Storage Automation, Self-Service and Provisioning for a Microsoft Private Cloud

By Calvin Nieh, NetApp

The annual Microsoft Management Summit has become a key source of information and training for IT professionals building private clouds based on Windows Server® and System Center. One of the top rated sessions at this year’s event was presented by NetApp and focused on storage automation, self-service and provisioning. Highlights of the presentation are covered below, and a video of the session is also available, including demonstrations of some of the core storage automation technologies.

Microsoft Private Cloud Storage Automation
Automating private cloud storage requires seamless integration across the entire software stack,beginning at the device level. For example, offloaded data transfer (ODX) is a new feature in Windows Server 2012 that can increase server and network performance by transparently offloading copy/move operations to an intelligent storage array. NetApp® arrays make special use of ODX. Clustered Data ONTAP® uses a clone operation instead of a full copy, essentially copying pointers to the data instead of the data blocks themselves. This means the copies are nearly instantaneous and don’t require the use of additional capacity until new data is written. In addition, NetApp solutions can work across protocols. Copy operations from an iSCSI source to an SMB target work the same as copies from iSCSI to iSCSI or SMB to SMB.

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Above the device level, storage automation for a Microsoft® private cloud requires software that works with the key System Center components used to manage the physical and virtual infrastructure: Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Orchestrator. For NetApp, this starts with the OnCommand® plug-in for Microsoft (OCPM), which allows a private cloud administrator to perform storage monitoring and management tasks using familiar System Center components. Next is the Data ONTAP PowerShell Toolkit, which provides Windows PowerShell wrappers around the comprehensive set of APIs used to manage NetApp arrays. More than 1,200 cmdlets are available in the toolkit to help automate storage workflows (both the PowerShell Toolkit and the OCPM are free of charge). Finally, SnapManager® software enables the creation of application and crash-consistent point-in-time copies and can be used to provide policy-based protection for individual VMs and applications or for entire virtual data center environments.

Storage Automation Resources

Source Subject Format
Microsoft Community NetApp MMS 2013 presentation Video
Microsoft TechNet Windows® ODX overview HTML
Windows IT Pro Best-of-Breed Private Cloud with NetApp and Windows Server 2012 PDF

Microsoft Private Cloud Self-Service
Self-service operations speed cloud provisioning time, decrease the risk of human error and increase agility. Cloud architects can design self-service environments for end users by using Orchestrator runbooks to automate standard storage-related tasks as part of an end-to-end workflow. In addition, NetApp extends self-service provisioning to infrastructure administration as part of a FlexPod® with Microsoft Private Cloud solution. In this scenario, an administrator can submit a simple form to trigger the automatic configuration of a new virtual machine host,complete with fabric connections and storage resources. This is enabled by integration between the NetApp storage array, Cisco UCS® profiles and the System Center Service Manager.

Microsoft Private Cloud Storage Provisioning
The NetApp rapid provisioning capability can be accessed directly from Virtual Machine Manager through an extension to the graphical interface provided by OCPM. This close integration makes it easy to leverage the power of NetApp FlexClone® software to automate the creation of near-instantaneous, zero-incremental storage copies of golden images for new servers and desktops. The same management interface can also be used for lifecycle management to delete VMs, remove credentials or resize storage that has previously been provisioned.

Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track Validation
FlexPod with Microsoft Private Cloud is a converged data center infrastructure solution with integrated server, storage, networking and value-added software, validated against the Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track program. Fast Track validation is a result of a collaboration between NetApp, Cisco and Microsoft to deliver comprehensive testing, documentation and deployment guidelines for a private cloud solution built with Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1.

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For more information on your storage automation options and for best-practice recommendations from Microsoft’s Private Cloud Partner of the Year for 2012, visit the NetApp community for Microsoft.

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