Defining the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud

Microsoft's entry into the private cloud world, Hyper-V Cloud, aims to link virtualization and business processes. Our expert explains how it'll fit in your virtual environment.

The fracturing of cloud computing into several different "types" has made it even more difficult to fully comprehend the cloud conversation. These days, the concept of "cloud computing" now encompasses public cloud, private cloud and even hybrid cloud models. And within each model, various vendors and pundits supply different definitions, all of which seem designed to suit their specific needs.

This confusion is why I attempted to define private cloud in my recent book, Private Clouds: Selecting the Right Hardware for a Scalable Virtual Infrastructure. Here's how I describe it:

"While virtual machines are the mechanism in which IT services are provided, the private cloud infrastructure is the platform that enables those virtual machines to be created and managed at the speed of business."

Within [Hyper-V Cloud] are some real technologies that are compelling to both technologists and business-oriented types.

Greg Shields

Some IT pros might look at that statement and think, "That almost describes what my virtual environment already does today." Depending on their configurations, they're probably not far off. And that's, at least in my mind, where most of the confusion about private cloud comes from: It is in many ways less revolutionary than people think. Here's another definition:

"A private cloud at its core is little more than a virtualization technology, some really good management tools, the right set of hardware and business process integration."

This, of course, means that private cloud requires virtualization, hardware to run that virtualization and the administrative tools that link what businesses demand with what computing resources can supply.

I use this lengthy introduction as a starting point for Microsoft's entry into private cloud because its Hyper-V Cloud represents both of these definitions. While the software technologies aren't entirely new, they are being laid together in ways that better align virtualization's activities with business processes.

Explaining the Hyper-V Cloud
So what is Microsoft's Hyper-V Cloud? In one form, it's a combination of Microsoft virtualization and virtualization management software with a set of specialized hardware, which I can only describe as being "designed with virtualization in mind."

The third piece to this puzzle is the management activities that link business process integration with virtualization. These concepts will be difficult to grasp for more technical IT pros, but they should make sense to anyone who understands the business side.

More technically-minded users should think of the situation like this: Virtualization is a technology. Using virtualization, virtual machines are provisioned and managed, assigned resources, and then deprovisioned when they're no longer relevant. At the same time, however, there are business rules that define when to create, or interact with, those virtual machines. Some business driver (think: new opportunity) decides when a new SQL, Exchange or other server is needed. Another business driver (think: business expansion) decides when it's time to add more resources to augment existing virtual environments.

Private cloud infrastructure enables virtual machines to be created and managed at the speed of business.

Greg Shields

Traditional virtualization has never been good at translating those business drivers into actual clicks inside its virtual management platform. This translation is one of the goals of private cloud, and it's one of the primary reasons for Microsoft's Hyper-V Cloud implementation.

Now, before you quickly throw away this concept as vaporware or "just another Microsoft marketing campaign," know that within it are some real technologies that are compelling to both technologists and business-oriented types. Some of them, like the evolving hardware that drives virtualization, are here today and quite exciting in how they change our perceptions. Others, like Microsoft's virtualization management studio in System Center Virtual Machine Manager, remain unchanged but should be evolving in the near future.

Private clouds represent a new way of thinking about the resources in your virtual environment. By collecting together the right set of hardware -- that which has been designed with virtualization in mind -- a kind of "economics of resources" comes into being. Both the enabling technologies, as well as the economics themselves, will be the topics of my next two tips in this series.

Until then, take a look through Microsoft's description of the Hyper-V Cloud portfolio. There are a few gems of useful information included that should get you started.

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.

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