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Clear Choice Test

Private cloud management

Slideshow | How we did it | Scorecard | Test archive

Private clouds: Not for the faint of heart

Novell Cloud Manager wins five-vendor shootout, but many products still a work-in-progress

By Tom Henderson and Brendan Allen, ExtremeLabs, Network World
December 20, 2010 12:04 AM ET

Network World - If you're thinking about operating a private cloud, you'll need management software to help create a virtualized pool of compute resources, provide access to end users, and handle security, resource allocation, tracking and billing. 

We tested five private cloud management products -- Novell's Cloud Manager, Eucalyptus Enterprise, OpenNebula, Citrix Lab Manager, and Cloud.com's CloudStack -- to see if the current generation of tools is up to the task. We found that Novell's Cloud Manager was the only product that had all of the features we were looking for. Therefore, Cloud Manager is our Clear Choice Test winner. We were frustrated by some of the other products, and a couple are not yet ready for prime time. 

As with any discussion of cloud computing, the first step is to provide definitions. In this test, we're building and delivering infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) inside the corporate firewall. 

And while it's certainly possible to run e-mail and line-of-business applications in a private cloud, our testing focused on scenarios where developers or end users are able to select a finite set of resources (hardware, licenses, applications) for non-persistent, short life-cycle jobs. 

Also read: Test methodology | Nimbula Director beta shows promise 

Slideshow | Scorecard

We designed our test to see how approachable the private cloud management application was to both IT administrators and users — especially if the users weren't technical systems personnel or developers. 

We also looked for the ability of the management program to assemble a variety of resources, provide heterogeneous virtual machine support, as well as do this in a secure fashion — and be able to report what it's done and cost it all out. 

Here are the individual product reviews: 

Novell Cloud Manager 1.0 

Novell's Cloud Manager (CM) controls internal assets in much the same way that public cloud service providers do, but with most of the rough edges removed and the rest highly automated. 

Cloud Manager allows private cloud builders to identify hardware assets, bring together resource pools on virtualized servers, package applications, then bill and track usage through Active Directory and LDAP security models. 

As with all of the products tested, there's considerable preparation work needed to allocate hardware and software resources, group them into identifiable components, then permit them to be accessed and tracked through the life cycle of the production phase. 

When finally built, Novell Cloud Manager had the most mature way of managing, provisioning and accounting for cloud resources, with the added benefit of having resources that could be readily manipulated by end users. 

There are two principal control components: the Cloud Manager Application Server, and the Cloud Manager Orchestration Server, which we installed into a VMware 4.1 environment using one SUSE 11 virtual machine for each service. 

Initial provisioning also required building virtual machines to serve as a library for access through CM Orchestration Server (CMOS) to get work done. CMOS contains components (from Novell's acquisition of PlateSpin) that build customized VM instances. 

And we installed a CMOS agent onto VMware's vCenter to connect the Novell bits with VMware. Novell Cloud Manager also works with bare metal hypervisors Xen and Hyper-V, but we didn't test these. 

Once configured (not a tough process), Cloud Manager allowed us to expose cloud resources and put limits on them. Users authenticate through Active Directory or LDAP directory services, and use preconfigured templates to cost, deploy, and 'life-cycle' cloud components. 

The components are virtual machines, configured with optional pre-installed -configured applications with specific VM characteristics like vCPUs, storage, memory, IP addresses. Settings can be locked down, or can allow changes, such as storage size/location or memory increases. 

Templates must be available to users on an NFS share mounted by vCenter as storage. We tried both Windows Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server VMs and had no difficulties launching them and their payloads. 

Novell Cloud Manager's billing/accounting components add a Managed Services Provider (MSP) flavor and sets it apart from the other packages we reviewed. Each workload can show how much it will cost per month based on the rates set up by the administrator -- these can include costs such as storage (per gigabyte), vCPU, memory (per megabyte) and network and storage costs. 

For example, we could set $3 per vCPU per month. (Everything is done in monthly costs, not hourly). Various business reports can also be generated in CSV, PDF or Excel formats. Resources deployed are then able to be tracked, billed, just as though users were buying and deploying public cloud resources from an MSP or public cloud vendor. 

CM offered us the complete picture of private cloud management. The documentation was usable, and required as you're essentially building a cloud bank from scratch, then offering it for paid-for production services.

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