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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Middle Management in the Cloud

By John Ellis, Chief vCloud Architect at BlueLock

A cloud based infrastructure can save an organization a great deal of time and effort in building servers and provisioning new resources. While this can be fantastic for the build-out phase of a project, how can a virtual datacenter make maintenance easier? We may perform deployments a couple times a year, but deployments and configuration tweaks may occur much more often.

We have seen how vCloud API can expose more of our data center infrastructure, not only by interacting with the vCloud API directly but with third-party application frameworks as well. This same exposure can help us manage running vApps and keep them up-to-date.

Programmatic Configuration and Management

There exist several commercial and open-source applications that help with application management, but a particular cloud-ready framework by the name of Pallet has gained increasing interest by organizations embracing DevOps. Pallet is a tool that allows functional programming to drive the deployment, configuration and management of cloud infrastructure.

Take the following example of Pallet deploying a web application to a given server:

(core/defnode webapp

"Jettison our fancy Web application into tcServer"

{:inbound-ports [8080 22]} ;; 8080 for tcServer, 22 for SSH

:bootstrap (resource/phase
    (crates/bootstrap))

:configure (resource/phase
    (crates/tcServer))

:stop-tcServer (resource/phase
    (service/service "tcServer" :action :stop)))

:deploy (resource/phase
    (crates/tcServer-deploy

    "../artifacts/awesome_webapp-1.0.war"))

:start-tcServer (resource/phase

    (service/service "tcServer" :action :start)))

In only a few lines of code we can configure a new tcServer application server and deploy a Web application into our running virtual machine. Pallet is even smart enough to discern if tcServer has been previously installed and skip directly to the “deploy” section.

Another very robust solution for management is Chef, an agent-based infrastructure automation toolchain that can manage nearly every tweak and build under the sun. One could bake the Chef agent into your vApp template, then have each new template announce itself to a Chef master server. This master server can then cook up new virtual machine configurations using “recipes,” a series of instructions that edit configuration files, copy packages or execute commands. Chef offers centralized management of your infrastructure and role-based management for each machine in your data center.

Automated Deployments

If your primary focus is managing deployments, both Cargo and Murder can push out new code quickly and effectively. Cargo is largely geared towards the rapid deployment of applications into managed Java containers, while Murder is a general-purpose deployment tool constructed by Twitter and based on BitTorrent for highly distributed deployments to hundreds or thousands of nodes.

Pallet, Chef, Cargo and Murder all share a goal: allow for push-button deployment of your applications. A single command should ultimately allow you to roll out changes and even revert them in case problems occur. Manual configuration hacking or file transfers should be a thing of the past, and instead a repeatable, automated process should make deployments become a routine process. vCloud Datacenter adds the level of consistency to your infrastructure that is normally so difficult to enforce, allowing a uniform management structure over an entire virtual data center.

An agile IT operation requires portable machine management, rapid provisioning and automated management. The realities of data center management make this a challenge in the physical realm – sifting through a rat's nest of ethernet cable or trying to find A/B power outlets can make rapid provisioning a daunting task. Moving business operations that require more dexterity into the cloud opens the door to the freedom that DevOps can bring, and can tear down the walls between developers and IT operations.

Automation in vCloud Datacenter: Rabid, Rapid Provisioning

By John Ellis, Chief vCloud Architect at BlueLock

I must admit, I'm one of those guys who can't stop checking the shipping status of my online orders. When order five hundred pounds of rare earth magnets from my favorite online retailer I want them delivered to my front door in record time.

That same impatience is what has driven my reliance on cloud computing. When I want a server I don't want to wait for a pallet to hit the loading dock. I want a server racked and ready to go now. If I need
twenty servers because Oprah is going to demo my site tomorrow I simply can't wait for something to be assembled, tested, shipped and mounted.

Leveraging the OVF Standard to Deploy vApps

The earlier post of this series highlighted vCloud Datacenter's ability to leverage the OVF standard for
keeping ready-made virtual applications (vApps). There are two routes to deploy these vApps: using
vCloud Director management or leveraging the vCloud API.

The simplest method of deployment is via vCloud Director. Once an OVF has been uploaded to my
cloud I can simply select the uploaded image from my software catalog and deploy it into my virtual
datacenter. Network security, IP addresses, hardware profiles and virtual machines remain intact and
configured exactly as when I left it. If you work with a service provider that efficiently manages
storage offloading and image management a new server could be yours in mere minutes.

Deploy vApp

Let us take the act of provisioning one step further: now that we can have a number of running servers in mere minutes, perhaps server construction and destruction has become a routine task. Perhaps instead of promoting application binaries you now promote entire vApps into production. Maybe your quality assurance needs a pristine, new environment every morning. By sending some simple commands via the vCloud API we can easily create a repeatable script to provision vApps within our
cloud.

The vCloud API has a REST-based HTTP interface, meaning we can easily use utilities like curl to send XML commands via POST to a URL. For example, vApp deployment could be condensed into two lines:

curl -u 'AwesomeGuy@MyCloud' -b cookies -c cookies -v -d ""
http://api.bluelock.com/api/v1.0/login

curl -b cookies -c cookies -v -d "@DeploymentConfig.xml"
http://api.bluelock.com/api/v1.0/vdc/5/action/instantiateVAppTemplate

One operation allows you to login to a cloud environment, the other deploys a vApp with a configuration defined within the file DeploymentConfig.xml. The latter call will return a response letting you know the success or failure of your submission.

There are steps beyond raw XML over HTTP. The vCloud SDKs available from VMware provide bindings for Java, PHP and .NET so that you can create your own applications that fully leverage the vCloud API.

With the vCloud SDK it becomes a fairly straight-forward process to construct applets, desktop applications or Web applications that allow you to take control of your cloud.

Multiple Clouds

If you ever want to manage your application across multiple clouds, libraries and frameworks such as
jclouds and libcloud can even span a myriad of providers to give you a single programmatic interface to your infrastructure. Deploy virtual machines in your Indianapolis office, St. Petersburg office and Milan with a single keystroke if you so desire!

DevOps

Once you take the step into creating simple scripts or fancy desktop apps you enter the realm of DevOps – a new process of combining development and infrastructure operations into a cohesive whole. The basic DevOps premise is simply so: attempt to perform production deployments without developers and IT administrators getting into fistfights. By creating applications that provide a repeatable, consistent interface into deployments we reduce the chance of introducing human error or straying from the beaten path. Operations can continue along with a stable environment while developers get their weekly code pushes out the door. DevOps doesn't just include provisioning vApps however – it also includes configuration management of these virtual services.

As a final overview of vCloud Datacenter's IT agility we will see how we can better manage our virtual data center.

VMware at the Cloud Security Alliance Summit

Matthew D. Sarrel, Sarrel Group

The RSA conference is usually the biggest security practitioner event in the country and this year was no exception.  As I discuss in my posting on CIOUpdate, major themes at 2011’s show included protecting virtual environments, enabling and securing mobile devices, GRC, and protecting data at rest and in transit.  A lot of attention was devoted to protecting clouds – both internal and external – as evidenced by a full day Cloud Security Alliance summit.

Richard McAniff, chief development officer and co-president at VMware, spoke during the Cloud Security Alliance about adopting security in virtual environments. He said that there are three distinct phases common to many company’s virtualization projects. Capital expenditure, resiliency, and agility all affect how security is implemented by IT and perceived by end users.

“We need to think about security in a fundamentally different way,” McAniff said, noting that historically, security systems were built on the notion of static infrastructure with applications built on top of it. Cloud computing and virtualization change that as the movement of security policies become automated and users are connected to information regardless of physical infrastructure.  Virtual environments are more dynamic and security controls must adapt to suit this shift.

In order to protect information and users in the cloud and in virtual environments, McAniff said vendors need to work together to create a security ecosystem.  This is idea was explored in greater depth by RSA executive chairman Art Coviello as he discussed the “RSA Cloud Trust Authority”, an upcoming set of services that RSA and VMware will launch to provide greater visibility, control, and security to cloud computing initiatives.  The first set of products and services will roll out in the second half of 2011 and will include partners such as Cisco, Citrix, and Intel.

In McAniff’s words, “If we’re going to work together to keep the bad guys out…we need a little help from everyone.”

Matthew D. Sarrel (or Matt Sarrel) is executive director of Sarrel Group, a technology product testing, editorial services, and technical marketing consulting company.  He also holds editorial positions at pcmag.com, eweek, GigaOM, and Allbusiness.com, and blogs at TopTechDog.

Interview with Steve Jin on vSphere API, State of the Cloud

By David Davis

Recently at VMware Partner Exchange 2011, I had the honor of meeting VMware's Steve Jin. If you have read the vCloud blog at all in the past, likely you have read a post from Steve or visited his blog DoubleCloud.org.

I sat down with Steve, learned a lot about him, and learned what makes him so successful.

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Who is Steve Jin?

Steve works as a developer for VMware and has been in app development for over 16 years.

He lives in the Silicon Valley area, he is an avid sports fan, swimmer, and former track runner.

Steve has written many critical pieces of code for vSphere but most impressive is that Steve is the author of the open source vSphere Java API (aka VI Java).

What is the VMware vSphere Java API?

For someone (like me) who doesn't write code everyday and isn't 100% up to speed on VMware app development, I asked Steve what the importance was for the Java API.

Here's what I found out:

  • The VMware Java API is used by a number of internal VMware apps as well as Hyperic.
  • The Java API is also used by many third-party apps from HP, Brocade, and NetApp (to name a few at http://vijava.sourceforge.net/poweredby.php).
  • The Java API has over 12,000 downloads and more every day.
  • Some VMware customers that use the Java API are large banks and telecoms, as it’s an easy way for a Java developer to interface with vSphere.
  • After it had been available for some time, the Java API was released as a "fling" (called "VI Java" from Labs.VMware.com and it had been the highest voted fling and now only trailing behind the popular VMware Admin fling – VMware Guest Console (VGC).
  • The Java API homepage and download site is: http://vijava.sourceforge.net/

I asked Steve what the best way was, for someone like me, to learn how to use his Java API and that led us to his book…

Nov-Post4 - Interview with VMware's Steve Jin - rev 2-2

VMware VI and vSphere SDK: Managing the VMware Infrastructure and vSphere

Steve is the author of an excellent book on using the VMware VI and vSphere SDK. Honestly, this is the only book of its kind. I found out that this book is ideal for the Java developer who wants to write code that talks to vSphere. He covers how to create vSphere client plug-ins and how to write applications that manage the VMware infrastructure.

State of the Cloud, According to Steve

We hear all about "the cloud" from marketing people but when I get the chance to talk to developer who actually writes the code and interfaces behind the scenes, I'm always interested to ask them what the state of the cloud is, from their perspective.

About the cloud, Steve said there are two different types of developers – users/general code developers vs. developers writing apps to interface with and manage VMware products. If you are using the cloud as a general code developer, you don't care much where your work is stored and where your apps are being tested. To help your development, you want to know SpringSource products like Spring MVC, RabbitMQ.

On the other hand, those writing code that interfaces with VMware products are critically interested in the cloud. They want to learn about the VMware APIs (like the vSphere API, vCloud API). VMware cloud strategy includes vCloud Directory and APIs, but it is not limited to that. In fact, you can build a small scale cloud with vSphere as well.

Summary

Overall, Steve is excited about the quickly changing landscape of cloud computing and continues to work with VMware APIs and SDKs to make applications that interface with vSphere and applications that run in the cloud "just work" from the perspective of end-users and VMware Admins (like me).

It was an honor to meet Steve and I really appreciate the time he took from his schedule to do this interview!

You can learn more about Steve by following him on Twitter at @sjin2008 or read his blog at DoubleCloud.org.

Couldn't attend PEX? Make sure that you have VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas on your calendar for August 29-September 1, 2011 because now is the time to start planning!

David Davis is a VMware Evangelist and vSphere Video Training Author for Train Signal. He has achieved CCIE, VCP,CISSP, and vExpert level status over his 15+ years in the IT industry. David has authored hundreds of articles on the Internet and nine different video training courses for TrainSignal.com including the popular vSphere video training package. Learn more about David at his blog or on Twitter and check out a sample of his VMware vSphere video training course from TrainSignal.com.

VMware Partner Exchange 2011 In Summary

By David Davis

Continuing from where I left off in my last post (VMware Partner Exchange 2011 – Get Ready!), I attended Partner Exchange (PEX) last month (February 7-11) in Orlando, FL. In this post, I'm going to cover what happened at PEX, what I learned, and what made it such a great show.

Day By Day Summary of VMware Partner Exchange 2011

Officially, PEX runs for only 3 days (Wednesday – Friday) but boot camps and training classes actually start on Sunday before PEX. From my perspective, here's a breakdown of what happened, day by day, at PEX 2011:

Sunday-Tuesday

I arrived at the show on Monday around and immediately got my conference badge and backpack.

Nov-Post3 - VMware Partner Exchange 2011 In Summary-1

From there, I went directly to the VCE bootcamp to learn about what makes VCE different and, technically, what makes it so powerful (blog post on the way). I had missed the sales-oriented briefing in the morning (which was fine with me as I'm a techie) so I attended the tech-oriented afternoon session where Steve Phillips, CCIE Emeritus #1504 did a tech deepdive on VCE's VBlocks.

Here I am standing next to a VBlock…

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Others that I talked to that day went to bootcamps from Cisco & HP or attended VMware Education bootcamps like vSphere Design, vCloud Director, or the VCDX workshop – most of which ran from Sunday-Tuesday.

Tuesday

Nov-Post3 - VMware Partner Exchange 2011 In Summary-3

On Tuesday, I attended the morning of the EMC bootcamp where Chad Sakac (@Sakacc of  VirtualGeek.typepad.com) made a very-exciting presentation (his trademark) with special focus on the new EMC VNXe – a new easy to use and affordable storage array from EMC.

By the way, Chad Sakac did a great PEX summary post of his own at his blog.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning was the official show opening so the day started out with the PEX keynote and led to the labs and expo show floor opening.

At the keynote, the tag team of Paul Maritz (CEO) and Dr. Stephen Herrod (CTO) thanked VMware Partners and talked about the tremendous success of the company's new flagship product vCloud Director (which is only 6 months old). From there the heads of VMware's business units took stage. Raghu Rahuram, SVP of Virtualization and Cloud Platforms talked about vCloud. Chris Young, VP of End User Computing covered View, ThinApp, and Project Horizon. Chris stated that the View client for the iPad will be released in the next month. Finally, Todd Neilsen, President of Application Platforms talked about the upcoming vCenter Operations Manager product and the importance of us, as partners and admins, focusing more on providing the applications the business needs & ITaaS, not just "computing". 

Nov-Post3 - VMware Partner Exchange 2011 In Summary-4

I attended a number of great sessions that afternoon including "vCloud Networking Finally Explained" by VMware's Global vCloud Architect, Mike DiPetrillo (@MikeDiPetrillo or his Blog, MikeD'sBlog) where Mike went into detail on how you design and configure networking in a vCloud environment. It is a complex topic that Mike explained so comfortably that I could tell he knew it by heart.

Thursday

The next day started out with another general session where they awarded the VMware partners of the year. Paul Maritz was named the Top Executive of the Year (from a partner perspective) by CRN magazine. I learned that VMware partner programs had a record year in 2010. New desktop virtualization programs were announced starting with the new VMware Certified Associate (VCA) – Desktop certification. Soon there will be a new VMware Certified Professional (VCP) – Desktop followed by a VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) – Desktop. I learned about the various products that make up the VMware vFabric Cloud Application Platform such as tcServer, Gemfire, ERS, Hyperic, and RabbitMQ.

After the general session, I made an attempt at the new VCA-Desktop beta exam and hope to get my results in the next month or so.

That afternoon, I attended some more great sessions (mostly on vCloud) including one of the ones I recommended in my last post – David Hill's (@davehill99 on Twitter who is a VMware Senior vCloud Consultant) Private vCloud Architecture Technical Deepdive (TECH-CLD-300). In that session, I learned about how a vCloud infrastructure is designed including the features and limitations of vCloud Director.

Friday

On the last day of the conference, I attended Tony Dunn and John Troyer's session on how partners can use social media to build their business. It was a fascinating session because I got to learn how VMware uses social media to grow their relationships with partners & end users and because of my huge interest in social media.

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In Summary

With just around 3500 people, attending PEX is much more intimate than VMworld. You get to stop and talk to people more and things are at a slower pace (which can be nice). However, PEX is primarily focused on equipping VMware partners to be technically knowledgeable and prepared to sell VMware's products as effectively as possible (as it should be). At the conference, I was able to fulfill all 5 of my reasons to attend PEX that I listed in my previous post. I learned how to make my company more successful through VMware's product line, learned about new technology (lots of vCloud), networked with the best of the virtualization world (I have pictures with me and amazingly smart guys like Duncan Epping and I was within 20 feet of Dr. Stephen Herrod during the keynote), attempted to get certified (the new VCA-Desktop beta), and go to Disneyland in your spare time (I sponsored a round-the-world beer tour of Epcot one night at PEX). VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) 2011 was an awesome conference and I hope to be able to make every PEX in the future!

 

Couldn't attend PEX? Make sure that you have VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas on your calendar for August 29-September 1, 2011 because now is the time to start planning! 

David Davis is a VMware Evangelist and vSphere Video Training Author for Train Signal. He has achieved CCIE, VCP,CISSP, and vExpert level status over his 15+ years in the IT industry. David has authored hundreds of articles on the Internet and nine different video training courses for TrainSignal.com including the popular vSphere video training package. Learn more about David at his blog or on Twitter and check out a sample of his VMware vSphere video training course from TrainSignal.com.