric. Two or more Layer 3 stackable switches are used, like Cisco 3750 (14:47?) and multiple Cisco or Fortinet devices are used. All devices have 1 Gb ports witht he ability to use 10 Gb ports as an upgrade. Each private cloud is protected by one or more VLAN and will have the ability to operate using IPv6 in the future. Those are the compenents, lets bring it all together now.

A cloud built on VMware virtualization has the inheritant feature of built-in platform management. Providing IT an opportunity to transform management and deliver higher service levels to the business. The maturity and expansiveness of the VMware cloud platform drives IT management efficiency and lowers operating expenses by streamlining operations. Building blocks like VMware vMotion and VMware DRS let you balance workloads by balancing on the fly in response to changing business conditions. While VMware High Availabilty and VMware Fault Tolerant protect crtical workloads against unplanned server downtime.

If a host fails, no problem. Your business and applications continue to run without hiccup. Take the architecture another step further and make the cloud supercharged. How do you supercharge a cloud? Locate your cloud across two different data centers connected by high speed fiber, sitting across multiple power grids and now you have just boosted availability and resiliency by a few nines.

As we wrap up today’s webinar, one point of clarity to get in order. Hosting an application or server does not need to be painful. Stop fighting your servers and IT and start getting along better with your servers and applications. Stay out of the penalty box and start using powerful tools available to you in the private cloud.

To sum up what we have discussed, we know cloud computing is an evolution of computing as a whole and allows for lower costs, easier management and better performance. All of the fundamentals still remain. In creating a flexible cloud computing framework that can adapt as your business adapts is crucial and the cloud can help. In management, a unified management framework is needed to manage and monitor the health and growth of your cloud to insure your business is ready for tomorrow.

That concludes our cloud presentation for today. We can now take a couple of questions from the question panel.

April: Thanks, Mike. We have one question for you. Does Online Tech currently use the cloud or have any plans to implement the cloud?

Mike: The answer is yes. We are not using it today, but that will be part of our strategy going forward later this year. So, yes we will start to use some of the more advanced features like vCloud that VMware does have to offer.

April: What had been your experience in copying and moving clouds? Do you have any recommendations for businesses who are looking at setting up a redundant cloud?

Mike: The first step is to virtualize everything you can. Once you have stuffed virtualized and encapsulated it is very easy to move. The second step is to try and have some type of replication and backup technology in place that works very well with the tools like VMware. For instance, the Dell EqualLogic SANs can replicate locally inside a data center or two SANs can replicate across data centers. That provides tremendous value and resiliency for moving your data. Also, I cannot speak highly enough about a product called VEEAM. That is what we use to back up all of the servers on a host. VEEAM does dedupe, replication, and it makes back up and restore incredibly easy. Having those tools inplace with the experience we have seen makes cloud computing a lot easuer and moving servers around.

April: If we have begun development in the cloud in a public area and decide we need to move it to a private enviornment, how hard is it to move a cloud froma public or shared enviornment to a private cloud environement?

Mike: For the most part moving a server froma public to a private cloud should be no problem, Now, some of the APIs will not translate correctly, so there will absolutely need to be some tweaking, but if youhave a standard WIndos or Linux server those can pretty much be converted into an encapsulated server that will work fine in the cloud. Again if you are locked into some of the public cloud models, it is better to use custom APIs and custom operating systems and virtualization layers. You could run into some difficulty but for the most part once you get the applications and server moved over it should just work.

April: That is all of the questions for today. Thank you , Mike and thank you everyone for joining us.

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