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An Introduction to ServerCentral’s Enterprise Cloud

Part I: The Basics

ServerCentral’s enterprise cloud utilizes VMware’s vSphere platform. Powered by vCloud Director, we offer on-demand, self-service Enterprise Cloud services. For those most familiar with VMware private clouds (think ESXi, vCenter, etc.), managing cloud infrastructure from vCloud Director is a fundamentally different way of thinking. No longer do you have to worry about hardware, hypervisors, or maintenance. Our intent is to offer peace of mind that is seldom found in the IT world. 

Our enterprise cloud is architected to offer flexibility, convenience and the much sought-after single pane of glass.

Understanding how our Enterprise Cloud functions is the key to utilizing the platform to its highest potential. In this first part of our Enterprise Cloud series we will discuss how our platform is organized and how to spin up your first virtual machines in the cloud.

 Understanding the vCloud Director Hierarchy

For most users, their exposure to vCloud Director begins when they first login and access the web-based portal. It is here that they they are presented with an overarching view of their infrastructure. It is also here that you will create vApps, provision virtual machines, and manage your cloud resources. The good news is that it’s all in one place. The bad news is that not much thought is put into how these resources are aligned.

vCloud Director is a very hierarchical platform in all senses of the word. Customers are assigned to the platform as an “organization” which is comprised of varying levels of resources and user management. Organizations are further divided into “virtual data centers” (or VCDs for short). One organization can have multiple virtual data centers if they like. This granular approach allows for centralized management from the previously mentioned single pane of glass. Virtual data centers are also further divided into vApps (virtual applications), edge gateway services and any number of unique network configurations. This detailed hierarchy allows our customers to deploy their infrastructure in the most flexible and sensible manner possible – and to do so within the construct of the best possible best practices.

Think Inside the Box

Many virtual environments are deployed with virtual machines in a configuration where they are in a standalone configuration. This creates single VMs running applications independently from each other with no shared dependencies or policies. vCloud Director takes a different route in the deployment of virtual machines. vCloud Director is architected based on the application tiering model. In this configuration, organizations create virtual applications, or vApps, that contain virtual machines. Typically vApps are used to provide the flexibility to create service levels and policies based on dependency and tiering requirements. All applications need not be created equal.

Take a large cardboard box for example. In this box (your virtual data center) you could place all of your valuables (virtual machines) together. While convenient at first, this becomes a disorganized mess to sort through as more and more valuable are added. Using smaller boxes (vApps), you could separate these valuables along logical lines for better organization and management within the larger box.

With this understanding in mind, let’s login and create an initial vApp in the cloud.

Logging Into vCD and Spinning up a vApp

Every customer receives a unique vCloud Director login for their Enterprise Cloud. It will follow this format:

https://vcd.servercentral.com/cloud/org/c13497/

If you are unsure of your Enterprise Cloud login, please contact us so that we can get you to the right address! Once you have it, logging in and setting up a vApp is a simple and straight-forward process.

1/ Login with the credentials provided:

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2/ Once logged in you will see your organization’s default home screen. This shows you the status of various vApps and resources available in your Enterprise Cloud. From here you can navigate around to manage the environment.

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3/ Setting up your first vApp is simple. For the sake of this tutorial, we will create a new vApp from scratch. On the right side of the home screen, click on “Build new vApp”. There are other ways to deploy vApps such as from templates and OVFs, but that is a discussion for another time. For now, we’ll continue to keep it simple.

4/ A new window will pop up asking for details for the new vApp. You will need to give it a name, a description (optional), choose which virtual data center it should be in and modify the lease times. For this first vApp deployment, the defaults are recommended.

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5/ The next screen is where you can deploy a new VM with the creation of the vApp. We normally recommend setting up at least one VM with the vApp so it completes the process all at once. Click on the “New Virtual Machine” button to begin this part of the setup process.

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6/ Configure all the settings for the VM as you need them. You can give it a name, assign compute and memory resources, choose which hardware version (VCD defaults to HW v9), and a few other options. Most of the options are customizable, but we recommend that some of the options be setup as follows:

a/ Expose hardware-assisted CPU virtualization to guest OS: Unchecked
b/ Bus Type: “LSI Logic SAS (SCSI)"

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Exposing CPU virtualization to the guest allows you to run nested hypervisors, and other applications requiring HW virtualization on the CPUs. “LSI Logic SAS (SCSI)” bus type provides better performance on most guest operating systems. However, some older operating systems may need to use older emulation. Paravirtualized SCSI buses may also be used. However, please note that there are limited OSes that can use them. There may be a slight performance gain, depending upon the use case.

If you are unsure what configuration is best for you, please ask.

That’s what we’re here for.

7/ Once the VM configuration is finished on this page, proceed to the next section of the vApp creation. Here you will configure the storage policy, which in most cases will be the default storage policy.

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8/ The next section of the configuration asks you to specify the initial networking settings for the VM. Make sure to choose the right network for the VM. You may leave the other settings as the defaults.

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9 / There is a second networking screen that allows you to enable a couple of advanced networking settings. For now, let’s skip this as they are not needed in the initial configuration. Click “Next” to continue.

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10/ The last part of the process is to verify the configuration and finish building the vApp. Let’s click on “Finish”.

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11/ Once the vApp customization is done, you will see that the vApp and VM are now being created on the home screen.

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Once the vApp and VM are created, you are done with the initial configuration of your first vApp! At this point it is common to begin the installation of the OS onto the virtual machine.

If you found this valuable, please stay tuned. Part II will cover how to upload, mount, and install from an ISO and take a more detailed dive into VM management.

Topics: Cloud VMware