What is Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track ?

At TechEd Europe 2010 in Berlin, Microsoft introduced several new initiatives and some new solutions which enables customers to start using Cloud Computing.
Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track is a complete turn key deployment solution delivered from several server vendors which enables customers to quickly deploy cloud computing with reduced risk for technical issues by purchasing a virtualized infrastructure designed with best practices of Microsoft and the hardware vendor. Customers can build the infrastructure themselves based on reference architecture or use one of the many partners of the server vendor.

The solution is based on Microsoft best practices and design principles for Hyper-V and SCVMM and on partner best practices and design principles for the part of the solution deliverd by the partner (storage hardware, blades, enclosure, rack mounted, server, networking etc)
Some parts of the architecture are required by Microsoft  (redundant nics, iSCSI for clustering at the virtual machine level) and some are recommended. There is enough room for server vendors to create added value by delivering their software solution with the Fast Track.

The solution is targeted at large infrastructures running at least 1000 virtual machines per cluster. So it is an enterprise solution, not targeted at small and medium businesses.

This posting is a detailed summary of session VIR201 ‘Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track ‘ given at TechEd Europe 2010. The session can be seen and listened to via this link.

Cloud Computing is the next revolution in computing. Once every 5 to 10 years there is a dramatic change in IT-landscape. It all started with mainframes and dumb terminals, we got stand alone PC’s. Then we got desktops connected to servers, we got Server Based Computing, Software as a service, virtualization and now (private)cloud computing

Cloud Computing delivers new exciting features to the business consuming IT-services making it possible to quickly respond to new businesses. Self service portals enables business units to send change requests (for new virtual machines, additional storage and computing resources) using Webbased portals. After the request has been approved by the IT-department resources like virtual machines, CPU, memory or storage are automatically provisioned.

On the producing site (the IT-department) cloud computing delivers functionality to keep control over the life cycle of virtual machines, be able to forecast the need for additional resources, monitor and respond to alarms, report  and be able to chargeback costs of computing to the consumer.

If an organization decides to build a private cloud, three options are possible.
Either build the cloud computing infrastructure yourself on purchased hardware and software which is located on-premises.
Another option is to use the services of a Hyper-V Cloud Service Provider. Servers are located in an off-premises datacenter, the service provider makes sure networking, storage and computing power is provided. They also make sure the software is able to deliver Cloud computing  functions like charge back, self service portal and is ready to use. While doing it yourself  it takes the longest time to implement, using a service provider is the shortest time to implement.

There is a third option which is between doing it yourself and outsouring: Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track. This is a set of Microsoft validated blueprints and best practices developed by Microsoft Consulting Services and 6 server vendors. Those 6 represent over 80% of the server market. Instead of re-inventing the wheel by an organization wanting to jump on cloud computing, proven technology can be obtained from 6 hardware vendors (Dell, HP, IBM, Fujitsu, NEC and Hitachi). See for more info the Microsoft site
The technology is a set of hardware (servers and storage, software (Hyper-V/SCVMM and Self Service Portal 2.0) and services (experience and knowledge delivered by the hardware vendor).

Choosing for Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track solution has a couple of advantages:
reduce time to deploy. The hardware vendor has a selected number of configurations and best practices which is proven technology. It is ready to be installed without having to spend much time on inventory and design .
-reduce risk. The configurations are validated by the vendor to work. No risk on issues of components not working together. Performance is as designed and as expected.
-flexibility and choice. Several configurations can be chosen. Dell for example offers iSCSI storage, Fiber channel storage , blades and rack servers configurations.

See a video of the Dell Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track solution.

To me at the moment Hyper-V Fast Track seems to be more marketing related to impress the world about the solutions Microsoft can deliver for cloud computing. Microsoft is far behind VMware in it’s function offering for Infrastructure As A Service (IAAS). ESX is superieur to Hyper-V in being a hypervizor. The same accounts for vCenter Server for management versus System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Self Service Portal 2.0 far behind with functionality compared to VMware vCloud Director and additional software like vShield App.
While VMware has always been good in delivering superieur technology in it’s features (vMotion, storage vMotion) which appeals to IT-technicians, Microsoft has always been very good a luring IT-decision makers and higher management with perfect marketing material and distracting the functional shortcomings.

The website of Fujitsu, IBM, Hitachi and NEC only mention Hyper-V Fast Track but there is no reference architecure or detailed information to be found on the site.
Dell has four reference architectures available for download on their website, but none of them even mentions the VMM Self Service Portal 2.0 software! Delivering a self service portal to business units is what cloud computing distinguishes from server virtualization.  It is even a requirement for Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track!
I guess it only takes time before most of the 6 server vendors offer a really private cloud computing reference architecture.

The Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track solution consists of Hyper-V, System Center and Partner software technology. It is an open solution, the partner is free to add software solutions of its own (like management software).

One of the design principles for  hardware used in the Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track is that components and access to network and storage must be redundant. Each server needs to have multiple nics in a team. For iSCSI connections, at least 2 10 GBe nics or HBA’s are recommended. For the storage path MPIO most be used. VLAN trunks needs to be used to be able to split different type of networks and have control over the bandwidth usage of each network type by capping the bandwidth based on priorities. iSCSI traffic most likely wil be given more bandwidth than Live migration traffic. On a 10 GB pipe, iSCSI will typically get 5 GB while Live migration perfecly runs on 1 GB.

Although both iSCSI and Fiber Channel storage can be used, iSCSI storage is always required in the Fast Track solution as part of the solution. That is because clustering needs to be provided at the individual virtual machine level. Clustering at the host level (which ensures a VM is restarted on a remaining host if a host fails) is not enough to provide redundancy for cloud computing. Disk volumes inside a virtual machine can only be made available to multiple virtual machines using iSCSI. There is no such thing as a virtual Fiber Channel HBA in Hyper-V virtual machines.

If using a converged network, Quality of Service needs to be used to make sure certain types of network traffic can be priortized to make sure the virtual machines gets the guaranteed performance.

Management is an important part of the Hyper-V  Cloud Fast Track. Continious availability is very important aspect of cloud computing. To deliver that, the infrastructure needs to be monitored. If a failure is about to happen, actions need to be taken automatically to prevent downtime. For example, if the temperature in a Hyper-V server gets too high, System Center Operations Manager will notice that and initiate a Live migration of all virtual machines running on that host.

For file systems, Clustered Shared Volumes can be used, but also Melio FS for example. The server vendor delivering the Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track is free in selecting the cluster aware file system.

At the Microsoft.com Private Cloud website a lot more of information can be found, like deployment guides.

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About Marcel van den Berg
I am a technical consultant with a strong focus on server virtualization, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and business continuity/disaster recovery.

2 Responses to What is Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track ?

  1. Pingback: New features in System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 « UP2V

  2. Pingback: Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track=Slow Start « Virtualization.BlogNotions - Thoughts from Industry Experts

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