If you’ve ever looked around the VMware vSphere client and looked at the ‘Edit Settings’ properties of a Virtual Machine, you may have come across the vCPU Settings.

You’ll see that there is a couple of settings that, at first, may seem either counter intuitive or plainly confusing. In the vCPU settings, you will notice that there is an option to set the number of virtual sockets and another option to set the number of cores. This option came with vSphere 4.1 in the advanced parameters section and the more upfront and central with the vCPU ‘Edit Settings’ GUI in vSphere 5.0 and hardware version 8.

But why, you may ask, is the point? I mean, after all a virtual CPU is a virtual CPU and they are all created equal?

Well yes… And no…

First of all, remember that regardless of sockets or cores, you cannot assign more virtual CPU’s than you have physical CPU’s in your host. It’s against the law… Of physics, unless you’re using hyper threading, but even if you add up all of those, you still cannot have more then that!  :-)

But back to the point of the post, why sockets and cores, instead of just vCPU’s?

VMware included this in order to allow their customers to save money on either Operating System or software licensing costs. Some, but not all, software is charged for by the socket, both for purchasing and support. This can very quickly get expensive. vSphere gives you the opportunity to gain an advantage with the vCPU setup and be within the legal licensing requirements for your OS or software vendor of choice!

Of course, if you have to pay for the license on a per core basis, then sorry, but you’re out of luck! :-(

 

 

 

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Virtual versus Physical versus Virtual

Anyone who regularly designs IT infrastructures will tell you that gathering the requirements for the project is of utmost importance. How much compute power, what quantity of RAM is needed and what about the capacity and performance of the Storage Area Network?

You can find lots of publications, books, blogs and white papers on what to measure, how to investigate and methods of calculation about all parts of the virtualisation stack. This is all extremely useful and goes a long way to get the correctly sized and designed virtual infrastructure for your client.

One thing that I don’t see a lot of is the strategy on what to virtualise and what to ‘physicalise’ (keep or return to physical) when addressing the requirements of the client. Very often, there is little or no technical reason why something or indeed pretty much anything cannot be virtualised.

Today, it’s not just the compute, RAM or storage that can be virtualised. You can now virtualise almost anything, such as;

  • Firewalls (including application aware firewalls)
  • Load Balancers
  • NAS Devices
  • Backup Devices
  • Web Gateway
  • Email Gateway
  • Nested Virtualisation (Virtual Servers within Virtual Servers)

There are over 1,200 virtual appliances available for download from the VMware here.

But, just because you can virtualise a server or network device, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. I’m a big fan of virtualisation and I’m quite happy to virtualise as much as possible, as long as it suits the requirements. However, not all clients share the same sentiment and it’s rarely for technical reasons. For instance, I had a client who was 100% physical and wanted to create an agile, 100% virtual infrastructure. His business needed to modernise in order to keep ahead of his competition, who had already started their journey onto the path towards virtualisation.

His intention was to leapfrog over them and get to a virtualised solution as quick as he comfortably could. One issue though, he was happy with the idea of a virtual server, running on vSphere 5.1, although he knew that firewalls, load balancers and web gateways could also be virtualised, he didn’t like that idea. He wanted to see physical appliances in his data centre and really wanted to see those flashing lights. Something you cannot get with a virtual appliance.

This isn’t an issue from a technical perspective, but it’s something that you need to be aware of when gathering requirements. The comfort level of the client may not be at the same advanced dizzy heights that you, as a virtualisation specialist, would happily live with.

It’s not virtual versus physical versus virtual. Sometimes it virtual, sometimes it’s physical. As long as we are delivering what the client wants, then we’ve done our job!

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BaaS – Backup as a Service

This is a service that provides users with a system for backup, storage and recovery of computer digital files. Cloud based backup services typically provide their customers with a client based software application which runs on the end user’s computer. This application is usually free to use and  collects, collates, compresses and encrypts the data or files to be backed up and then will transfer the data to the cloud providers backend systems.

Cloud based backups usually run on a scheduled basis, typically overnight and only copies the changed data (otherwise known as deltas) up to the cloud storage providers

Small businesses often use this type of backup as either an alternative backup method to on-site disk or tape based backup or as an additional backup solution to compliment the current on-site backup.

The billing model is often ‘pay as you go’ where you either have an allocated total storage amount, for which a monthly amount is paid or a per unit price (usually in Gigabytes) for the amount you store, but have either no limit or a high limit on what you can consume. This makes Backup as a Service an attractive model for the scalable and elastic sizing.

Enterprises can also utilise this method of backup, but they usually have an on-premise device, which operates as a local disk based cache, with regular updates to the back end storage. This allows for a quick restore as it uses the local cached copy first and if this isn’t available, then it’ll download the data/file from the backed up cloud storage. For enterprises, this often replaces tape based backup solutions and removes the reliance on regular  (usually daily) off-site storage options (such as Iron Mountain) where tapes are swapped on a regular basis and removed from site for secure storage. Backup as a Service can mean a big change to enterprise backup processes.

 

 

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SaaS – Software as a Service

Software as a Service is currently the largest sector of the cloud offerings. This is very much an on demand software service model, supplied by application service providers (ASP’s). SaaS is usually delivered via a web browser from a centrally hosted location, with the hosting provider  controlling the software and data. The ASP usually controls the software updates and data backups on behalf of the customer.

SaaS is now a very common model for the delivery of business applications such as;

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Management Information Systems (MIS)
  • Enterprise Resource Management (ERP)
  • Finance and Accountancy
  • Office packages (Word and Excel equivalents)
  • Software Development

The deployment of Software as a Service is direct to the end user and as such, is immediately available for use. All you need is a computer with a supported web browser and a method of payment, usually a credit card. This payment method allows for a different licensing approach, instead of the usual one-off up front payment (possibly with annual support costs), SaaS providers usually offer a subscription fee on a monthly or annual basis and normally charge for each individual employee or agent of the customer who has specific named user access to the software.

There is also a free or freemium model of SaaS, which can be delivered either via the web browser or more likely, delivered via a smartphone or tablet app, with the backed data delivered via an SaaS cloud delivery. Sometimes the entire SaaS offering is free and sometimes the first user is free, with subsequent users charged on an annual or monthly basis or a basic service is free with the option to upgrade to further or better services for a fee.

Some of the SaaS providers are as follows;

  •  Apple iCloud/iTunes/iUniversity
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Google Apps
  • Evernote
  • Salesforc
  • Microsoft Windows Azure
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Rackspace
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IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a Service is the most basic of cloud service models and provides either physical or (more likely) virtualised compute, storage, network and other resources. A virtualised compute resource will be be running on a hypervisor. The premise of IaaS is to offer the customer an easy to use, elastic and automated way of instantiating virtual servers and appliances (such as firewalls or load balancers etc).

The IaaS vendor typically offers an additional resource of a catalogue or library of virtual machine images, block and file based storage, network connectivity (private and public) and software bundles, ready for the customer to utilise and quickly build their required infrastructure. These resources are available on demand from the vendors pool of of infrastructure assets. For connectivity into the vendors data centre, customers can connect via the Internet, usually over a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or via a dedicated leased line.

Cloud vendors who offer IaaS typically charge for the usage of the different components that go together to construct the overall infrastructure on a performance/capacity, over a time basis. The higher the performance or greater the capacity that customers order, the greater the unit price. Also, the unit prices are normally charged on a small unit of time, usually per hour or per minute. This allows a greater granularity of control over the operational costs of running the cloud infrastructure.

Typical IaaS providers are;

  • Amazon EC2
  • Google Compute Engine
  • iland
  • Joyent
  • Rackspace
  • Savvis
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PaaS – Platform as a Service

This is a category of cloud computing which offers a computing platform (or a solutions stack) as a service. This service model facilitates the deployment of applications, without the cost, complexity or delays involved in buying, provisioning and managing the underlying hardware and software required, or have  to be concerned with the provisioning of the hosting.

PaaS tends to be marketed towards developers and programmers, as they allow a quick and easy way to develop and test code and applications, with little or no obstructions from a typical enterprise IT setup.

The value proposition of PaaS can work for both solitary developers or multi-national, global teams of developers for large enterprise. Paas provides;

Ease of Use

Simplicity

Automation

Multi-Tenant Architecture

The ability to develop, test and then deploy and host all on one platform

Web based creation tools

Cost savings

Shorter development lifecycles

PaaS can be very cost effective and quick to setup and start using. Some examples of PaaS providers are;

Microsoft Azure

Google App Engine

Amazon Web Services

Engine Yard

AppScale

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Tools for VMware

This is a growing list of useful tools for VMware, let me know if you have any suggestions for additional tools.

 

Monitoring and/or Healthcheck

Alan Renouf – Daily VMware Check

Solarwinds – Free VM Monitor

VMware – vCenter Compliance Checker

 

Scripts

Graham F French – Shutdown/Startup 550 VMs in one shot – Scripts

PowerWF – PowerSE Visual PowerShell

VMware – PowerCLi Documentation

 

 

 

 

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Insert word [Here] “As A Service”

I had a question the other day. What is cloud, more specifically, what do I class as cloud? Perhaps the correct answer would be, “Well, it depends”, which is the typical consultants answer. But it’s more difficult to quantify. Because what cloud is, or means, really does depend on who you ask. There are different interpretations of cloud, but I want to look at the Insert word [Here] “As A Service”.

Some examples of what you usually see is as follows:

  • PaaS (Platform as a Service)
  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
  • Saas (Software as a Service)
  • BaaS (Backup as a Service)

There’s a variation on a theme of  ”as a Service”, but there are some general principles.

  • Priced on a unit usage basis. This could be storage, compute, network usage or time basis, sometimes a combination of these factors
  • Multi-tenant shared architectures, this drives the cost efficiencies for the vendor and you, as the client
  • Security is generally better then most in-house organisations
  • Updates from the vendor are regularly pushed into the environment
  • They rely on an Internet connection
  • Security services may have access to your data without your knowledge or consent

I’ll be explaining each part of the above “As a Service” models in later posts.

 

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Where did the Cloud come from?

A brief history of time on the origins of the phrase ‘Cloud’

I talk to all sorts of people about cloud computing. Some have heard of it, but few rarely understand it. Even those that work in the IT industry have issues with the basic concepts. In a series of blogs about this subject, we are going to explore what cloud computing really is. Ironically, a lot of us are already using cloud based services, but are doing so without realising it. More of this later, but in the meantime, lets look at where the term of cloud came from…

Why ‘Cloud’?

The term of ‘Cloud’ is used nowadays as a metaphor for the internet, based on a drawing of a cloud to represent the Internet. It originally was used to represent the telephone network!

Below is a simple computer network drawing to illustrate what the Cloud is.

 

SimplisticCloud

 

In this example the people on the left are connecting the the web servers on the far right. In order to do this, they are using the Internet, which is represented by a drawing of a Cloud. We use a Cloud to represent all of the networking and firewall infrastructure that we know nothing about. We just know that it’s there and it works. We don’t need to know how it works or what it is. It’s just a ‘Cloud’ of networked devices, otherwise known as the ‘Internet’!

And it’s as simple as that!

So next time you are talking to someone about ‘Cloud’, you can tell them why it’s called that!

Trivia

The first scholarly use of the term ‘Cloud Computing’ was in a 1997 lecture by Ramnath Chellappa. However, the underlying concept of Cloud Computing can be traced back to the 1960′s when John McCarthy suggested that “Computation may someday be organised as a public utility”. The term of ‘Cloud’ was coined by telecommunications companies in the 1990′s as a demarcation point between infrastructure that belonged to them and infrastructure that belonged to the user.

 

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Do you want woofers and tweeters?

Sometimes comedy can be prescient and timely and teach us a thing or two…

Lessons can be learned from the most unlikely of places, this is a typical example “Gramophone”

What does this tell us?

Whilst Grandad doesn’t need to be a record player expert, he should at least understand some of the technology that he is talking about.

First of all asking if they sell gramophones and then ‘what do I do about with my old 78′s’ doesn’t endear him to those ‘subject matter experts’ who are mercilessly ripping him apart. Then, they continue asking irrelevant questions, trying to catch him out (do you want an amp?), whilst not offering any assistance (No, no clues!).

Regardless of your technical ability, it’s always better to have at least an appreciation of the technologies involved, which is why we started this website, the naked cloud guy!

We don’t expect any provider of Cloud Computing or Virtualisation to be asking if you want a bag over your head, but it’s always better to be prepared to know the answer.

You never know when someone will ask if you want slimline salad dressing….! :-)

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