How the power of Opalis delivers the magic of the Cloud

System Center meets cloud computing using Opalis

Thank you to Pete Zerger for your work on this posting. Pete is a System Center MVP and contributor to System Center Opalis Integration Server 6.3 Unleashed. If you've been through the Seattle airport, you've probably seen the collection of Microsoft banners hanging from the rafters, bearing clever marketing phases, including:

  • I am nearly infinitely scalable, I have Cloud Power
  • My cubicle is a global communications hub. I have Cloud Power
  • I am brilliant, stronger and sexy.... I have Cloud Power

Okay, so maybe the last bullet is a bit of an exaggeration. These seemingly magical leaps in productivity, capacity and availability are the promises of cloud computing, but are they real?  The promise of the cloud can seem too good to be true. One minute you're signing on for a fantastic new service and then you wake up only to find yourself sitting in a stew pot in the middle of a gingerbread house. Before discussing the role of Opalis Integration Server (OIS) in providing these seemingly magic deliverables, let's take a step back and take a quick look at what cloud computing is ... approximately.

To help you make sense of it all, this posting takes a consolidated tour of the cloud and see where OIS fits. The article discusses:

  • The Definition of the Cloud
  • Flavors of the Cloud
  • Private Cloud versus Traditional Virtualization
  • How OIS delivers the magic

Not only does this article discuss how Opalis Integration Server does this, but it also includes several sample policies and System Center-related templates, so you can start making some magic of your own.

There's a lot to cover in the next 2,500 words, so let's get started!

New to OIS and Orchestrator? Go back and read part 1, part 2 and part 3 of our Opalis Fundamentals series before continuing.

The Cloud Defined (aka what is "cloud computing")

While you will find the definition of cloud computing varies, most people can agree to the definition put forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which defines cloud computing as:

"Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models: On-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and measured service."

For the long version, click HERE to visit the NIST website.

Flavors of the Cloud

Cloud computing comes in multiple forms in a variety of flavors, known as service models. Which model you choose determines not only your capabilities, but also your level of control and responsibility.

Flavor

Description

Your level of control

SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet.

Examples of SaaS include Office 365, Intune, Salesforce.com

low

PaaS

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a paradigm for delivering operating systems and associated services over the Internet without downloads or installation.

Example of PaaS is Windows Azure

medium

IaaS

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) involves outsourcing the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. This is infrastructure managed by you, shared across your business units (your tenants) and generally located on your premises (although it doesn't have to be).

This is the Private Cloud and home to Opalis!

high

What does Private Cloud deliver over Traditional Virtualization?

All of the marketing hype can really turn one off to the idea of cloud computing, as it appears to be the latest marketing buzzword designed to get businesses to spend their money on an old idea in new packaging. But in spite of the gross overuse of the term "cloud", it is a fact that cloud computing does bring new form and focus to past concepts of shared infrastructure.  Here are several examples:

  • Scalability: This is a focus on automation of scaling out to meet demand, but also in scaling back to conserve power. What makes the cloud seem infinitely scalable is that fact that it is shared. Whether the tenants are your business units (as in IaaS) or total strangers (PaaS and SaaS), cloud computing incorporates the sharing of infrastructure that contains idle capacity.
  • Service Model: This model incorporates attention to integration data center processes with the service catalog, presenting service options in a user friendly way, essentially bridging the gap between user and backend service by providing a layer of abstraction between consumer (end user or application owner) and technology and technology provider (the datacenter administrators).
  • Compliance and Governance: Here you will see due consideration to compliance, governance, and security in general; the level of auditing and configuration management is generally high on the list of concerns in a private cloud.
  • Chargeback: With cloud computing you can track usage within the organization, mirroring the chargeback strategy that's only seen widespread use in hosted scenarios in the past. It's easier to pay for more capacity when you charge the tenants in your organization for using what you have.
  • Agility: The premise of private cloud is that a high degree of automation exists to make all of this magic happen, and happen very quickly. Agility comes through automation and orchestration. In the Microsoft private cloud model (IaaS), this is where OIS makes the magic happen.

Whether it is traditional virtualization or a true shared computing environment (a "private cloud"), Opalis Integration Server can help IT Pros deliver very powerful results without a programmer's skillset.

How Opalis Delivers the Magic

OIS provides this ability not only to automate a process, but to orchestrate a sequence of automated processes to interact in specific ways, executing in a particular order based on the circumstances at runtime (when the process is initiated). OIS can be leveraged by IT Pros (those of us without programming prowess) to fill this role across the entire service delivery lifecycle, from cradle to grave.

Let's look at several simple, yet very powerful examples of OIS at work in delivering the magic of the cloud. In the end, it doesn't matter if you are managing a shared IT infrastructure (a private cloud) or using traditional virtualization. Effective service delivery is about abstracting the technology from the user, allowing non-IT people to make requests in an interface they are familiar with, and delivering on requests in a timely and efficient manner.

Be sure to try this at home. Everything you need to replicate these examples is in the code download!

Global Virtual Machine Provisioning Request (without even looking at Hyper-V)

For example, let's examine an IT developer request for a new virtual machine. Using OIS and System Center lets you orchestrate this process using Service Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, OIS and Hyper-V  in such a way that the user making the request never sees or hears about  the technology behind the scenes. He simply completes a simple change request form!

Tie this on your shared IT infrastructure, and you have a private cloud! Granted, it's a bit more complicated than that, but you get the picture.

Figure 1 is a simple change request form for Service Manager 2010 that captures the request for a new virtual machine, including computer name, operating system, computer role, and location. (This custom change template is available as part of the code download.)

Virtual Machine change request form in Service Manager 2010

Figure 1 -New Virtual Machine change request form in Service Manager 2010

Unknown to the user making the request, this change template represents a custom activity class in Service Manager that includes many properties, including four properties represented by the four fields on the change request form. Using the Monitor Object object in the OIS Service Manager 2010 Integration Pack, these properties are accessible from OIS, as shown in Figure 2.

Service Manager activiite properties exposed in OIS object

Figure 2 - Service Manager activity properties exposed in an OIS object

You can use this integration to identify a new request in Service Manager, read the specific details of the request, and take actions based on the values presented. In this example, you could use OIS to automatically provision a virtual machine anywhere on the planet based on the value selected in the change request. That's cloud power, baby!

Figure 3 shows the OIS policy needed to complete the request. The objects in the policy that connect to Service Manager to retrieve the information and update the change request (CR) are highlighted in yellow.

New VM provisioning request workflow in OIS

Figure 3 - System Center-integrated New VM Provisioning request workflow in OIS

User Onboarding (look mom, no hands!)

New user accounts for new employees are a very common request, but one that can require much manual effort. Using OIS, you can easily automate fulfillment of this request, again captured in Service Manager, so the person making the request doesn't have to think about the technology. Again, this starts with a simple Service Manager change template containing the fields necessary to capture user information and department, as shown in Figure 4.

NOTE: Prerequisites for Onboarding to work

This sample assumes the Action Server is running Windows 2008 R2 and the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) tools are loaded.

Onboarding change request form

Figure 4 -User Onboarding change request form in Service Manager 2010

 From here, you can use Opalis Integration Server to:

  • Monitor for the user onboarding request
  • Retrieve the necessary user information
  • Check that the user account doesn't already exist
  • Provision the account in Active Directory
  • Verify the account was provisioning successfully
  • Add the user to the right security groups for their department
  • Move the user to their departmental OU in Active Directory

The OIS policy to make this magic happens in shown in Figure 5. You could even extend this to do additional onboarding work, including provisioning the user's virtual desktop in your virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and sending an email to Starbucks to order them a welcome latte!

New User Onboarding workflow in OIS

Figure 5 - System Center-integrated New User Onboarding workflow in OIS

What is really nice is that you can create workflows like these in just a few hours of work (these samples each took less than a day including the custom Service Manager change templates).

What about Opalis and the public cloud?

Yes, it's true you could even use OIS to provision services in Windows Azure... but that's a story for another day.

Additional Resources

OIS is a powerful platform for process automation and the native integration within the System Center suite ups the ante considerably. It is also a surprisingly easy product to learn. You can learn more about Opalis Integration Server at http://microsoft.com/opalis, where you can download the 180 day trial version and related product documentation.

You can find several System Center-integrated policy samples on the Internet, including:

You can also learn about OIS in depth by reading System Center Opalis Integration Server 6.3 Unleashed, which is now available for purchase. For a PDF version of the book, check out http://www.informit.com/store/product.aspx?isbn=0672335611.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in