Tip

Hyper-V 3.0 has all you need to build a private cloud

Organizations anxious to reap the benefits of cloud computing but reluctant to give up control of critical resources are building private clouds. Deploying a private cloud provides cloud-like functionality in a secure on-premises environment. But when it comes to actually building that private cloud, many administrators are left scratching their heads.

One problem is a private cloud seems to mean something different to almost everyone. So, the first step in building a private cloud is to define some goals and expected functionality for your environment. After doing so, you can determine how to use Microsoft Hyper-V to reach those goals.

A private cloud must possess the following three characteristics or capabilities:

  1. A private cloud should treat server hardware as a pool of shared resources.
  2. A good private cloud should include a self-service function, meaning an authorized end user can request resources and deploy preconfigured virtual machines (VMs) with minimal IT involvement.
  3. A private cloud should provide administrators with a way to track which resources they are using. Using

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  1. chargeback or showback is useful for capacity planning and to track costs.

More on Hyper-V 3.0

Spotlight on Hyper-V 3.0 high availability and redundancy
New virtual data center design decisions with Hyper-V 3.0
The hardware requirements for testing Hyper-V 3.0

If you consider these three primary characteristics of private cloud, then Hyper-V 3.0 does not build a private cloud; the software does not include an automated process. Still, it's possible to build a fully functional private cloud based on Hyper-V.

Resource pooling in a private cloud

The first requirement of building a private cloud involves treating physical server hardware as a pool of resources an admin can dynamically provision. Hyper-V 3.0 actually makes it relatively easy to meet this. Here are some examples of how Hyper-V can pool these resources:

Hyper-V 3.0 separates the Startup Memory setting from the Minimum Memory setting, allowing some of the startup memory to be reclaimed once the VM becomes idle. And this enables far greater VM density. On the flip side, Hyper-V 3.0 allows for NUMA spanning -- a single VM can access memory from multiple NUMA nodes. In this instance, the VM can access more memory than would be otherwise possible.

  • Network: VMs connect to a virtual network rather than attaching directly to a physical network. This virtual network is based on the use of a virtual switch that usually connects to a physical network interface card (NIC).
    In Hyper-V 3.0, the virtual switch is extensible, which is useful for network management and monitoring. Hyper-V can make use of virtual LANs to isolate certain types of network traffic to a dedicated virtual network. At the physical level, multiple NICs can be teamed together to form a single logical NIC. This logical NIC is fault tolerant and provides higher network bandwidth than would be possible using a single physical NIC.
  • Storage: Hyper-V has always supported the use of thinly provisioned virtual hard drives, but combining Hyper-V 3.0 with Windows Server 2012 makes it possible to virtualize physical storage. Windows Server 2012 offers a new feature called Storage Spaces that allows you to add multiple physical hard disks to a storage pool. This storage pool can provide the required fault tolerance and capacity to the entire virtualization infrastructure.
  • Memory: The concept of dynamic memory was first introduced in Hyper-V 2.0, but has been enhanced in Hyper-V 3.0. In Hyper-V 2.0 the Minimum Memory setting had to meet the amount of memory a VM required at startup. However, VMs often consume more memory at startup than they do when in an idle state.
    Hyper-V 3.0 separates the Startup Memory setting from the Minimum Memory setting, allowing some of the startup memory to be reclaimed once the VM becomes idle. And this enables far greater VM density. On the flip side, Hyper-V 3.0 allows for NUMA spanning -- a single VM can access memory from multiple NUMA nodes. In this instance, the VM can access more memory than would be otherwise possible.

Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0 and self-service provisioning

The second requirement to building a private cloud is that authorized users should be able to request and provision resources with minimal IT involvement. This functionality is not built into Hyper-V, however; Microsoft offers an add-on for System Center Virtual Machine Manager called the Self Service Portal.

The Self Service Portal acts as a Web interface that automatically deploys preconfigured VM user requests. You will also need Microsoft's Deployment Toolkit, which helps you create VM images users can automatically deploy using the Self Service Portal.

Tracking resource use with the Self Service Portal

The final requirement of a private cloud is the ability to track resource consumption. The Self Service Portal in Hyper-V 3.0 includes a chargeback mechanism. This mechanism lets you specify a price for various resources and allocate a cost per user or a cost per department based on the resources consumed when a user requests a VM.

This was first published in September 2012

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