Thursday, 10 May 2012

Building the TESG Private Cloud Customer Experience Centre - Part 1

Every year my employer holds an event for customers (and potential new customers) to show case what we do and give customers a chance to meet our partner vendors.

This year, nicely coinciding with just after the System Center 2012 release, I landed the brilliant job of setting up something to demonstrate our System Center and Desktop expertise.

And so the concept of the Private Cloud and Optimised Desktop Customer Experience Centre was born.

The goal?
  1. To showcase the full System Center 2012 suite
  2. To showcase the interactions of each component and how they drive efficiencies
  3. To showcase an elastic and easily scalable datacentre that can flex into the Public Cloud
  4. To showcase the dynamic desktop with OS, Data, User and Application layers abstracted
  5. To showcase BYOD and specifically desktop/application access on tablet devices

Over a couple of blog posts I'll aim to share some of the planning, thoughts and tips & tricks that went into building it.
What I'll not be doing is guides on how to install the different components as there are plenty of them out there, but I will post links to some relevant good guides.

My original test lab was made up of a couple of HP Proliant DL380 G7's with some shared space pinched off the corporate SAN, but as this was going to need to host a lot more and it would need to be "slightly" portable for attending events like the T360 it was time to purchase some upgrades.
  1. More memory.  Upgrade from 64Gb per host to 128Gb
  2. Dedicated Storage.  iSCSI SAN that would also allow me to show some of the VMM storage management features (N.B. More details on this later, plus some pitfalls to watch out for!)
  3. Dedicated Switches.  To show SCOM network management & keep the environment self contained.
  4. More NIC's.  The original environment only had 4 onboard NICs, not good enough.
  5. Flight case to rack it all in to make it portable (kind of!)
Now that might sound slightly overkill for a test/demo environment.  However, I have a laptop which is quite capable of showing 2-3 of the System Center products at the same time, but this Customer Experience Center had to host the following:
  • Active Directory
  • Virtual Machine Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Service Manager
  • Configuration Manager
  • Data Protection Manager
  • Orchestrator
  • App Controller
  • SQL 2008 R2 Server
  • SharePoint Enterprise Server
  • Exchange
  • Lync
  • ForeFront UAG
  • ForeFront TMG
  • File Servers
  • XenDesktop Mgt Server
  • XenDesktop VDI Desktops
  • XenApp Mgt Server
  • XenApp App Servers
  • Remote Desktop Session Hosts
  • Remote Desktop Broker/Gateway/Licensing
  • RDS/Hyper-V VDI Desktops
  • Dedicated Win 7 Admin Workstations
  • Citrix NetScaler VM Appliance
  • App-V Sequencer Workstations
When you consider that all of this needs to be up and running at the same time, my laptop just wasn't going to cope!

So far this has spread out across 34 VM's and there's still more to come...

This is a quick example diagram that I drew up to show the Hyper-V layout

Once all the hardware components were installed and racked then Hyper-V was the first thing to tackle and all I can say is thank god for Aidan Finn and his blog: http://www.aidanfinn.com/

Lots of useful posts, for example: http://www.aidanfinn.com/?p=10311

I'm going to leave the rest for the next post, but I just want to mention something that came to light when I installed the first System Center component, Virtual Machine Manager.

This is a logical first place to start if you've got the chance to build a private cloud from scratch like I have as you can implement Service Templates for deploying your VM's to help structure the environment and provide servicing and scale out options.

However, I hit a problem almost straight away, I struggled to get it to see my storage provider.

Originally I was ordering a Dell Equalogic iSCSI SAN for the environment, but due to certain disks not being available and increased costs for alternatives I was suggested to look at a DotHill AssuredSAN 2332.

The first thing I did was ask/check it supported SMI-S protocol, which it did as this is what VMM requires for the new features.
However when trying to set it up in VMM, it soon came to light that it only supported SMI-S 1.3 whereas VMM requires version 1.5.

So lesson learnt, make sure that when checking specifications, especially SAN's that you check in detail, right down to the version number!

There is a useful table (I found this afterwards!) that details the supported arrays:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg610600.aspx



Part 1 - Building the TESG Private Cloud Customer Experience Centre
Part 3 - Installation Guide Links
Part 4 - Partner Solutions & Extensions

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