Tech Field Day #VFD4 – Platform9 – Private cloud in 10 minutes or its free…

Let’s set the scene

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You are at your desk when your CIO can be heard descending down from the marble floored, nicely painted floor above you.  They stop and ask for an update on the private cloud initiatives.  As you begin laying out all your options they quickly intervene quoting several articles they read in the in flight magazine on their return trip from Hawaii.  The end of the conversation caps off with an “OpenStack, it’s all the rage, and we need to be doing it, so, do it!”  The endless articles and blogs that you have read in regards to OpenStack and it’s complexity suddenly rush back into your brain.  As the sweat begins to drip off your nose you begin wondering if your planned trip to Hawaii is even feasible now that you will be wrapped up in the OpenStack project for the next year.  Your coworker, whom was quaintly eavesdropping on the whole conversation promptly fires off a “FYI” into your inbox containing the link to all the Platform9 videos from VFD4 stating they might help, followed up with some nervous text around the whereabouts of his stapler.

 Disclaimer: As a Virtualization Field Day 4 delegate all of my flight, travel, accommodations, eats, and drinks are paid for.  However I do not receive any compensation nor am I required to write anything in regards to the event or the sponsors.  This is done at my own discretion.

FYI – Platform9 at #VFD

Platform9Logo-wpcf_100x42Platform9, the 2nd presenter on the 1st day of VFD4 featured Sirish Raghuram (CEO) and Madhura Maskasy (Head of Product) showcasing their OpenStack as a Service solution.  Throughout all of the Platform9 presentations you could really see one simple message shine through, and that message just happens to be the Platform9’s manifesto

Platform9’s mission is to make private clouds easy for organizations of any scale.

So how does Platform9 do this?  Well, ironically they use one of the most complex cloud projects out there – OpenStack.

Why OpenStack?

So, why would Platform9 go down the OpenStack road given its reputation of being difficult and time consuming to implement and maintain – well, it all comes down to how Platform9 envisions the future of private cloud.  Sure, private cloud will have all of the usual components – self service, orchestration layers, resource pooling and placement however Platform9 looks beyond this stating that the private cloud of the future must span virtualization technologies – essentially not differentiate between ESXi, KVM, or Hyper-V.  On top of just spanning hypervisors, Platform9 states future private clouds must also span containers, as products like Docker have began to be all the buzz these days.  However one of the biggest aspects of Platform9’s vision of private cloud is that it must be open source and since OpenStack is the 2nd largest open source project ever, coupled along with it’s incredible drive from the community – hey, why not OpenStack?os-pf9

So when looking at all of these requirements – orchestration, hypervisor agnostic, container integration, resource pooling OpenStack begins to make a lot of sense, seeing as it meets all the criteria defined in Platform9’s vision of private cloud.

Wait a minute, you said as a service, isn’t OpenStack installed on-premises?

There are a couple of common ways enterprise can deploy OpenStack today.  The first being completely on premises, utilizing existing or new infrastructure, all within your data center walls.  This scenario is great in the fact that you have complete control of your OpenStack environment.  The management and data all resides safely within your business.  However this scenario can also pose challenges as well.  To implement OpenStack on premises, businesses need to have the resources to do so – and those resources encompass both skill-sets and time – both of which can add up in terms of dollars.  You first need the skill-sets available – the know how if you will on how to design, implement, and manage OpenStack.  Secondly, you need the time.  Time to manage the infrastructure, keep up with updates and upgrades that as we know can come like rapid fire in the open source world.

The second common deployment method of OpenStack is a hosted private cloud.  In this scenario a service provider is leveraged which completely hosts a companies OpenStack deployment.  In most cases they look after the installation and configuration, the management and updates, removing this burden from the customer.  That said, this model does not allow companies to utilize existing infrastructure and usually results in a greenfield deployment.  And depending on the scale of the infrastructure needed, in some ways this can cost just as much as  a public cloud instance and your data still sits outside of your companies data center.

Platform9 takes an approach that merges both these scenarios, giving you the best of both worlds – in essence, they abstract the management layer of OpenStack from the hypervisor/data layer.  In the end you are left with your data sitting on your existing infrastructure and the OpenStack management layer running and managed by Platform9 within their infrastructure.   Thus you get all of the benefits of OpenStack private cloud, with out the complexity or requirements of setting it all up and managing it.

The nuts and bolts

nutsbolts I know I know, enough private cloud blah blah blah OpenStack blah blah blah how the heck does this work?  First up let’s look at what Platform9 actually delivers from within OpenStack.  Platform9 handles the key modules in OpenStack – that includes Keystone, Nova, and Glance and delivers them to you through their cloud.  You only provide the compute (BYOC?) and the infrastructure to power them.  What you won’t see inside of Platform9’s solution is Horizon – this is replaced by their own custom built dashboard.

Once you are ready you can simply download and install Platform9’s agent to any of the Linux/KVM instances that you would like to pair with your new OpenStack solution.  Once initiated the agent will begin discovering information about anything and everything there is to know about your environment – this information is then encrypted and sent back to Platform9 to be reported back inside of the dashboard.  From the dashboard roles can be assigned to your physical servers – this is a KVM server, this is my image catalog (glance) etc and changes are reflected back down to your hardware.  That said, Platform9 is not just for greenfield deployments – if you already have KVM running on that physical server your VMs and images are seamlessly imported into Platform9’s OpenStack as instances, thus the whole “leverage your existing infrastructure” play.

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Capacity is automatically calculated and reported into the Platform9’s dashboard, allowing customers to quickly see what CPU, Memory, Storage they have available, deployed, consumed, etc…  The custom HTML5 Platform9 dashboard is quite slick and easy to navigate.  It supports multiple tenants, users, and tiers of infrastructure, which can be stretched across multiple data centers.  Meaning you could assign a specific user a specific amount of resources (CPU, Memory, Storage, Networks) which come from specific resource tiers or data centers.

Once environments are discovered and imported into Platform9 the custom dashboard then becomes the entry point for all OpenStack management and API calls.  The dashboard will take those API calls and execute them accordingly, instructing the agents and your local infrastructure to take appropriate action.  All OpenStack APIs are still available within Platform9

Wait!  You said vSphere earlier – that was all KVM stuff!

vsphere Whoops!  Did I forget to talk about vSphere integration!  The good news is that since VFD4 and the now Platform9’s OpenStack has entered GA for use with KVM, and the vSphere integration beta has been announced.  This means that all of Platform9’s OpenStack management functionality can also be used with your existing vSphere environment, with the agent simply being deployed as an ova appliance rather than directly on the hypervisor itself.  In turn, your existing VMs will be discovered by Platform9 and imported as instances within the dashboard.  Your templates are converted and imported into Platform9’s OpenStack image catalog – Basically, all of the functionality that is there with KVM is also available within vSphere, allowing you to manage both your KVM and vSphere environments side by side.  Just replace KVM in the above section with vSphere. Smile  Oh, and Docker integration is in the works!

What’s OpenStack and what’s Platform9

choice Seeing as how the OpenStack project is ever changing, meaning there is plenty of work being done on each and every component of OpenStack provides a bit of a challenge for Platform9 when they are deciding what to include/exclude in their product.   Take the topic of reporting for instance; There is a service being developed called Ceilometer inside of the OpenStack project that will handle all of the collection of utilization data in order to present for further analyses – so Platform9 has opted to wait for ceilometer before enhancing some of their reporting functionality.  No point in vearing away from a vanilla OpenStack if you don’t have to.  That said, some things can’t wait.  The auto discovery of your existing workloads and infrastructure that Platform9 does is not native to OpenStack – this is something that they have went a head and developed as a value-add to their solution.  Platform9 is also looking to enhance functionality of the different components, services, and drivers that already exist within OpenStack.  Take the vSphere driver for instance – Platform9 is working on solutions to get support for more than one cluster per vCenter inside their environment.  They are working on solutions to natively access the vSphere templates rather than performing copy/move functionality.  They are looking to leverage the capabilities of the vCenter customization specifications directly from Platform9.   The also note that they are dedicated and have full intent on pushing all of this work back into the OpenStack project – a value that every company should have.

So in the end do I think that Platform9 has achieved their mission of making private clouds easy for orgs of any scale – absolutely.  The key differentiator for me with Platform9’s service is the shear fact that you can not only use your existing infrastructure, but you can do this in a way that is simple, seamless and all encompassing in terms of discovering your workloads and templates you currently have.  In the end, you are left with your KVM/VMware environment, managed by Platform9’s OpenStack, setup within minutes, leaving you with a lot of free time to oh, I don’t know, look for Nelson’s stapler.

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Now I know I titled this post in 10 minutes or its free but guess what? It’s free anyways! – You can try out Platform9 on 6 CPUs and 100 VMs absolutely free!  For more info definitely check out Platform9’s site and all of the #VFD4 videos here!