VMware vCloud Air: Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand Impressions

Foreword

I have noticed that there is a hybrid Cloud offering called VMware vCloud Air – Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand. This Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) allows you to have your own environment in VMware’s Data Centers. Everything is metered on pay-as-you-go basis – you pay for each resource used – vCPUs, RAM, Hard Drive Storage (you can choose between SSD-accelerated and “platter-based” only), plus licensing fees for Windows OS family. It has a simple, friendly user interface, but your VM Infrastructure Administrators will want to use the integrated vCloud Director Interface that is also included.

The current promo action runs with 300€ credit for you to spend on the first 90-day trial for everyone – if you are interested go and check it out. Since I like trying out new things, I’d like to share my first moments with this brand new service.

Deploying Your First VM

During registration, you will need to fill in your credit card details, but you will only be billed after you have run out your provisioned credit at the end of your billing period – I presume that  period starts from the first day you request your VM in the cloud.

After you bind your vCloud Air account with your My VMware account and verify it – which is a very quick proces – you will be taken to a login page. You must enter your vCloud Air specific credentials, and are welcomed by the main dashboard.

vcloudair-welcomescreen

vCloud Air Main Dashboard

To make really sure I got my credit, I went to tools in the upper-right hand corner and selected Service Credits. There you can review your „cloud balance“ to see how much you can spend on your VMs.

vcloudair-credits

Good, I won’t be charged unless I exceed 300€ in the last 3 months… phew 🙂

Now to get the action started, we’ll click the Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand button to have our own first cloud VM provisioned. You will be asked on which location you’d like your VM be – currently there are three choices California or Virginia in the United States, or Slough in United Kingdom. Since I’m located in Europe, I’ll choose the UK one. The city of Slough is about 39 kilometers West from London.

choose-location

US or UK?

After selecting your location, you will be informed that an environment initialization is underway.

welcome-datacenter

Everything is getting ready…

After you enter the VPCoD dashboard (that is empty), you get an option to create a new Data Center – let’s see what that is about:

02-testDC

So this is what clouds are made of

03-resource-usage

You can see what eats up most of your finances on this screen

You can see that a Data Center in vCloud Air can hold up to 50 Virtual Machines, 130 GHz of vCPU, 100GB of vRAM, 2TB of Standard Storage and 2TB of SSD-Accelerated Storage, but we won’t need all that for our spotlight info (nor can I afford it), so let’s see some more tabs – next up is Resource Usage Tab:

Well, since nothing is running there is also nothing to report – but it’s nice to have a notion how granular will your resource billing be.

You also have an option to review your Gateways and Networks that are going to be connecting your VMs:

04-gateways

05-networks

Also,  you have the option of managing this environment in vCloud Director, which gets handy if you already have some infrastructure to connect to your new environment, or if you are just more familiar with vCD and want to feel more in control.: 06-manageInVCD

Now let’s get ready to deploy our new first VM in the English Cloud – you are welcomed with a Guest OS Choice screen – you can always find the current chargeback values in the official Pricing guide.

07-oschoice

Pick your OS flavor here

Let’s see our pricing for a very basic Windows 2012R2 Standard 64-Bit edition VM (current as of 17th February 2015) :

11-basicvm_pricing_4

Let’s save some money and go with the barebones config for demo purposes

You can click the chain-link icon to follow recommended vCPU & RAM specifications for your server.

12-basicvm-building

When you click Create Virtual Machine, you’ll be taken to the Virtual Machines tab where you’ll see that your VM is being bulit:

And in less than 5 minutes, my VM was built! 

After clicking on the VM’s name, you are taken to its properties page:

14-vmproperties

After opening it with a console, we see the standard login screen:

15-vmconsole01

Just your ordinary login screen

But it was not a good idea to immediately start digging around right after the VM was built, because after two minutes the OS rebooted and went through Sysprep. Then your OS was prepared to use with its provided Guest OS password.

16-server-performance

So this is what it’s running on

In the Task Manager we see that the virtualized hardware is running on Xeon E5-2650v2 @ 2,60GHz

And that is all for today – We shall continue in another spotlight by connecting this machine to the network and perhaps fiddling around with it some more.

Closing Thoughts

I can see this as a very good choice for a small or medium business that wants to start – either completely in a virtualized infrastructure from scratch or just explore the possibilities with the already present infrastructure inside their own Data Center (or just one ESXi host) – in the cloud, provisioned by VMware itself.

If the latency caused by the distance from the current location isn’t of an issue (we’ll explore that next time) and your budget will sway more in the favor of having your servers of various OSes running in a Data Center you don’t have to manage, rather than buying expensive equipment – worrying about licenses, management and maintenance overhead, this is a great Platform as a Service for you.

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