Data Centers

Self-service cloud: Windows Azure Services for Windows Server (WASWS)

John Joyner completes his series on building and managing a private cloud using the components of System Center 2012 SP1 and Windows Server 2012.

This article concludes a four-part series that walks through a scenario in which the modern IT department in the medium and large enterprise treats internal business units as tenants (or customers) of a central IT department. There first three articles that describe this scenario, built using Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2012, are:

In the third article in this series, a tenant spun up a VM in a service provider data center using Service Provider Foundation (SPF), technology new with release of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1. In this final article, we will provide self-service cloud resources (as the service provider) using recently released technology from Microsoft: Windows Azure Services for Windows Server (WASWS) VM Cloud.

WASWS is a web portal for cloud services and an application programming interface (API) that further abstracts and automates cloud service provider tasks like tenant assignment and managing datacenter resource consumption.

WASWS: A transformational technology platform

Strategically, beyond its use just in the VM Cloud scenario, WASWS has the potential to be the "portal to manage them all", the ultimate end to the "portal sprawl" of the contemporary IT management application landscape. Many IT-Pros get excited about WASWS as soon as they grasp the potential business impact of an extensible, customizable portal that gives IT consumers and operators "just enough controls."

Put simply, Microsoft had the idea to share their lessons learned, best practices, and now even the tools they use to run Windows Azure, with Windows Server customers. The concept is that if you can run your data center with similar efficiency to how Microsoft runs its own Azure data centers, you will save a lot of time and money. You can also keep a tenant-facing catalog of subscription plans that is elegantly simple for the tenant to consume, yet agile to rapidly adapt to offer new services and answers to customer needs. This makes IT popular with tenants or customer business units, and reduces IT administrative burden through self-service and plan-based service catalogs.

For those readers familiar with the Windows Azure Management Portal, Figure A would at first glance appear to be running in Windows Azure. A tip-off that this is not Windows Azure, are the words "Service Management Portal" at the top rather than "Windows Azure". "Service Management Portal" is the tenant portal in WASWS. WASWS lets you run your on-premise or service provider IT operation like Windows Azure; read more to learn how!

Figure A

The WASWS Service Management Portal is nearly identical to Windows Azure Management Portal.

Windows Azure Services for Windows Server VM Cloud

Using WASWS as the engine for offering and consuming cloud resources, IT can deliver services with a state of the art Service Management Portal and behind the scenes, a Service Management API. The IT services to be consumed could be VMs as a Service (also known as Infrastructure as a Service/IaaS VMs), Websites as a Service, or other services that IT or hoster choose to offer to tenants.

That's right; you can customize WASWS to offer other IT business and technology services to support countless possible service offerings. In this first release of WASWS, extensibility is limited, but a variety of API samples have been released by Microsoft to validate and demonstrate the concept. Expected future updates to WASWS will include additional elements of management and automation.

This article focuses specifically on the WASWS VM Cloud scenario, consisting of virtual machines running in VM clouds that are highly scalable, accommodate multiple tenants, and can be deployed and administered easily using the WASWS web-based admin portal. WASWS includes a web-based tenant portal, from which customers can self-provision and manage their own VMs in a user experience that is nearly indistinguishable from the "real" Windows Azure customer portal on the Internet.

Installing WASWS Web Sites and services

The bits to download the WASWS solution into your environment are at this link: http://www.microsoft.com/hosting/en/us/services.aspx. A step-by-step installation guide is at that link as well. The number of computers you deploy WASWS onto depends on the scenarios you want to support. For example, if you are not going to deploy the Web Sites service, you don't need the additional VMs needed for the web server farm to deliver that service.

If you deploy the WASWS Service Management Portal and Service Management API Express bits and install the Admin and Tenant portals and the Service Management API on one machine, you end up with about a dozen websites. Figure B shows the Internet Information Services (IIS) websites created on the WASWS computer.

Figure B

WASWS under the covers is a sophisticated set of websites and services.

The admin and tenant experience with WASWS

There are two interactive websites (or portals) installed with WASWS, the Admin portal and the Tenant portal. The Admin portal has interface elements that reflect its purpose: Configuring the virtual machine clouds that will be made available to tenants when they buy a plan. Example tasks in the admin portal include setting which cloud provider and VM cloud a tenant will have access to, the quota they will be assigned, the templates they can deploy VMs from, and what networks they can connect to.

Figure C shows the WASWS Admin portal dashboard for a VM plan. The dashboard shows the daily count of VMs consumed using that plan. Clicking on the plan service name lets you modify settings for a particular plan, such as the quota assigned to a cloud in the plan.

Figure C

The WASWS Admin portal is plan-centric: defining plans and making offers public.
Figure D shows the WASWS Tenant portal in the action of creating a new VM. The templates available for the tenant to select from for the new VM are determined by the VM plan they are subscribed to. The tenant can create as many VMs as their quota assignment allows.

Figure D

Creating a new virtual machine using the WASWS tenant portal.
More Information

For full details on the concepts covered in this article, consult these links at Microsoft:

About

John Joyner, MCSE, CMSP, MVP Cloud and Datacenter Management, is senior architect at ClearPointe, a cloud provider of systems management services. He is co-author of the "System Center Operations Manager: Unleashed" book series from Sams Publishing, ...

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