Friday 9 September 2011

Private Cloud, make sure you choose right!

This is brilliant Microsoft advertising.
It's good to see that Microsoft have got a sense of humour, but the points it mentions are valid.

One thing in particular did catch my attention when the IT guy asks Tad if his solution would allow him to see deep inside his apps (1:30 min though).

Rather than Tads blank expression reply...

This is where System Center comes into its own and the upcoming 2012 wave will just blow the competition out of the water.

Imagine having your data centre built as a private cloud infrastructure using System Center as the pivotal part of the solution. When the IT guy then asks if the solution would allow him to find out performance problems, bottle necks and root causes the reply would be a resounding YES!

Virtual Machine Manager handles the virtualisation management piece of the solution, providing management of the "cloud" and dynamically assigning resources where and when required to ensure optimum performance. However, with Operations Manager sat within the environment gathering events and metrics constantly it would alert IT staff to potential problems, automatically raising Incidents directly within Service Manager. The necessary and relevant information is immediately at hand for the engineer to work on resolving the incident, coupled with Operation Managers ability to deeply dive into .Net applications to such a level as to even show which line of code is at fault
Once the root cause is identified using the information surfaced through Operation Manager (Events & Performance) and Service Manager (Configuration & Changes), then, if for example an update was required, the necessary Change Control would be raised in Service Manager to apply the update and once approved Orchestrator could pick up the change. Orchestrator could proceed to automate the remediation by talking across the infrastructure management products to take a backup of the system using Data Protection Manager, put the system into maintenance mode to suppress alerts in Operation Manager then create the necessary tasks with Configuration Manager to deploy the update to the system and finally check the success and report this information back into Service Manager for later review and analysis. 

Once service is restored and operating normally, it may be deemed that either during a known busy period or to support an advertising campaign for example, that the corporate web site will need extra resources to cope with demand.  A Change Request is raised within Service Manager and once approved Orchestrator can take on the responsibility of setting the wheels in motion for adding those resources for example by instructing Virtual Machine Manager to provision a new Virtual Server, Configuration Manager to deploy a new Operating System and any required software along with updates, settings and configuration.  Orchestrator would enable the bringing online of a new web server and adding it into a web farm as extra resources with little to no interaction of highly skilled technical resources.

This is all so easily possible due to the tight integration that is now present within the System Center product suite and is only going to continue to grow stronger with this next 2012 wave and beyond.
The tight integration allows for data about the infrastructure to flow across products, negating the need for duplication of effort or manual input.
The end net result is a very dynamic, private cloud infrastructure and much more efficient service delivery model.

This has several other benefits such as:
  • End users of the service gain improvements around time taken to respond to requests
  • Total Cost of Ownership is lower to support and maintain the environment
  • IT staff have more time to be proactive rather than constantly being reactive
  • High control of the environment can be achieved, helping with compliance (PCI, CoCo, Sarbanes Oxley)
  • Conversion of processes to automation helps with both workload reduction and better auditing of changes to the environment
  • Paves the way for Platform as a Service (PaaS)

One key thing to note, while I’ve mentioned various Microsoft products such as Data Protection Manager as the backup tool and Hyper-V as the virtual hypervisor, this doesn’t have to be the case

Microsoft have done a real good job of “growing up” these last couple of years and have finally embraced the fact that data centres are heterogeneous environments. So while I’ve mentioned the best products (sorry, couldn’t resist) you can still use the System Center tools like Virtual Machine manager to manage your VMWare or Citrix hypervisors and Operations Manager to monitor your Solaris and Unix servers while Orchestrator can use integration packs to work with other vendor systems such as BMC Remedey and HP Openview etc

Why is this worth mentioning? Because it means that to implement a private cloud and reap the benefits doesn’t require a complete rip and replace of your current infrastructure and the costs associated. You can introduce the tools, methodologies and principals behind the cloud now as you plan towards full implementation (Based on Hyper-V et al of course!)

Finally, as we start to move towards the release of the System Center 2012 wave of products, the dedication Microsoft has towards enabling businesses to implement private clouds and also link them with public clouds is very evident with new product features such as Virtual Machine Manager 2012's ability to provision storage and networking elements, Operation Manager 2012's increased Networking & Application Monitoring along with more Azure integration, Configuration Manager 2012's more user centric approach and it's support of "IT Consumerisation" and Service Manager 2012's expansion of ITIL/MOF process support with Service Requests and the further integration with Orchestrator to help with automation of processes all show Microsoft is serious about making this all a reality, and achievable for all, not just the biggest companies around with the most cash as these solutions scale both up and down.

This is only scratching the surface of what the System Center products can do, areas like reporting, SLA management, patching, baselines, tuning etc etc would make this post just too long to read.

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