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Hybrid cloud - Missing automation link Part 2

If you read my previous post (part 1), I kind of concluded that you had 2 choices. Of course the answer is somewhere less binary and perhaps in between the two options. This post is another discussion about where we are headed in an non-technical way, I hope.

"Reflecting on my future" - A scenario

"So you are sitting there enjoying your coffee and analyzing what has happened in your datacenter the last couple of years. You have "virtualized" the network and the load balancers (you do use Citrix Netscalers right). Your Netscalers are happily living their life as virtual appliances on your hypervisor along with the rest of the windows/linux servers. Your clients are being served by System Center Configuration Manager. The users can deploy their new laptops from SCCM and use the Software Catalog to install the software packages they need. Your servers and SNMP network devices are monitored by System Center Operations Manager and you have implemented System Center Service Manager with ITIL-processes throughout the enterprise. Of course SCSM is using System Center Orchestrator to provide automation for all those self-service options you have deployed in SCSM-web portal. Creating new virtual machines is a breeze with the standard template you have available in your tool that manages your hypervisor environment. You are happy, the users are happy and most importantly the “El Presidente” is happy. Life is good, however you wonder about the future. What will it bring in the next couple of years?"

Overall I bet a huge number of companies are in a very similar context or "location" in regards to how their IT-solution is setup/configured/running. Some will have linux computers/servers, some will have additional client management solutions present, some will have huge Citrix/Terminal-servers farms and some is already running their system on Azure.

The future

Two things will happen going forward:
  1. Windows Azure Pack (WAP) and/or VMM or some other product like it with similar features
  2. "Efficiently manage and configure your datacenter"
Some will do the first item and live happily with it further into the future. Others will do both and be very happy and never look back. WAP with System Center is Hybrid Cloud. It is super flexible and crazy powerful. Wait, why does not WAP give us efficiency in the datacenter? Glad you asked.
First and foremost let's dive into WAP/Virtual Machine Manager and look at a few things from the IaaS perspective:
  • You can create templates and deploy VMs with roles/features etc
  • You can create VMroles (VM Gallery) which defines the basis for creating VMs (Resource Definitions) and installation of applications, roles/features, deployment script (pre/post). This is very powerful and plugs right into the Azure Portal where you assign it to a "plan" your tenants subscribe to.
Screenshot from Azure:

Now what happens when you need to upgrade one of those gallery items (new versions and stuff). Sure, you create a new definition based upon the previous version, upload it to VMM/WAP and your tenants can do an upgrade right in the tenants portal:


You can even downgrade after you upgraded if you are not happy with the new version. As I said, it is super powerful. Here is a screenshot of the Virtual Machine Role Authoring Tool:


I have probably not even scratched the surface of what is possible in WAP. Please check it out for your self.

Like with Azure, if you consume an standalone web-site (Paas), you are not responsible for maintenance of the underlying VM(s) required to host your web-site. If you decide to order an virtual machine (VM) and configure IIS with all the bells and whistles it requires, you may be responsible for updates related to the operating system, features, IIS-components, .net etc. Actually if you buy a VM (Iaas) on Microsoft Azure, you are responsible for applying updates to that VM. Microsoft will not do it for you.

Ask yourself one question. How are Microsoft capable of maintaining/updating all those VMs hosting the standalone Azure websites, since they are responsible for keeping it up to date? You probably guessed it, they use automation everywhere, on everything all the time.

The missing link and challenge

Now here is the puzzle that is troubling me. Why does WAP/VMM NOT give us a efficient way of controlling the configuration of our datacenter? How can you make sure that the configuration laid out in your templates/VMroles stays the way you said it should? That is where our good friend Desired State Configuration (DSC) walks in the door and saves the day. Why? Because that is what DSC does. It configures your node(s) using a declarative language and makes sure that that configuration is applied ALL the time. So with WAP/VMM and DSC you have fulfilled both items on our list and you can regain your focus on other important business development projects.


It is hard not like the huge opportunities that comes with this combination. I challenge you to investigate an come up with an better mixture of tools that enables you to take control of the datacenter to the same extent. Next post coming up will talk about general strategy in automation and why you should automate you infrastructure.


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