vmware-vcloud-air-virtual-private-cloud-ondemand-1-638

As a vExpert I tend to get a number of opportunities to evaluate different pieces of software and platforms – and as much as I’d like to simply look at every one I just don’t have the time to do so.  That said, when the vCloud team reached out with an offer to have a go at their vCloud Air On-Demand service I rearranged some of my priorities – partly because cloud is interesting to me, but mostly because they also gave me the chance to let my readers have the same opportunity!  VMware offers everyone $300 in service credits to evaluate vCloud Air On-Demand, but they gave me an extra $200 – and the promotional code to give you guys the same!  So, if you register at using this exact link – and use the promo code Influencer2015, you too can have a total of $500 in service credits to play with.  Just a note – you have 90 days to use up your credits before they expire – oh, and you need to register before June 30th, 2015 – so hurry!  Another caveat, this offer is valid for NEW MyVMware accounts only – so, ummm, uh, yeah, find another email to register with Smile

On to the evaluation

So I’ve recorded a couple of videos in regards to what I’ve done inside of vCloud Air, the first one, attached just below this paragraph takes us through a little tour of the vCloud Air web UI, and shows us the steps to get our first VM up and running.

 

Now if you don’t feel like listening to my Canadian accenty, cold-infested, whispering (I had a house full of sleeping kids) voice I’ve written the process down as well.  Hey, we all learn in different ways right – some people like videos and others can’t stand them – so here’s both.

Judging a book by its’ cover

A simple, clean interface can go a long way when it comes to peoples reaction and opinions on the software that they use.  The vCloud Air team certainly kept this in mind when developing the UI supporting their on-demand service.  It’s very clean – showing only the basic information that one would really need to see to get a handle on their virtual data centers and VMs.  If you have ever used vCloud Director (vCD) you know just how many different tabs and options are available within VMware’s cloud offering – there are a ton of them, and I find the vCD interface cumbersome and hard to use.  It’s nice to see that VMware has taken some of the basic functionality that vCD provides, and abstracted it away to the vCloud Air UI – allowing their customers to perform common tasks such as power operations, network setup, and VM creation/snapshotting without having to ever set foot inside of vCD.

Let’s Cloud Bro!

Let’s get to it!  The first step after logging into the vCloud Air portal is to create a virtual datacenter.  Before we do that though we have to determine exactly what region we want to work in.  As shown below we have some options as to where we would like our virtual datacenter to be located – I’ve chosen Virginia for some of my testing – but if you are following along, chose one close to you.

vd

To create our Virtual Data Center select the + icon next to the Virtual Data Centers label.  As you can see there isn’t a whole lot of configuration required in this step, simply a name.  Also you can see that each VDC allows for 50 VMs containing 130 GHz CPU, 100GB of RAM and 2TB of both SSD accelerated storage and standard storage.

createVDC_thumb[1]

At this point automation kicks in and our virtual data center is created.  Once it’s complete we can see that a number of components will be created and configured by default for us.  Selecting our VDC from the left hand menu and clicking on the ‘Networks’ tab we can see a number of these pre-configured items such as our public gateway IP address, the default gateway IP for our internal network, as well as the IP range that will be handed out to VMs within our VDC.  We can also create new networks from directly within the vCloud Air UI, however if you need to delve a little deeper into the services offered you can do so by using the ‘Manage in vCloud Director’ link in the top right hand corner.  This will open an already authenticated vCloud Director session where you can manage your networks and add services such as DHCP, load balancing, etc. Essentially all of the functionality that you would normally have when running a full instance of vCD.

networkstab_thumb[1][1]

In order to create firewall rules, nat rules, and assign an accessible public IP to our gateway we need to select our default gateway under the ‘Gateways’ tab.  Again, we can break out into a vCloud Director window here as well.   We will come back to this section in part 2 of this series to connect our VM to the internet and grant ssh access but for now its just good to know where this information is located.

gateway_thumb[1][1]

Speaking of VMs let’s get on with the show here and get our first VM created.  This is done on the ‘Virtual Machines’ tab (Use the giant “Create your first virtual machine” button).  When creating a VM you can select from the catalog which has been provided by VMware, or by creating a catalog, uploading and ISO and creating your VM from scratch.  For the sake of this evaluation I just used the 32 bit Ubuntu server provided by VMware.

createVM_thumb[1][1]

After selecting your VM from the catalog you can then name it and customize the cpu/memory/storage to your choosing.  vCloud Air will default these settings to their preferred amounts but you can change them using their respective sliders.  What’s nice about his screen is that you can see how s simple CPU, RAM and Storage change can affect your price per hour.  In my case, this Ubuntu VM with 1 CPU, 2GB RAM and 10 GB of accelerated storage is a mere 5 cents/hour – not bad

changeVMHardware_thumb[1][1]

Once the VM has been created it should now be listed under the Virtual Machines tab.  Right-clicking the VM will bring up a context menu showing all the actions available, including power options, console access, snapshotting, etc..

vmoptions_thumb[1][1]

Clicking on the VMs name within our list will also bring us into more details in regards to that VM.  The ‘Resource Usage’ tab showing estimated costs, ‘Settings’ tab showing various configurable items, and the ‘Networks’ tab showing the networking information for the VM.  As shown below we can see that our new Ubuntu VM has claimed the first address within our IP pool – 192.168.109.2.

vmnetwork_thumb[1][1]

Another important note about the ‘Settings’ tab is the ‘Guest OS Password’ section.   In order to login to our newly created VM we will need the root password.  This can be revealed by clicking ‘show initial password’.  By default, all the VMs from the default catalog provided by vCloud Air will prompt you to change the default password after first login.  Let’s make note of this password and go ahead and open a console to change it.

changepassword_thumb[1][1]

As we can see below the console provided by the vCloud Air UI is pretty barebones – allowing us to simply provide input to the VM and a button to send CTRL+ALT+DEL to the VM.  I found this a little frustrating at times, especially since I was using a Linux VM.  There were times where I had to direct a CTRL+C command to the VM but had no way of doing so, instead I had to proceed with a complete reboot of the VM.  An on-screen keyboard may be a better solution here.

keyboard

At this point we are done with part 1 of my test drive.  My goal here was simply to get a VM up and running and we’ve certainly accomplished that.  So far my opinion around vCloud Air On-Demand is a good one – Aside from a little hiccup of trying to send CTRL+ commands to the VM through the built-in console everything else has been a breeze.  I really like the UI – how they have taken some of the complexity involved with trying to certain tasks within vCD and provided a one-click, automated solution without ever having to touch vCD – yet still giving users the option to move into vCD if needed.  In part 2 we will have a look at setting up some of the networking and firewalling in our virtual data center – things will get a bit more complicated as we explore the NAT and firewall rules inside our gateway.

If you have any experience or thoughts about vCloud Air I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below or find me on twitter.  And as mentioned before if you wanted to evaluate vCloud Air On-Demand yourself go ahead and register here, using the Influencer2015 promotional code to get yourself $500.00 in service credits.

Don’t forget to read Test Driving vCloud Air On-Demand Part 2