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Cloud Computing: The Power of System Center in the Cloud

Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center can accelerate your adoption of an IT-as-a-service model, which
enables greater business agility, scalability and flexibility.
Joshua Hoffman
By now, most of us are familiar with, or quickly learning, the basic tenants of cloud computing. In
short, theres a great deal of efficiency to be gained in costs, resource utilization, quality of service
delivery, and more by leveraging the scalability and elasticity of shared and virtual computing. The
ability to purchase computing resources as needed, which can be expanded or contracted to meet a
changing business environment, provides a degree of agility that is difficult to achieve with a
traditional infrastructure model.

This concept of IT as a Service encompassing the delivery of software, infrastructure, and platforms
offers organizations greater flexibility in leveraging the power of IT to meet their business needs
than has been ever available before. However, often we think of cloud computing solely within the
framework of the public cloud. That is to say, as a service purchased from a hosting provider,
leveraging resources that are shared with other businesses, and accessible via public networks. But
the benefits of cloud computing exist on a spectrum, and often they can be realized in a private
cloud model; delivering the same levels of scalability and elasticity, along with usage-based cost
structures that come with public cloud computing, but leveraging resources completely dedicated to
the needs of your own organization.

In this article, well talk about Microsoft solutions, powered by Windows Server 2008 R2 and System
Center, that can help you simplify and accelerate your adoption of private cloud computing, and in
doing so, realize the benefits of increased performance, improved reliability, enhanced business
agility and cost efficiency that the cloud has to offer.

Infrastructure Foundations of a Private Cloud Solution


Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V
The host servers are one of the critical components of a dynamic, virtual infrastructure. The host
servers, running Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V technology, provide the foundation for
running virtual machine guests and also provide the management interface between the guests and
Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

By consolidating multiple server roles into virtualized environments running on a single physical
machine, you not only make more effective use of your hardware, but you also unlock the potential
to realize the benefits of Infrastructure-as-a-Service, scaling your infrastructure quickly, adding virtual
resources to take on new workloads or meet increased demand whenever necessary.

Well talk more later in this article about the process of migrating your existing infrastructure to a
virtualized, private cloud environment. In the meantime, for detailed guidance on how to get started
installing and configuring Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, see the Hyper-V Getting
Started Guide.
System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2
The primary tool for managing a virtual private cloud infrastructure will be System Center Virtual
Machine Manager (VMM). System Center Virtual Machine Manager can scale across a wide range of
virtual environments, ranging from a single server for smaller environments to a fully distributed
enterprise environment that manages hundreds of hosts running thousands of virtual machines.

There are some key benefits of managing your virtualized infrastructure with VMM, including:

Virtualization support for virtual machines running on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Microsoft Virtual Server and
VMware ESX
End-to-end support for consolidating physical servers onto a virtual infrastructure
Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) for dynamic and responsive management of virtual infrastructure
(requires System Center Operations Manager)
Intelligent Placement of virtual workloads on the best-suited physical host servers
A complete library to centrally manage all the building blocks of the virtual datacenter
System Center Virtual Machine Manager provides a critical layer of management and control that is
key to realizing the efficiencies of a private cloud model. VMM not only provides a unified view of
your entire virtualized infrastructure across multiple host platforms and myriad guest operating
systems, but it also delivers a powerful toolset to facilitate onboarding new workloads quickly and
easily. For example, the P2V conversion wizard included in VMM simplifies the process of converting
existing physical workloads to virtualized machines. And in conjunction with System Center
Operations Manager, the Performance and Resource Optimization feature provides dynamic
reallocation of virtualized workloads to ensure that youre getting the most out of your physical
hardware resources.

For detailed guidance on how to get started installing and configuring System Center Virtual
Machine Manager 2008 R2, see the Virtual Machine Manager Deployment Guide.
SCVMM 2008 R2 Self-Service Portal 2.0
Self-service functionality is a core component of delivering IT as a service. Using the Microsoft
System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0, enterprise datacenters can provide
Infrastructure-as-a-Service to business units within their own organization. The self-service portal
provides a way for groups within a business to manage their own IT needs while the centralized
infrastructure organization manages a pool of physical resources (servers, networks, and related
hardware).

The self-service portal has four components:

VMSSP website. A Web-based component that provides a user interface to the self-service portal. Through the VMMSSP
website, infrastructure administrators can perform various tasks such as pooling infrastructure assets in the self-service
portal, extending virtual machine actions, creating business unit and infrastructure requests, validating and approving
requests, and provisioning virtual machines (using the self-service virtual machine provisioning feature). Administrators
can also use the VMMSSP website to view information related to these tasks.
VMMSSP database. A SQL Server database that stores information about configured assets, information related to
business units and requests, and information about what has been provisioned to various business units. The database
also stores the XML that encodes default and customized virtual machine actions and other information related to the
configuration of the self-service portal.
VMMSSP server. A Windows service that runs default and customized virtual machine actions that the user requests
through the VMMSSP website.
Reporting Dashboard. A reporting service built on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 SP2. The Dashboard provides out-of-
the-box reports and the ability to quickly produce custom reports.
Business units that enroll in the self-service portal system can use the portal to address a number of
key functions. For example, through the use of standardized forms, business units can request new
infrastructures or changes to existing infrastructure components. Each business unit can submit
requests to the infrastructure administrator. The standardized forms ensure that the infrastructure
administrator has all of the information needed to fulfill the requests without needing to repeatedly
contact the business unit for details.

Individual business units can also be empowered to create and manage their own virtual machines.
The VMMSSP website includes self-service provisioning forms that business units can use to create
virtual machines. When a business unit submits a request to create virtual machines, the self-service
portal starts an automated provisioning process creates the virtual machines more quickly and
efficiently than a manual process. Each business unit can also designate its own administrators,
advanced operators, and users, freeing IT resources for other tasks.

Infrastructure administrators can realize a number of benefits from the self-service portal as well. By
simplifying the process of enrolling business units and defining their needs up front, on-boarding
new workloads is no longer a manual task. The self-service portal collects information about a
business unit and about the resources they want to set up. The process of validating and
provisioning resources for business units is simplified as well. Datacenter administrators can use the
self-service portal to assign resources based on business unit requests. Finally, changes to resources
follow a request-and-approve life cycle, and the requests remain on record in the database,
dramatically reducing the administrative burden of change control and management.

Migrating to the Cloud


Once the key components of your private cloud infrastructure are in place, you can begin evaluating
existing workloads and migrating them to your virtualized environment. When identifying the best
candidates for P2V conversion, consider converting these types of computers, in order of preference:

1. Non business-critical underutilized computers. By starting with the least utilized computers that are not
business critical, you can learn the P2V process with relatively low risk. Web servers may make good
candidates.
2. Computers with outdated or unsupported hardware that needs to be replaced.
3. Computers with low utilization that are hosting less critical in-house applications.
4. Computers with higher utilization that are hosting less critical applications.
5. The remaining underutilized computers.
6. In general, business-critical applications, such as e-mail servers and databases that are highly utilized,
should only be virtualized to the Hyper-V platform in the Windows Server 2008 (64-bit) operating system.
As mentioned earlier, VMM simplifies Physical-to-Virtual (P2V) migrations by providing a task-based
wizard to automate much of the conversion process. Additionally, since the P2V process is
completely scriptable, you can initiate large-scale P2V conversions through the Windows PowerShell
command line. See Converting Physical Computers to Virtual Machines in VMM for a complete
walkthrough and step-by-step instructions.
Beyond the Foundations
Building your private cloud infrastructure extends beyond the foundations of a virtualized, self-
service infrastructure. Though the ability to quickly scale application and service delivery through a
flexible Infrastructure-as-a-Service model is a core component, delivering an end-to-end datacenter
and private cloud solution goes much further. The ability to monitor, manage, and maintain the
environment is critical to the effective delivery of IT services. Additionally, ensuring compliance and
good governance, streamlining service delivery based on best practices, and achieving even greater
efficiency through process automation are all key pillars of a cloud computing environment.
Fortunately, System Center continues to deliver solutions to help you get there.

System Center Operations Manager delivers 360-degree operational insight across your entire
infrastructure, whether its deployed on physical datacenter, private cloud, or public cloud resources.
Providing seamless integration with Windows Server 2008 and Virtual Machine Manager, System
Center Operations Manager helps you monitor the state and health of your computing resources
regardless of how and where theyre deployed, helping you reduce the cost of IT management by
identifying and potentially remediating issues before they interfere with service delivery.

Within a private cloud architecture, System Center Configuration Manger continues to provide the
same degree of systems management and administration that IT professionals have come to expect.
The ability to assess, deploy, update and configure resources using Configuration Manager persists
as workloads are migrated into a cloud environment, giving administrators the necessary assurance
that their resources are well maintained and protected.

System Center Service Manager provides built-in processes based on industry best practices for
incident and problem resolution, change control, and asset lifecycle management. Service Manager
provides integration across the entire System Center suite, including Operations Manager and
Configuration Manager, to collect information and knowledge about infrastructure operations, and
help administrators continuously meet and adapt to changing service level requirements. Together
with Opalis, a new addition to the System Center suite, administrators can also automate IT
processes for incident response, change and compliance, and service-lifecycle management.

Expanding into the Public Cloud


Its entirely possible that even after building out your own private cloud environment, your business
requirements may dictate the need for greater computing capacity than you would want to host or
manage entirely on your own. Fortunately, Windows Azure can provide hosted, on-demand
computing resources that can be seamlessly integrated with your existing private cloud
infrastructure. Business applications can be deployed on the Windows Azure Platform, adding
compute and storage resources that scale to meet demand. Using the Windows Azure VM Role,
customized virtual machines just like the ones youve built within your private cloud can even be
hosted on Windows Azure resources, providing additional scalability and capacity whenever its
needed.

All of the solutions weve discussed in this article are capable of delivering IT as a Service across
private cloud, public cloud and hybrid architectures. For example, the Windows Azure Application
Monitoring Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager provides the same
operational insight for applications hosted on the Windows Azure platform that administrators have
come to expect from on-premises solutions. And System Center Service Manager and Opalis help
deliver process automation, compliance, and SLA management with a service-optimized approach
that spans your infrastructure.

What weve discussed here today is just the tip of the iceberg. Weve shown how adopting an IT-as-
a-Service model enables greater business agility, scalability and flexibility than has ever been
possible before. For more information on how to get started, be sure to
visitmicrosoft.com/privatecloud.
Joshua Hoffman is the former editor in chief of TechNet Magazine. Hes now an independent
author and consultant, advising clients on technology and audience-oriented marketing. Hoffman
also serves as editor in chief of ResearchAccess.com, a site devoted to growing and enriching the
market research community. He lives in New York City.