Many service providers would love to launch a full public or private cloud based on VMware vCenter, a powerful, industry-standard virtualisation solution. However, vCenter wasn’t designed with that use case in mind.
VMware has its own solution for this, VCD (VMware Cloud Director) – but while VCD is extremely powerful and flexible, it can be difficult for service providers to justify the additional cost and complexity it brings. Is there another way?
There are five main challenges that service providers need to overcome when building a vCenter-based cloud.
As a cloud provider, you normally want to give users/customers control of their own workloads. In some cases, you just want to allow simple functionality, such as the ability to spin up a VM, reboot a VM, or access the console. Some cloud provider customers want more.
This is at odds with the way vCenter is typically used, where VM provisioning, management and change requests are handled by a team of engineers behind the scenes. In that traditional set-up, giving end users access to your vCenter environment is the last thing you’d want to do, because of the security implications and the general complexity of the vCenter back-end. However, self-service is the point of cloud!
vCenter is often placed on a management network with access to all individual hypervisors and other management tools. These are often the most protected areas of a network. Whilst it’s possible to provide restricted access from external sources, this should be only when absolutely necessary and with strict control. Therefore, providing access to vCenter for end users is not recommended. Again, this conflicts with the “cloud provider” ethos.
Multi-tenancy is a key requirement of a cloud platform: the whole point is being able to share physical infrastructure between multiple tenants without any risk of data leakage. Each tenant must be able to manage their own workloads, and only theirs.
It is possible to achieve a degree of multi-tenancy with vCenter through the use of permissions and various objects such as folders or resource pools. However, it is a very manual process, and is not built into the architecture.
A cloud service provider must be able to meter and bill for usage of their infrastructure, and their customers also need to be able to keep track of their consumption and costs. vCenter does collect and store a number of statistics, and generates graphs for administrators, but it can be difficult to utilise this information. And, of course, that is just the metering statistic – vCenter does not provide any billing functionality.
In terms of automation and orchestration, vCenter does take the first steps for you. You can make use of templates and guest customisation to quickly deploy virtual machines and configure networking and user credentials. However, any more complex tasks again require you to look at other tools in the VMware portfolio, such as the vRealize suite: great solutions, but more tools and cost and complexity to deal with.
As a cloud provider you just want an easy way to provision, manage and bill for your cloud – and fortunately, there is an easy solution. OnApp is a white-label cloud management platform that has been used to create more than 6,000 service provider clouds since it launched – and according to OnApp, vCenter-based clouds are one of the fastest growing sectors of the service provider cloud market.
OnApp integrates with VMware vCenter to solve each of those five key challenges. It’s a turnkey solution for self-service, multi-tenant vCenter cloud, with flexible metering and billing, efficient orchestration, secure role-based access control, and an intuitive, white-label user interface.
Every service provider has different goals and market focuses, and at Insight we’re happy to find the perfect solution for your own cloud go-to-market strategy.
If your virtualised environment runs on VMware vCenter, OnApp could be the idea way to transform it into a public or private cloud service with the features your clients now expect from the cloud.
Contact your Cloud Channel Account Manager to find out more.