When you work for a business transformation team under the CIO, you need to have productivity tools to manage portfolios, monitor key initiatives and track issues, risks and so on. You also need to demonstrate the use of new technologies, especially those that really lower the IT cost of the company.
Through re-use from our shared intellectual capital repository, I was able to develop Lotus Notes applications which now require a low-cost hosting environment because these productivity tools can no longer be classified as mission-critical. That’s when I remembered receiving information from my social business network about an internal cloud called Research Compute Cloud (RC2).
The RC2 initiative is an ambitious partnership across our Research, Hardware, Software and Services divisions to establish an environment for innovation in cloud computing and harness the value of Research’s “living lab” for high growth client driven value. I just can’t believe it when my Lotus Notes applications turned live in my Notes/Firefox client for the first time so I am very excited to share with you what I did in under an hour!
RC2 uses Image, Instance and Virtual Machine (VM) objects as shown in Figure A. In addition to the bullet points in the diagram, I want to add the following to give a clearer picture of these three objects:
- Image – basically a logical computer in a file. It is the saved “known good state” of a software environment and it can be archived, distributed, shared and executed on a compatible hypervisor.
- Instance – bound to a specific runtime environment, hypervisor or user. It may be modified as a side-effect of VM execution
- VM – running Instances. A logical guest computer running in a physical host computer
Now I want to go through the steps I went through to create my virtual server. I’m referring back to Figure A for the workflow (clockwise).
RC2 already has a collection of base images or shared images created by the RC2 user community. It contains Win, Linux OS, some with IBM System Director, DB2 or even WebSphere.
RC2 provides a very nice self-service portal to search (no.2 in Figure B) for the image that you need. I opted for a Windows 2008 64 bit base server because of familiarity and easy administration. I just clicked “Create Instance” (no. 1 in Figure B) and a series of windows pop out asking for Instance details as shown in Figure C. Instance configurations are Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum depending on your requirements. I initially selected Gold (4 CPU/4096MB RAM/55 GB Storage) but had to downgrade because total cost was still costly for my team (more about this in the “Capture” section below).
After successfully creating the new instance, it showed “Provisioning” as the status for about seven minutes, then changed to “Active” (Figure C). So I quickly fired up my Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) and successfully logged in the Win2008 virtual server! The latest version of Domino was installed and all the productivity applications were deployed using Lotus Domino Administrator. A quick test showed all the applications running happily and all these happened in less than an hour!
This is transparent to me as a RC2 user because as long as I see the “Active” status in the portal, I know that the VM is running happily 24X7.
An e-mail is sent to all RC2 users monthly and shows the total billable charge (see Figure D). When my team received the first bill, the charge was more than $500 and was not acceptable by my manager. I proposed to him that we downgrade to a Silver configuration (2 CPU/2048MB RAM/55 GB Storage) which will reduce the monthly charge to about $175. So I raised a service request to the RC2 support team to do this for me. They came back saying they can not do this and the only way is for me to do it myself (this is really extreme self-service!). Based on their instructions, I “captured” (no. 1 in Figure C) the Image of my instance, destroyed it (no. 2 of Figure C) and did the Instantiate step again based on this captured Image but selecting a Silver configuration. I was really full of doubt that this will work and all the work we’ve done to setup the server and install the applications will be wasted. I nervously entered the new IP address on my browser for one of my Notes with xPages applications and voila! It worked! It’s really unbelievable how flexible (elastic) it is to configure up or down these VMs, again in a few minutes time.
Well, my team’s virtual server is chugging along now and it is just one of the 10,000 instances in RC2 during the month of July (see Figure E). This is also an amazing showcase of multi-tenancy capability and use of metrics.
Incidentally, I saw this image management and the monitoring in action during my cloud computing residency in Bangalore, India, back in October. The image management is in IBM SmartCloud Enterprise (http://ibm.co/Vbc2Bg) and the monitoring is in IBM SmartCloud Monitoring (http://bit.ly/RbREAe). RC2 is really living up to its name as a IBM “living lab” for Cloud innovation.