Category Archives: Fabric

System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012 as Private Cloud Enabler (3/5): Deployment with Service Template

By this time, I assume we all have some clarity that virtualization is not cloud. There are indeed many and significant differences between the two. A main departure is the approaches of deploying apps. In the 3rd article of the 5-part series as listed below, I would like to examine service-based deployment introduced in VMM 2012 for building a private cloud.

  • Part 1. Private Cloud Concepts
  • Part 2. Fabric, Oh, Fabric
  • Part 3. Deployment with Service Template (This article)
  • Part 4. Working with Service Templatesimage
  • Part 5. App Controller

VMM 2012 has the abilities to carry out both traditional virtual machine (VM)-centric and emerging service-based deployments. The formal is virtualization-focused and operated at a VM level, while the latter is service-centric approach and intended for private cloud deployment.

This article is intended for those with some experience administering VMM 2008 R2 infrastructure. And notice in cloud computing, “service” is a critical and must-understand concept which I have discussed elsewhere. And just to be clear, in the context of cloud computing, a “service” and an “application” means the same thing, since in cloud everything to user is delivered as a service, for example SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Throughout this article, I use the terms, service and application, interchangeably.

VM-Centric Deployment

In virtualization, deploying a server has becomes conceptually shipping/building and booting from a (VHD) file. Those who would like to refresh their knowledge of virtualization are invited to review the 20-Part Webcast Series on Microsoft Virtualization Solutions.

Virtualization has brought many opportunities for IT to improve processes and operations. With system management software such as System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 or VMM 2008 R2, we can deploy VMs and installs OS to a target environment with few or no operator interventions. And from an application point of view, with or without automation the associated VMs are essentially deployed and configured individually.image For instance, a multi-tier web application like the one shown above is typically deployed with a pre-determined number of VMs, followed by installing and configuring application among the deployed VMs individually based on application requirements. Particularly when there is a back-end database involved, a system administrator typically must follow a particular sequence to first bring a target database server instance on line by configuring specific login accounts with specific db roles, securing specific ports, and registering in AD before proceeding with subsequent deployment steps. These operator interventions are required likely due to lack of a cost-effective, systematic, and automatic way for streamlining and managing the concurrent and event-driven inter-VM dependencies which become relevant at various moments during an application deployment.

Despite there may be a system management infrastructure in place like VMM 2008 R2 integrated with other System Center members, at an operational level VMs are largely managed and maintained individually in a VM-centric deployment model. And perhaps more significantly, in a VM-centric deployment too often it is labor-intensive and with relatively high TCO to deploy a multi-tier application “on demand” (in other words, as a service) and deploy multiple times, run multiple releases concurrently in the same IT environment, if it is technically feasible at all. Now in VMM 2012, the ability to deploy services on demand, deploy multiple times, run multiple releases concurrently in the same environment become noticeably straightforward and amazing simple with a service-based deployment model.

Service-Based Deployment

In a VM-centric model, there lacks an effective way to address event-driven and inter-VMs dependencies during a deployment, nor there is a concept of fabric which is an essential abstraction of cloud computing. imageIn VMM 2012, a service-based deployment means all the resources encompassing an application, i.e. the configurations, installations, instances, dependencies, etc. are deployed and managed as one entity with fabric . The integration of fabric in VMM 2012 is a key delivery and clearly illustrated in VMM 2012 admin console as shown on the left. And the precondition for deploying services to a private cloud is all about first laying out the private cloud fabric.

Constructing Fabric

To deploy a service, the process normally employs administrator and service accounts to carry out the tasks of installing and configuring infrastructure and application on servers, networking, and storage based on application requirements. Here servers collectively act as a compute engine to provide a target runtime environment for executing code. Networking is to interconnect all relevant application resources and peripherals to support all management and communications need, while the storage is where code and data actually resides and maintained. In VMM 2012, the servers, networking, and storage infrastructure components are collectively managed with a single concept as private cloud fabric.

There are three resource pools/nodes encompassing fabric: Servers, Networking, and Storage. Servers contain various types of servers including virtualization host groups, PXE, Update (i.e. WSUS) and other servers. Host groups are container to logically group servers with virtualization hosting capabilities and ultimately represent the physical boxes where VMs can be possibly deployed to, either with specific network settings or dynamically selected by VMM Intelligent Placement, as applicable, based on defined criteria. VMM 2012 can manage Hyper-V based, VMware, as well as other virtualization solutions. During adding a host into a host group, VMM 2012 installs an agent on a target host which then becomes a managed resource of the fabric.

A Library Server is a repository where the resources for deploying services and VMs are available via network shares. As a Library Server is added into fabric, by specifying the network shares defined in the Library Server, file-based resources like VM templates, VHDs, iso images, service templates, scripts, server app-v packages, etc. are become available and to be used as building blocks for composing VM and service templates. As various types of servers are brought in the Server pool, the coverage expanded and capabilities increased as if additional fibers are weaved into fabric.

Networking presents the wiring among resources repositories, running instances, deployed clouds and VMs, and the intelligence for managing and maintaining the fabric. It essentially forms the nervous system to filter noises, isolate traffic, and establish interconnectivity among VMs based on how Logical Networks and Network Sites are put in place.

Storage reveals the underlying  storage complexities and how storage is virtualized. In VMM 2012, a cloud administrator can discover, classify and provision remote storage on supported storage arrays through the VMM 2012 console. VMM 2012 fully automates the assignment of storage to a Hyper-V host or Hyper-V host cluster, and tracks the storage that is managed by VMM 2012.

Deploying Private Cloud

A leading feature of VMM 2012 is the ability to deploy a private cloud, or more specifically to deploy a service to a private cloud. The focus of this article is to depict the operational aspects of deploying a private cloud with the assumption that an intended application has been well tested, signed off, and sealed for deployment. And the application resources including code, service template, scripts, server app-v packages, etc. are packaged and provided to a cloud administrator for deployment. In essence, this package has all the intelligence, settings, and contents needed to be deployed as a service. This self-contained package can then be easily deployed on demand by validating instance-dependent global variables and repeating the deployment tasks on a target cloud. The following illustrated the concept where a service is deployed in update releases and various editions with specific feature compositions, while all running concurrently in VMM 2012 fabric. Not only this is relative easy to do by streamlining and automating all deployment tasks with a service template, the service template can also be configured and deploy to different private clouds.


The secret sauce is a service template which includes all the where, what, how, and when of deploying all the resources of an intended application as a service. It should be apparent that the skill sets and amount of efforts to develop a solid service template apparently are not trivial. Because a service template not only needs to include the intimate knowledge of an application, but the best practices of Windows deployment in addition to system and network administrations, server app-v, and system management of Windows servers and workloads. The following is a sample service template of StockTrader imported into VMM 2012 and viewed with Designer where StockTrader is a sample application for cloud deployment downloaded from Windows Connect.


Here are the logical steps I follow to deploy StockTrader with VMM 2012 admin console:

  • Step 1: Acquire the Stock Trader application package from Windows Connect.
  • Step 2: Extract and place the package in a designated network share of a target Library Server of VMM 2012 and refresh the Library share. By default, the refresh cycle of a Library Server is every 60 minutes. To make the newly added resources immediately available, refreshing an intended Library share will validate and re-index the resources in added network shares.
  • Step 3: Import the service templates of Stock Trader and follow the step-by-step guide to remap the application resources.
  • Step 4: Identify/create a target cloud with VMM 2012 admin console.
  • Step 5: Open Designer to validate the VM templates included in the service template. Make sure SQLAdminRAA is correctly defined as RunAs account.
  • Step 6: Configure deployment of the service template and validate global variables in specialization page.
  • Step 7: Deploy Stock Trader to a target cloud and monitor the progress in Job panel.
  • Step 8: Troubleshoot the deployment process, as needed, restart the deployment job, and repeat the step as needed
  • Step 9: Upon successful deployment of the service, test the service and verify the results.

A successful deployment of Stock Trader with minimal instances in my all-in-one-laptop demo environment (running in Lenovo W510 with sufficient RAM) took about 75 to 90 minutes as reported in Job Summary shown below.


Once the service template is successfully deployed, Stock Trader becomes a service in the target private cloud supported by VMM 2012 fabric. The following two screen captures show a Pro Release of Stock Trader deployed to a private cloud in VMM 2012 and the user experience of accessing a trader’s home page.



Not If, But When

Witnessing the way the IT industry has been progressing, I envision that private cloud will soon become, just like virtualization, a core IT competency and no longer a specialty. While private cloud is still a topic that is being actively debated and shaped, the upcoming release of VMM 2012 just in time presents a methodical approach for constructing private cloud based on a service-based deployment with fabric. It is a high-speed train and the next logical step for enterprise to accelerate private cloud adoption.

Closing Thoughts

I here forecast the future is mostly cloudy with scattered showers. In the long run, I see a clear cloudy day coming.

Be ambitious and opportunistic is what I will encourage everyone. When it comes to Microsoft private cloud, the essentials are Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 with Hyper-V and VMM 2012. And those who first master these skills will stand out, become the next private cloud subject matter experts, and lead the IT pro communities. While recognizing private cloud adoption is not a technology issue, but a culture shift and an opportunity of career progression, IT pros must make a first move.

In an upcoming series of articles tentatively titled “Deploying StockTrader as Service to Private Cloud with VMM 2012,” I will walk through the operations of the above steps and detail the process of deploying a service template to a private cloud

System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012 as Private Cloud Enabler (2/5): Fabric, Oh, Fabric

Aside from public cloud, private cloud, and something in between, the essence of cloud computing is fabric. The 2nd article of this 5-part series is to annotate the concept and methodology of forming a private cloud fabric with VMM 2012. Notice that throughout this article, I use the following pairs of terms interchangeably:

  • Application and service
  • User and consumer

And this series includes:

  • Part 1. Private Cloud Concepts
  • Part 2. Fabric, Oh, Fabric (This article)
  • Part 3. Deployment with Service Template
  • Part 4. Working with Service Templates
  • Part 5. App Controller 

Fabric in Windows Azure Platform: A Simplistic, Yet Remarkable View of Cloud imageIn cloud computing, fabric is a frequently used term. It is nevertheless not a product, nor a packaged solution that we can simply unwrap and deploy. Fabric is an abstraction, an architectural concept, and a state of manageability to conceptually denote the ability to discover, identify, and manage the lifecycle of instances and resources of a service. In an oversimplified analogy, fabric is a collection of hardware, software, wiring, configurations, profiles, instances, diagnostics, connectivity, and everything else that all together form the datacenter(s) where a cloud is running. While Fabric Controller (FC, a terminology coined by Windows Azure Platform) is also an abstraction to signify the ability and designate the authority to manage the fabric in a datacenter and all intendances and associated resources supported by the fabric. As far as a service is concerned, FC is the quintessential owner of fabric, datacenters, and the world, so to speak. Hence, without the need to explain the underlying physical and logical complexities in a datacenter of how hardware is identified and allocated, how a virtual machine (VM) is deployed to and remotely booted form bare-metal, how application code is loaded and initialized, how a service is started and reports its status, how required storage is acquired and allocated, and on and on, we can now summarize the 3,500-step process, for example, to bring up a service instance in Windows Azure Platform by virtually saying that FC deploy a service instance with fabric. Fundamentally a PaaS user expects is a subscribed runtime (or “platform” as preferred) environment is in place so cloud applications can be developed and run. And for an IaaS user, it is the ability to provision and deploy VMs on demand. How a service provider, in a private cloud setting that normally means corporate IT, makes PaaS and IaaS available is not a concern for either user. As a consumer of PaaS or IaaS, this is significantly helpful and allows a user to focus on what one really cares, which is a predictable runtime to develop applications and the ability to provision infrastructure as needed, respectively. In other words, what happens under the hood of cloud computing is collectively abstracted and gracefully presented to users as “fabric.” This simplicity brings so much clarity and elegance by shielding extraordinary, if not chaotic, technical complexities from users. The stunning beauty unveiled by this abstraction is just breathtaking.

Fabric Concept and VMM 2012

imageSimilar to what is in Windows Azure Platform, fabric in VMM 2012 is an abstraction to hide the underlying complexities from users and signify the ability to define and resources pools as a whole. This concept is explicitly presented in the UI of VMM 2012 admin console as shown here on the right. There should be no mystery at all what is fabric of a private cloud in VMM 2012. And a major task in the process of building a private cloud is to define/configure this fabric using VMM 2012 admin console. Specifically, there are 3 definable resource pools:

  • Servers (i.e. Compute)
  • Networking
  • Storage

Clearly the magnitude and complexities are not on the same scale comparing the fabric in Windows Azure Platform in public cloud and that in VMM 2012 in private cloud. Further there are also other implementation details like replicating FC throughout geo-disbursed fabric, etc. not covered here to complicate the FC in Windows Azure Platform even more. The ideas of abstracting those details not relevant to what a user is trying to accomplish are nevertheless very much the same in both technologies. In a sense, VMM 2012 is a FC (in a simplistic form) of the defined fabric consisting of Servers, Networking, and Storage pools. And in these pools, there are functional components and logical constructs to collectively constitute the fabric of a private cloud.

Servers Pool

This pool embodies containers hosting the runtime execution resources of a service. Host groups contains virtualization hosts as the destinations where imagevirtual machines can be deployed based on authorization and service configurations. Library servers are the repositories of building blocks like images, iso files, templates, etc. for composing VMs. To automatically deploy images and boot a VM from bare-metal remotely via networks, pre-boot execution environment (PXE) servers are used to initiate the operating system installation on a physical computer. Update servers like WSUS are for servicing VMs automatically and based on compliance policies. For interoperability, VMM 2012 admin console can add VMware vCenter Servers to enable the management of VMware ESX hosts. And of course, the consoles will have visibility to all authorized VMM servers which forms the backbone of Microsoft virtualization management solution.

Networking Pool

In VMM 2012, the Networking pool is where to define logical networks, assign pools of static IPs and MAC addresses, integrate load balancers, etc. to mash up the fabric. Logical networks are user-defined groupings of IP subnets and VLANs to organize and simplify network assignments. For instance, HIGH, MEDIUM, and LOW can be the definitions of three logical networks such that real-time applications are connected with HIGH and batch processes with LOW based based on specified class of service. Logical networks provide an abstraction of the underlying physical infrastructure and enables an administrator to provision and isolate network traffic cablednetworkbased on selected criteria like connectivity properties, service-level agreements (SLAs), etc. By default, when adding a Hyper-V host to a VMM 2012 server, VMM 2012 automatically creates logical networks that match the first DNS suffix label of the connection-specific DNS suffix on each host network adapter.

In VMM 2012, you can configure static IP address pools and static MAC address pools. This functionality enables you to easily allocate the addresses for Windows-based virtual machines that are running on any managed Hyper-V, VMware ESX or Citrix XenServer host. This feature gives much room for creativities in managing network addresses. VMM 2012 also supports adding hardware load balancers to the VMM console, and creating associated virtual IP (VIP) templates which contains load balancer-related configuration settings for a specific type of network traffic. Those readers with networking or load-balancing interests are highly encouraged to experiment and assess the networking features of VMM 2012.

Storage Pool

With VMM 2012 admin console, an administrator can discover, classify, and provision remote storage on supported storage arrays. VMM 2012 uses the new Microsoft Storage Management Service (installed by default during the installation of VMM 2012) to communicate with external arrays. An administrator must install a supported Storage Management Initiative – Specification (SMI-S) provider on an available server, followed by adding the provider to VMM 2012. SMI-S is a storage standard for operating among heterogeneous storage systems. VMM 2012 automates the assignment of storage to a Hyper-V host or Hyper-V host cluster, and tracks the storage that is managed by VMM.  Notice that storage automation through VMM 2012 is only supported for Hyper-V hosts.

Where There Is A Private Cloud, There Are  IT Pros

Aside from public cloud, private cloud, and something in between, the essence of cloud computing is fabric. And when it comes to a private cloud, it is largely about constructing/configuring fabric. VMM 2012 has laid it all out what fabric is concerning a private cloud and a prescriptive guidance of how to build it by populating the Servers, Networking, and Storage resource pools. I hope it is clear at this time that, particularly for a private cloud, forming fabric is not a programming commission, but one relying much on the experience and expertise of IT pros in building, operating, and maintaining an enterprise infrastructure. It’s about integrating IT tasks of building images, deploying VMs, automating processes, managing certificates, hardening securities, configuring networks, setting IPsec, isolating traffic, walking through traces, tuning performance, subscribing events, shipping logs, restoring tables, etc., etc., etc. with the three resource pools. And yes, it’s about what IT professionals do everyday to keep the system running. And that brings us to one conclusion.

Private cloud is the future of IT pros. And let the truth be told “Where there is a private cloud, there are IT pros.”

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