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User Experience: How easy is it to deploy hundreds of VMs in a minute?

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In the private cloud world, deploying a virtual machine means cloning a template. At least this is what people usually do with VMware or KVM.

A couple of months ago, I heard about IBM SmartCloud Provisioning under the code name HSLT: High Scale, Low Touch provisioning engine. This product is all about bringing a true “as a service” approach into the infrastructure world. That’s what the brochure says anyway.

Because you can download a 30-day trial of the product from developerWorks, what about testing this new tool to see what’s its potential for innovation? That’s what I did anyway and here is what I went through.

The main issue I went through is that I only have a laptop but the brochure says I need four physical boxes to start testing! A word on the laptop first: it needs a lot of RAM. For my test I used a Lenovo W510 with 16 GB RAM and 250 GB of free space on the hard drive.

A virtualization tip now: the reason why the documentation says you need physical boxes is that a KVM hypervisor will be installed on top of the boxes called storage nodes. Virtualizing those nodes means that you have to run a nested KVM hypervisor inside a virtual machine. Because VMware brought some very nice features inside their VMware Workstation 8 and that the option to virtualize VTxinstructions is one of them, I used VMware Workstation to do the trick.

Here is the topology I deployed to start testing IBM SmartCloud Provisioning:

Now what do I really need to install the product?

Not much really: You need to download the DVD of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 x86_64; you also need to get a couple of additional packages from Red Hat; and of course you need the IBM SmartCloud Provisioning installer.

If you are not familiar with KVM, I suggest you take an hour or two to play with it. You really do not need VMware ESX with IBM SmartCloud Provisioning, even if ESX and Xen are supported as well.

To the installation: How difficult could it be?

With the documentation from the information center, it took me half a day to install everything. If you are not familiar with Linux, installing will probably take you more time but not much more because a large part of the process is handled by the graphical installer.

Is it complex? No, it is not.

I spent most of my time (more than two hours) waiting for the installer to complete. The reason why it’s taking that much time is because it creates KVM virtual machines (the “kernel services”) inside the storage nodes.

Tip: For the compute and storage nodes, do not forget to check the Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT option inside VMware; otherwise, the IBM SmartCloud Provisioning installer will fail.


OK, I installed the product: How can I test it?

I simply created a KVM virtual machine and customized it with the instructions from the IBM SmartCloud Provisioning information center. After that I just copied the virtual machine’s disk on the two storage nodes and registered it with the command line.

I took half an hour to play with the administrative and user consoles to become more familiar with the product and started to deploy my first virtual machines: five Linux in two minutes (I could not launch more because I was lacking RAM).

During your tests, I suggest you have a look at the recordings of demo sessions that are available on developerWorks. Those guides have been really helpful for me to better understand the capabilities of the product.

What about Image Composition and Construction Tool?

I also installed this tool, which is included with IBM SmartCloud Provisioning. The installation is really easy and you have all the details to try it in Rosselas blogpost.

All in all I really think it’s not much of a big deal to start testing IBM SmartCloud Provisioning on your own. In my case, playing with this tool allowed me to imagine new disrupting ways of managing modern IT Infrastructures and cut on unnecessary IT expenses.

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