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vCloud Express: Step by Step

By David Davis

In my post Cloud Adoption for SMBs and End Users – Easy and Affordable, I talked about how it makes perfect sense that SMBs move to the cloud. vCloud Express, offered by a number of providers, is an ideal service for SMBs (and enterprises alike) because it's quick, easy, and pay-as-you-go on a credit card.

It had been some time since I tried out vCloud Express so I was thankful when recently I had the opportunity to try out vCloud Express from Terremark. Quickly, I found out that vCloud Express had grown up a lot since I last saw it. Before I show you how to get started with vCloud Express, here are a few things that you should know:

  • vCloud Express is no-commitment & pay as you go with a credit card.
  • vCloud Express is designed to be easy to use (which you'll see below).
  • Unlike Amazon EC2, Terremark vCloud Express is VMware-based, supports more than 450 guest operating systems, supports up to 8-way 16GB VMs, supports Windows 2008 and SQL 2008, offers hardware load balancing and fiber-attached persistent storage.
  • Prices start at 3.6 cents per computing hour.

With that out of the way, let me show you how you can get started with vCloud Express and try it for yourself.

Honestly, I have used a lot of online services and Terremark has done a great job of making "Infrastructure as a Service / IaaS" super-easy. Here it is, step by step:

1. Go to the vCloud Express from Terremark page and click Order Now  to go to the signup page.

2. Fill out the New User Signup & activate your account.

3. At this point, you'll need to provide a credit card to Terremark to bill your per hour usage on.

4. When you Sign In, you'll be brought to the Resources page so click on Servers to get started creating your first server.

5. At this point, you have a number of options. You can create Rows and Groups to help organize servers if you'll have more than a couple of servers. However, minimally, if you're just going to create one server like I am then you can select either Create Server or Create Blank Server. The difference between these two is that "Create Server" creates a new server from pre-built templates where "Create Blank Server" does what it says and creates an empty VM where you would install your own OS. In my case, I want to demonstrate a VM that has a pre-built OS (a template) so we'll choose Create Server. (note that we could even create a server with an OS and a SQL database).

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6. This brings up the Create Server Wizard that will guide us through the process. First we need to specify the type of VM (OS, OS & Database, or Cohesive FT). I specified OS only then set my OS to Windows 2008 Standard R2 64-bit. The only servers that I saw with additional monthly fees were the SQL database servers.

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7. Next, I had to specify the number of virtual processors (VPU) and the amount of RAM that I wanted this server to have. Notice how as the CPU and RAM rises, so does the cost per hour of this VM (also add in the cost for the virtual hard drive).

 
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8. From here, I specified the server name, admin password, and IP settings. Image4
9. Next, I had to specify what row and group this server should be contained in (I created new rows and groups then named them whatever I wanted).

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10. Finally, I reviewed what we were about to deploy (including the associated costs), opted to power on the server, and accepted the license agreement. Image6
At this point, I was told that the new server could take up to 45 minutes to be created however, after just 5 minutes my new Windows server in the cloud was ready to be used.

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       11. Next, select the server and click Connect. Likely you will have to install the VMware MKS plugin, as I did, to use the console. I did have some trouble connecting to the server console however, I was successful when using FireFox, installing the MKS plug-in as directed, and connecting to the VPN with VPN Connect (a SSL VPN that required me to install the Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client). Here's what my web console looked like:

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12. From the server console, I updated the VMware Tools by mounting the provided ISO, installing, and rebooting.

Note that you aren't recommended to use this web-based server console for daily administration, only to get the server up a running to the point that you can connect to it via RDP.

After only about 15 minutes of using vCloud Express, I have a working Windows 2008 R2 server with VMware Tools installed, but what remains?

  • Configure Outbound and Inbound Internet Access
  • Installing Applications

I will cover these in a separate vCloud blog post so look for part 2.

In summary, think about this – never before could you have a new Windows or Linux server, up and running on the Internet, in under 15 minutes, and only pay a few cents per hour for the resources that you use? vCloud Express is revolutionary in its simplicity, affordability, and easy of use.

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.

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