Thursday, July 19, 2012

Introducing Windows Azure Services for Windows Server - Part 1

I had my first weeks of vacation for the first time in two years this summer.

And did I use my vacation well? It really depends. Of course, I had some amazing days with my son, playing around and do all the normal summer activity you would expect and also introduced him to the great world of Pink Floyd, mainly focusing on the “The Wall” album J
But of course, during the World Partner Conference in Toronto, Microsoft announced some news.

I had to pay close attention to this since I mainly work with the typical datacenter customers and partners, in other words: hosters and those organizations who`s adopting cloud computing.

“Bringing Windows Azure Services to Windows Server for Hosting Providers”.

Yes, they announced a very interesting project that will open some new doors for the service providers. With the SPF as part of the upcoming SP 1 release for System Center, this will lay the foundation for a very interesting year.

To get an overview of the announcement, the following will be available: 

·        Web Sites

·        Virtual Machines

·        Service Management Portal and API

Web Sites: Early in June, Microsoft announced several news related to their public cloud offerings through Windows Azure. The Web Sites functionality in “Windows Azure Services for Hosting Providers” use the same software as in Windows Azure. This is a shared web site hosting where you can easily scale up and down, as well as create reserved web sites. Quite interesting if you are considering to offer web hosting, or already does.

Virtual Machines: Is based on System Center (SPF) and Windows Server, providing APIs to VMM 2012 SP1 for the creation, updates and deletion of virtual machines. VMM is probably the most critical part in the private cloud environment and is essential to deliver IaaS.

Service Management Portal and API: Gives you an UI for both tenant and admin on Windows Server. Again, the same as in the new Windows Azure portal that was announced early in June. It`s based on IIS and the UI is created in HTML and is extensible and customizable for your own demands. The API uses a DB and provides services to tenants. Take a look at Apprenda that already has existing solutions based on this:

This will be brought to Windows Server (2012) and enables Hosting Service Providers to deliver Infrastructure as a Service and website hosting – in the same way as Windows Azure!
Before we`ll take a closer look at the “Windows Azure Services for Hosting Providers”, we will have to start with System Center 2012 – Service Provider Foundation, since this is a critical component in this architecture.

Service Provider Foundation (SPF) is currently available as a Community Technology Preview (2) and work together with System Center 2012 – Virtual Machine Manager SP1 CTP2.
SPF will expose the infrastructure of Virtual Machine Manager through a rich set of web services (supports REST-based requests using OData protocol) and gives you the ability to create, update and delete virtual machines (handled these requests through Powershell scripts) since SPF acts as an intermediary between web-based administration for client and server applications.

Question 1: When is SPF useful?

SPF is useful for service providers to offer IaaS to their customers, especially when they have already existing solutions like an in-house developed front-end portal, where their customers can interact. This means that SPF will allow the customers to access resources in the Service Provider Cloud (using this term to differ from Private and Public Cloud) without any changes to the existing solution.
The SPF uses a database for aggregation of tenant resources, and is managed with Powershell and Runbooks in Orchestrator.

Question 2: What if we don’t have any existing portal; can we still take advantage of SPF?

Consider SPF as a “cloud connection string”, which enable tenants to access cloud resources through a self-service portal. This means that System Center App Controller will be able to connect to SPF, letting the tenants create and deploy virtual machines and services in the Service Provider Cloud.

Also, if the tenants also have their own Private Cloud and a subscription in Windows Azure, they can deploy virtual machines and services in all those clouds by using their internal App Controller.

Examples of scenarios here is when they have reached their capacity in their Private Cloud, and also the limit on one of their Azure subscriptions. Instead of creating another Azure subscription and purchase hardware for their Private Cloud, they can scale out to the Service Provider Cloud – which may be closer to the tenants than one of Azure`s datacenters.

Question 3: As a Service Provider, what do we need in the backend and how is this interacting with SPF and “Windows Azure Services for Windows Server”?

If you are already familiar with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, you know that the Fabric must be prepared and available to function as foundation to deliver cloud services. Fabric includes hypervisors, storage and networking to host services and virtual machines.

Also, we will be introduced to something called Stamp, which represents a set of hardware for scaling the capacity in the datacenter and is allocated into groups, and assigned to tenants.

A tenant, which is a consumer of services from a service provider, will be accessing the portal (web site) where they can create and manage their own virtual machines and services, assigned to their user roles. The user roles will be a combination of a profile and scope that defines allowed actions and permissions to resources

SPF let the Service Provider present a seamless user experience to the tenants by using the SPF APIs to access the data, and is presented through the “Windows Azure Services for Windows Server” portal.

The Service Provider Foundation in System Center 2012 SP1 can be considered as a cloud gateway enabling tenants to access cloud resources through a self-service portal, and is requirement for the “Windows Azure Services for Windows Server”.

Windows Azure Services for Windows Server.

If we’re thinking of strategy, this a major enhancement In Microsoft`s way to deliver cloud services with a seamless experience, no matter where the services and virtual machines are running.

The Service Management API is meant for the service provider to offer services to tenants in a consistent way letting them subscribe to “plans” (service offerings). All this is delivered through the service management portal with the same metro-style that runs in Windows Azure, so that tenants can create and deploy services, VMs and also websites.

Both the portal and API are extensible and can be customized. Again, take a look at Apprenda ( ) if you`re looking for a good example.

Here`s an high-level overview of the architecture, and how this would look from a tenant and service provider perspective.

I`ll provide some examples in a blog series, where I also will cover the setup in the near future.


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