VMware has a very interesting offer to try out their public cloud service vCloud Air. If you sign up for this offer you will get credits worth US $ 300,- to try out vCloud Air. Mind you will need to use a new MyVMware account to get the service credit. Existing accounts are not eligible for the start up credits.
Credits will expire 90 days from sign up.
What is vCloud Air?
vCloud Air is the public Infrastructure as a Service offering of VMware. vCloud Air is running the same vSphere hypervisor as used in many on-premises vSphere infrastructures. This allows a seamless integration with an on-premise vSphere infrastructure. Both on-premise and vCloud Air offer the same ESXi and vCenter features.
vCloud Air supports over 90 guest operating systems which is a lot more than competing cloud providers.
vCloud Air can be used to run virtual machines in production or test/dev scenarios. This is the IaaS offer. vCloud Air also offers a Disaster Recovery as a Service offering. This allows customers to replicate their vSphere virtual machines running on-premises to vCloud Air datacenters using vSphere Replication. vCloud Air Disaster Recovery requires a seperate subscription.
A few years ago many organizations knew about cloud but did not consider using it. This is rapidly changing. Organizations understand the benefits of cloud and are deploying workloads in the cloud.
While cloud can be used for various scenario’s most organizations start with deployment of virtual machines for test and development scenario’s. This type of scenario often requires a lot of resources for a relative limited period. Instead of purchasing hardware and software, deployment in the cloud is a very attractive option.
By using cloud for test/dev many organizations start exploring the features of cloud like scale, agility and pay as you go.
Many organizations currently purchase their hardware based on peak demand. Those peaks are often seasonal like Christmas for retailers, or summer for the website of the Tour de France or any other sportsevent. Using capacity from vCloud Air during peak demand is much more cost effective. It is pretty simple to spin up additional webservers when demand increases. This can be done all automatically. Load balancers have the intelligence to sent instructions to API in for example vCenter Server to start virtual machines based on increased HTTP load.
When load decreases virtual machines are shutdown again.
The video below explains how vCloud Air OnDemand can be used for development and testing of applications. Let me first explain a bit about vCloud Air.
vCloud Air uses the concept of Virtual Data Centers or VDC.
A VDC is an isolated pool of resources like compute, storage and networking. Basically a VDC is a cloud in the cloud. The owner of the vCloud Air subscription (IT of headquarters for example) is able to provide CPU and storage capacity to developpers. They can use this capacity to deploy virtual machines with the hardware specs they want.
Each VDC can be isolated on the network layer from other VDC’s.
It is important to understand the components of vCloud Air. Each VDC has vApps and virtual machines. A vApp is a set of virtual machines serving the same application. Using a vApp the administrator can set priorities on reboot for example. It also allows to copy or move a complete set of virtual machines (a vApp) to a different Virtual Data Center or to a catalog.
A catalog is a list of virtual machine templates or vApps which cloud consumers can select as a starting point.
The video below shows how to create a virtual datacenter. The next step is to create virtual machines in the VDC. This can be done either using your own templates or from the VMware catalog.
Next virtual machines are made member of a vApp. When the application development is done and is ready for production the vApp can be copied from the development Virtual Data Center to the Production Virtual Datacenter using a few mouse clicks.
This video shows an example of running SharePoint in vCloud Air. More on this scenario in this blogpost.
These are just two examples for use cases of vCloud Air. There are many more.
Cattle and pets. Clouds are not the same!
Back to the main offering of vCloud Air, Infrastructure as a Service.
A very important characteristic to understand of IaaS type of clouds is what it was designed for. Basically there are two types of clouds:
best effort cloud
A reliable cloud has various redundancy features built into the platform. Servers are of A-brand, have redundant power supplies. The hypervisor offer features like vMotion so virtual machines can be moved to other hosts in case of planned maintenance. Also top of rack switches are redundant. A reliable cloud platform supports the typical enterprise applications which do not offer redundancy features like clustering. These type of applications are often called pets. You care about pets and you care about this type of application.
vCloud Air for example offers the ability to create snapshots of virtual machines. vCloud Air also enables customers to use the console of the virtual machine. The benefit of this is that management of the virtual machine is possible even when the guest operating system does not have networking configured. Many other IaaS cloud platforms do not offer a remote console feature.
Lets have a look at the other side of the IaaS spectrum.
The oppositie IaaS cloud offering is a best effort cloud. This type of cloud is designed with the principle that the application has to offer redundancy. A failure of a single virtual machine should not lead to the application being unavailable. The application offers redundancy by having multiple virtual machines offering the same role. If a VM fails it is simply deleted and automatically recreated by deployment software.
This type of application is called cattle.
Most of the applications running in offices are traditional pets kind of applications.
vCloud Air is a reliable cloud. If your business critical application depends on the availability of a single virtual machine you can perfectly run this on vCloud Air. Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS are examples of best effort clouds. Microsoft does not provide any SLA on single instance virtual machines.
Now we understand the two main type of clouds, lets have a look at the possibilties of vCloud Air.
vCloud Air datacenters
vCloud Air Datacenters are located in the US (7), Europe (3), Australia(1) and Japan(1).
vCloud Air service offerings
vCloud Air is available in three tastes:
Virtual Private Cloud
Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand
Dedicated Cloud means the customer has one or multiple physical hosts for exclusive usage. All virtual machines running on those hosts belong to a single tenant. The advantage of this offering is that the performance is not affected by virtual machines of other tenants (noisy neighbors). Also for compliancy and licensing reasons this can be an attractive offer. Some software vendors prohibit the use of their software on hosts which are shared by multiple customers.
Virtual Private Cloud means compute, network and storage resources are shared by tenants. Customers pay upfront and receive a certain amount of resources in return.
Virtual Private Cloud On Demand is a pay as you go offering. Customers pay for the resources they consume. This is the most common consumption model for IaaS.
Try out yourself
There is a lot more to explain about vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand offering. But why not try out yourself. Click here to register for the free trial of vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand
The video below shows the administration interface for vCloud Air. There are two consoles. Initally after logon you will be presented with the vCloud Air Dashboard. This will enable customers to perform basic tasks like create, stop,pauze and delete virtual machines. It also reports about resource consumption.
For more advanced features like adding network interfaces, edit vApps and configuration of the network the vCloud Director management console is required.
The video below shows the process of creating a new virtual machine. It shows Linux based operating sytems are free. For Windows Server an additional fee is charged. There are two types of disks available: standard and SSD.
The impact on the total costs for running the virtual machine is displayed which is nice. Not all cloud providers present their costs in such a transparant way.
The video will then switch to the vCloud Director interface and shows how to edit the properties of the Virtual machine. It also shows that you can take over the console of the virtual machine.
Register and get $ 300 credits
If you want to try out vCloud Air yourself for free and even get $ 300,- worth of service credit click here to register for the free trial of vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand.
The promo code ‘Influencer2015’ is for new My VMware accounts only. So for the purpose of this program you’ll need to create a net-new My VMware account.
After registration you have 90 days to spent the free service credit.
After sign up you will receive an email with a link to set your password. Click the link and set the password. After that you are directed to the login portal.
Use the account and password to login. Then select a vCloud Air datacenter where you want to deploy your virtual machines in.
Thereafter the virtual datacenter will be created. This will take a few minutes.
Then you can create your first virtual machine. You can select a VM from the VMware catalog. This offers Linux virtual machine images which are free. Or you can choose Windows virtual machine templates which have an hourly charge for the usage of the Windows Server license. Available Windows versions are Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Server 2012 R2. All are the Standard Edition.
Enjoy your vCloud Air experience!
disclaimer: VMware paid me for publication of this blogpost about vCloud Air. In no way did VMware influence the content of the blog! This is my own opinion.