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Lab Management -- Good Candidate for External Cloud?

I am not sure when the typical server consolidation with virtualization officially became known as an on-premise private cloud, but it is. We will see more products start to blur the lines between on-premise and start to use the major cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and others.

One category that many internal infrastructure teams may want to consider sending to the cloud is the lab management segment. Lab management is a difficult beast. For organizations with a large amount of developers, the request for test systems can be immense. Putting development (lab-class) virtual servers, even if temporarily, in the primary server infrastructure may not be the best use of resources.

That is the approach that VMLogix has with the Lab Manager Cloud Edition product. Simply speaking, the lab management technology that VMLogix has become very popular in the virtualization landscape is extended to the cloud. A lot of history with VMLogix technology is manifested in current provisioning offerings with Citrix Xen technologies as well as a broad set of offerings for VMware environments. The Lab Manager Cloud Edition allows administrators to create a robust portal in the Amazon EC2 and S3 clouds to allow internal administrators to give developers server resources on demand without allocating the expense of internal storage and server resources.

The primary issue when moving anything to the cloud is security. For a lab management function, I believe security can be addressed with a few practice points. The first is to use sample data in the cloud if a database is involved. You could make a case for intellectual property with the developer's code and configuration that may be used and their transfers between the cloud and your private network. This can be somewhat mitigated by the network traffic rules that can be set for an Amazon Machine Image (AMI).

VMLogix is working on integrating with the upcoming Amazon Virtual Private Cloud for Lab Management to bridge a big gap. In most private address spaces, this will allow your IP address space to be extended to the cloud over a site-to-site VPN to the cloud. This can also include Windows domain membership which would allow centralized management of encryption, firewall policies and other security configuration.

Just like transitioning from development to production in on-premise clouds, application teams need to be good at transporting code and configuration between the two environments. If this is in the datacenter or in the cloud, this requirement doesn't change.

The VMLogix approach is to build on Amazon's clearly defined allocation and cost model for resources to allow organizations to provision their lab management functions in the cloud. This covers everything from who can make a virtual machine to how long the AMI will be valid. Lab Manager Cloud Edition also allows AMIs to be provisioned with a series of installable packages; such as an Apache web engine, the .NET Framework, and other almost anything you can support an automated installation or configuration. Fig. 1 is a snapshot of the Lab Manager Cloud Edition portal:

Visible LUNs
Figure 1. The Lab Manager Cloud Edition allows administrators to deploy virtual servers in the Amazon cloud with a robust provisioning scheme. (Click image to view larger version.)

Does cloud-based lab management seem appropriate at this time? Do we need something like Amazon VPC in place first? Share your comments here and let me know if you want to see this area explored more.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 03/01/2010 at 12:47 PM


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