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The technologies behind Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud

Microsoft’s Hyper-V Cloud brings private cloud to users, but what technologies make up its core? Our expert provides insight into this new cloud portfolio.

In part one of this three-part series on Hyper-V Cloud, we defined Microsoft’s new private cloud offering. In part...

two, we’ll analyze the hypervisor, hardware and other technologies at the core of Hyper-V Cloud.

Microsoft’s Hyper-V Cloud represents a collection of software, hardware, management and business process integration that evolves simple virtualization to a fully-realized private cloud. But if you’re the IT professional whose job it is to construct a Hyper-V Cloud, what kinds of line items will be on your bill of materials?

At the core of Hyper-V Cloud is, unsurprisingly, Microsoft Hyper-V. Operating as its singular hypervisor, Hyper-V is the platform upon which all your virtual infrastructure resides. Hyper-V is the hypervisor that drives Microsoft’s virtual machines (VMs), which are the workloads that IT intends to manage and maintain.

Another part of this portfolio is a management studio that collects all your virtual assets together under a single pane of glass. In today’s manifestation of Hyper-V Cloud, that management studio is System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2. Yes, that’s the same Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) that you’ve seen before, and there are very few differences between the one you know and the one Hyper-V Cloud advertises.

Also key to Hyper-V Cloud is the hardware on which its virtual infrastructure sits. Hyper-V Cloud is arguably more about this hardware than any of the software that IT pros have already been using.

"But why?" you might ask. "What’s so exciting about it? Does it look different, or perform its actions in a fundamentally different way?" Not entirely, but what is different is how that hardware is pieced together, along with what happens once it is built.

Microsoft has put together a relatively sparse page that lists its Hyper-V Cloud partnerships with many hardware vendors that have been around for years. What this website doesn’t really explain is how those hardware vendors are evolving their products to better fit into the private cloud resource management model.

Private cloud moves forward with Hyper-V Cloud
There’s one specific tab, however, that gives away the real meaning behind Hyper-V Cloud: Get Pre-validated Configurations. One of the central tenets of Hyper-V Cloud is that Microsoft’s partners realize the ineffectiveness of how virtualization used to be constructed, along with its inability to optimize IT spending.

An analogy here works best. Remember when building servers by hand was all the rage? Our industry still calls this process "white boxing," as most of the cases for these do-it-yourself servers were white in color. If you took a look inside those white boxes, you might find a motherboard from one vendor, a set of RAM from another and disk drives from a third. Typically, no two white boxes were alike, because parts were added based on daily demands.

We know now that building a white box wasn’t the best use of time or energy. Fifty different servers with 50 different hardware configurations made for increasingly challenging and expensive server management. And while we’ve stopped that horrible practice with our servers, we’ve picked it back up again -- out of necessity -- with our virtual environments.

If you’re the IT pro who constructs a Hyper-V Cloud, what kinds of line items will be on your bill of materials?

Greg Shields

I say "out of necessity" because, until recently, constructing a virtual environment (or its evolved relative, the private cloud) required the white-boxing approach. There was no way to add a private cloud to the shopping cart on our hardware vendor’s website. You needed a few servers from one vendor, some storage from another and networking from a third. Often times, the servers and storage were very different from each other. 

As a result, many of virtualization’s easy wins budget-wise died quick deaths as a result of non-optimized hardware and lack of experience in connecting the pieces.

Hyper-V Cloud, and indeed private cloud computing in general, look to move past white boxing through Pre-validated Configurations. These configurations comprise hardware designed with virtualization in mind. But more importantly, they’re like selecting stockkeeping units on a website: "Need a virtual environment? Here’s one that’ll support X number of VMs. It'll be delivered on Friday. Need to add more resources to your virtual environment? Click here to purchase the necessary modules."

Leaning on the expertise of hardware vendors gives IT professionals the flexibility to quickly create private cloud resource pools that are pre-configured, pre-validated and able to support a known (and with some vendors, asserted) level of service. That’s good for business, because purchases are significantly more plannable. It’s also great for IT, because what arrives will be an environment already set up with the necessary performance and capacity levels.

There’s a third part to this discussion of Hyper-V Cloud, and it's a new way to think about the four core resources in our data center: Processing, memory, storage and networking. I call it the “economics of resources.” In the final tip of this series, find out how Hyper-V Cloud, as well as private cloud computing in general, takes a cue from Economics 101 to quantify resources through supply and demand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Greg Shields, Microsoft MVP, is a partner at Concentrated Technology. Get more of Greg's Jack-of-all-trades tips and tricks at www.ConcentratedTech.com.

This was last published in January 2011

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