Creating a Private Cloud using System Center 2012 SP1 and Virtual Machine Manager (Part 1)

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In Part I of this article, you learn about critical concepts associated with a private cloud solution and specific components required to create a Microsoft-based private cloud using the Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager. Future articles in this series will provide step-by-step guidance to deploy and configure private cloud components.

What is a Private Cloud Anyway?

Even as private cloud technology awareness and adoption grows in the enterprise space, there is understandably still some confusion about how this new computing model differs from LAN-based virtualization computing, and what makes it a compelling strategy to adopt.

At the heart of private cloud computing is the core concept of maximizing the utilization of shared hardware resources (computing, memory, storage, and network) through virtualization to enable a highly available and scalable infrastructure that can quickly adapt to dynamic consumption patterns of hosted software applications and services. Complementing the hardware and software layers are orchestration, management, and service layers that facilitate the automated provisioning and release of resources as computing requirements change. These additional layers and the resulting automation and management capabilities differentiate a private cloud from LAN-based computing that simply utilizes virtualization to increase utilization of resources.

A private cloud is deployed for the exclusive use of a single enterprise to support one or more internal business units. It allows an organization to maintain control over their applications and data, as well as the cloud infrastructure, if so required. In contrast, a public cloud supports general access to computing resources, applications, and services, but completely abstracts the underlying infrastructure from the consumers.

Characteristics of a Microsoft-Based Private Cloud

Microsoft implements its private cloud solution around four basic principles:

  • Resource Pooling – Resources are pooled and abstracted from consumers such that their allocation (and reallocation) is made dynamically based on demand, and load management requirements.
  • Rapid Elasticity – Resources are automatically provisioned and released to scale out or in based on dynamic capacity requirements while providing consumers the experience of an unlimited resource pool.
  • Self-Service – Resource allocations are requested and provisioned automatically through a self-service mechanism without the need for human intervention.
  • Metered Services – Resource usage is tracked and reported to enable chargeback of services to consumers based on actual utilization figures.

These tenets are derived from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cloud computing definition ( that was published in September 2011. The NIST definition provides a basis for comparison of different cloud computing solutions. It is not meant to provide details or constraints, or particular endorsement of any single cloud computing implementation.

Hyper-V and System Center 2012 SP1 in a Microsoft Private Cloud

A Microsoft centric private cloud solution relies on the Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2012 as the platform virtualization engine that enables pooling and sharing of computing, memory, storage, and network resources. Hyper-V also supports security and isolation of hosted services and workloads.

System Center 2012 SP1 components provide the automation, operation, and management functionality in a Microsoft private cloud, as well as enabling the elasticity, self-service, and metering attributes. System Center 2012 SP1 components include:

  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager – enables private cloud creation and management, as well as service (workload) deployment.
  • System Center Configuration Manager – supports deployment of operating systems, applications, and software updates to physical and virtual machines, and provides hardware and software inventory and compliance management.
  • System Center Operations Manager – provides infrastructure performance and application health monitoring in a private cloud.
  • System Center Data Protection Manager – allows disk and tape-based data protection and recovery for physical servers and virtual machines, applications (SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint), and desktop systems.
  • System Center App Controller – enables the self-service based configuration, deployment, and management of services in a private cloud.
  • System Center Service Manager – provides integration and automation of incident and problem resolution, change control, and release management.
  • System Center Orchestrator – allows integration and automation of processes for creation, deployment, and monitoring of private cloud resources.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager is the core component that allows you to define, create, and manage a Microsoft-based private cloud. However, it does not require a homogeneous Microsoft platform environment. In addition to Hyper-V, it supports virtualization engines like Citrix XenServer and VMware ESX, including XenServer 6.0 and vSphere 5.1.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager is itself comprised of several components:

  • VMM Management Server – hosts the Virtual Machine Manager service which handles commands and communications between the VMM database, VMM library server, and virtual servers.
  • VMM Database – stores the Virtual Machine Manager configuration details, including information about virtual servers and virtual machines.
  • VMM Library Server – hosts the catalog of resources that stores ISO files, VHDs, templates, scripts, and profiles that are used to deploy virtual machines and services.
  • VMM Console – provides the graphical user interface to System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

In previous versions of System Center Virtual Machine Manager, a VMM Self-Service Portal was provided as a user interface to request and deploy virtual machines. In System Center 2012 SP1, Virtual Machine Manager no longer provides this component. The functionality is replaced by System Center App Controller.

Microsoft Private Cloud Components

Creating a private cloud with System Center Virtual Machine Manager involves configuring fabric components, as well as defining and deploying virtual machines and services. In System Center Virtual Machine Manager, the fabric comprises the server, network, and storage resources that are used to create resource pools and support fabric components.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager – Fabric Server Resources

Fabric server resources include computing components that are pooled and allocated to a private cloud. Fabric server resources include:

  • Host groups
  • Hyper-V hosts and clusters
  • Citrix XenServer hosts and clusters
  • VMware ESX hosts and clusters
  • VMM library servers
  • Pre-Execution Environment (PXE) servers
  • Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) servers
  • VMware vCenter servers
  • VMM servers

Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, and VMware ESX hosts are placed into host groups that allow arranging computing resources based on physical location or any other meaningful structure. Host groups allow the application of a common configuration to a set of hosts including virtual machine placement rules, dynamic optimization and power optimization settings, storage allocation, and other properties. Host groups are hierarchical and by default, a child host group inherits settings from its parent host group. In order to create a private cloud, host groups are selected to participate, and then all or some hosts from the host groups are allocated to the private cloud. All of the other servers provide support and services for the virtualization hosts.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager – Fabric Network Resources

In System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1, many new fabric network resources are available for private cloud creation and management. Fabric network resources include:

  • Logical Networks – provide an abstraction of the physical network infrastructure to enable traffic isolation and enforce service level agreements (SLA) by allowing grouping of IP subnets and virtual LANs (VLAN) for structure and assignment of network resources.
  • MAC Address Pools – allow assignment of static MAC addresses to virtual network devices of Windows-based virtual machine running on Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, and VMware ESX hosts.
  • Load Balancers – provide load balancing integration for virtual machines through Microsoft Network Load Balancing (NLB) or other supported hardware load balancers.
  • Virtual IP (VIP) Templates – store load balancing configuration settings for specific network traffic types.
  • Switch Extension Managers – provide a mean to specify other vendor network-management consoles and allow the VMM management server to import extensible switch properties from vendor network management databases.
  • Logical Switches – store network configuration information to apply identical settings to virtual switches across multiple hosts.
  • Native Port Profiles – store network configuration information to apply identical settings to virtual network adapters across multiple hosts.
  • Port Classifications – provide global names to identify different types of virtual network port profiles across multiple logical switches.
  • Gateways – provide the ability to connect virtualized networks to other networks, including remote networks.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 networking features also include the ability to implement network virtualization. Network virtualization allows the deployment of multiple virtual networks on a physical network by mapping between the network address assigned inside a virtual machine (Customer Address or CA) and a unique host-based network address (Provider Address or PA) which is used to route the packets on the physical networks.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager – Fabric Storage Resources

In System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1, there are also several new fabric storage resources that are available for private cloud creation and management. Fabric storage resources include:

  • Classifications and Pools – enable the definition of user-defined storage classifications for storage pools usually based on quality of service (QOS) levels. Also allow the definition of logical units from available storage pools to provision to hosts.
  • Providers – support the ability to use and manage Windows file servers, Storage Management Initiative – Specification (SMI-S) managed, and SMP managed storage devices.
  • Arrays – support managed block storage arrays and array details.
  • File Servers – support managed file servers and file server details.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager allows the use of local and remote storage devices as fabric resources. Block storage devices that expose logical unit numbers (LUNs) through Fiber-Channel, iSCSI, and SAS connections, as well as file storage devices that expose network shares through the SMB 3.0 protocol are supported storage resources.


In this article, you received an overview of critical concepts associated with a Microsoft private cloud solution. You also learned about the components involved in the process of creating a private cloud using Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager. In the next article, you will learn how to get started with the creation of a private cloud using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1.

If you would like to be notified when Janique Carbone releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our Real-Time Article Update newsletter.

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