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Extending the cloud ecosystem: Data center to IBM SmartCloud Enterprise migration

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Cloud providers often struggle to meet up with customer demand. Demand is generated by immediate needs and immediate needs are influenced by wants of others. The one thing cloud providers do understand is that with an ever growing market and a breadth of technology gaps, cloud ecosystem partners can fill the opportunity gaps with key unique features that will help the masses.

With the release of image import capabilities within the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise 2.0 release (API only), an opportunity gap has opened up for vendors to create solutions that solve a fundamental problem in cloud: how to get workloads from their on-premises or cloud environment to IBM SmartCloud Enterprise.

This article depicts a specific vendor solution set from CohesiveFT. Cohesive’s technologies in image import, deployment, and contextualization have exploited some of the newest features of IBM SmartCloud Enterprise to solve the migration issues when moving to cloud, and have done it with a sleek SaaS portal named the Elastic Server. Let me explain.

Data center to cloud migration involves three steps:

1. Migrate instances as image templates.

Moving x86 images from physical or virtual to another location can be physical to virtual (p2v) or virtual to virtual (v2v) scenarios.

Similar services around application virtualization are provided by many ISVs (for example, VMware vAPP, VMware AppDirector) but may not deal with end-to-end cloud import of an entire virtual image.

The cloud container provides image abstraction through an image factory, Elastic Server. The v2v migration scenario is the focus of this article.

Note: Basic image import and deployment is provided as a free IBM SmartCloud Enterprise service to IBM SmartCloud Enterprise users.

2. Migrate and retain context

Context or personalization is the server’s configurations controlling the relationships with itself and other systems. Environment migration is not often a single server migration, but a migration of environments and machine dependencies (both inward software dependencies and outward network dependencies).

3. Migrate and retain connectivity.

Providing the newly deployed application topology with secure and controlled connectivity back to the data center is essential in creating an environment in the cloud that operates and behaves like your data center. Retaining connectivity and identity to a host of other non-virtualizable or not yet virtualized or migrated services is essential to successful migration. The cloud container provides end-to-end encrypted connectivity between third-party controlled cloud environments and your data center through VPN-Cubed.

CohesiveFT’s Elastic Server technology provides IBM SmartCloud users the capability to create cloud instances from scratch or from existing disk images (VMDK formatted). This product runs within a dedicated SaaS portal, maintained by the Cohesive team — a simplified approach to cloud deployment. Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to try the Elastic Server and will illustrate my experiences.

As I used the service, I saw four basic stages of image importing evolve:

  • Stage 1: Ingestion and decision point for image creation. In my case, I tend to import a disk image from an existing on-premises virtual machine such as VMware vSphere. This uses case 1b in the diagram.
    Note: Stage 1a uses a standard OS template for import and does not require me to upload images.
  • Stage 2: After I have uploaded my vmdk disk image, I use my IBM SmartCloud user credentials to begin the import process. The import process dashboard provides information about the transformation of the disk image and the injection of my user credentials and proper networking and topoolgy scripts. This automated all of the steps required in the IBM SmartCloud customizing images guide and required no manual intervention. The uploaded image was saved to my Elastic Server account for use in future bundling or contextualizing through the portal.
  • Stage 3: After the import is complete, a new asset is available within my private catalog in my IBM SmartCloud Enterprise account. An instance of this new imported type was created using the standard IBM SmartCloud Enterprise portal.
  • Stage 4: The image is now available through the indicated IP address.

The amount of time to complete a full import was surprisingly fast. The bulk importing and uploading of data took the majority of the time, but the automated script injection plus conversion was seamless and pain free. The automation process managed to successfully perform the following tasks for me (page numbers from the Creating and Customizing Images guide are in parentheses):

  • Seeds the default RAM assets (8-9):

‒      parameters.xml (23-27)

‒      Templated RAM Assets (17-19)

‒      Getting Started (22-23)

  • Configures my instance for logging (10-11).
  • Optional: Enables verbosity for console output (11).
  • Implements the SSH security recommendation (13-14).
  • Includes Activation Scripts support (30-31).
  • Delivers templated information to Asset Catalog (32).
  • Imports and configures the image to the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise environment (38-59)

‒      Configures SELINUX or AppArmor.

‒      Configures a default runlevel.

‒      Configures the “builtin idcuser” settings.

‒      Configures Kudzu settings.

‒      Configures console logging settings.

‒      Configures default port filtering settings.

‒      Configures VIRTIO settings.

‒      Configures parameters.xml library support.

  • Prepares image metadata: – RAM.zip and BSS.zip files (59-62).
  • Prepares OVF descriptor file (62-64).
  • Adds image to storage and creates IBM SmartCloud Enterprise image (64-67).

These steps, provided through an automation portal, significantly reduced my time to import and get started with IBM SmartCloud Enterprise.

In the next article, I will invite Ryan Koop, Cohesive’s head of marketing to explain the contextualization services of Cohesive’s solution and it’s capabilities to build repeatable, specialized images that can retain context. This article only scratches the surface of the import paradigm to explain the import mechanisms and procedures, and solves the first gap in migrating partner workloads to cloud.

For more information about the Smart Elastic service, which is hosted within IBM SmartCloud Enterprise in the Rational Asset catalog, click the following link and sign into the portal:

https://www-147.ibm.com/cloud/enterprise/ram/assetDetail/generalDetails.faces?guid={1ED8C376-A6CF-63EF-1F99-5E02196A98EC}&csrftoken=ELy9MoOD1KoNbS3kjkgNMBxm5IERuo4r

The SaaS service is available at:

http://smart.elasticserver.com

For more information about the Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK) format, go to: http://www.vmware.com/technical-resources/interfaces/vmdk.html.

If you know of vendors that are creating unique and valuable ecosystem offerings within the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise or Enterprise+, please feel free to contact me at canuck@ca.ibm.com.

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