Inside Microsoft’s private cloud - a glossary of terms
Microsoft’s private cloud is based on Windows Server, the Hyper-V hypervisor, and the System Center 2012 suite of management tools. It is a comprehensive suite, but with eight major components. Each of these components themselves is a complex server application, so figuring out how all the pieces fit together is a challenge. The following glossary is a common-sense guide to the System Center 2012 components along with some other key terms.
App Controller is a self-service console for deploying virtual machines or services on Microsoft’s private cloud, or on Windows Azure. Users log on to the console, which is a Silverlight application running in the browser. From there they can select a cloud and deploy a virtual machine by picking a template, or select and deploy a service. App Controller works by connecting to Virtual Machine Manager, which is where the clouds, virtual machine templates and services are defined, or by connecting to Windows Azure. App Controller sits at the cloud consumer end of the System Center stack, with Virtual Machine Manager in the middle and Hyper-V at the bottom. The thinking behind App Controller is that administrators can delegate responsibility for applications to the application owner, creating a clear division between the responsibilities of the datacentre administrators and those of the application owners.
System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is a multi-faceted tool which configures machines and devices attached to the network. Tasks managed by SCCM include:
1. Deploying operating systems and applications
2. Handling Windows update, using Windows System Update Services
3. Enforcing compliance to security policy
4. Managing endpoint protection, anti-malware on Windows clients
One key role for SCCM in Microsoft’s private cloud platform is controlling device access.
Using SCCM, you can set policies so that only approved devices can access private cloud applications. This applies to non-Windows devices as well as Windows clients, though when it comes to mobile devices support depends on ActiveSync, the protocol used by Exchange to communicate with mobile email clients.
ActiveSync allows for a limited set of key policies such as device encryption and password complexity. SCCM is a key part of Microsoft’s support for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), which is important at the client end of cloud computing. A limitation of SCCM’s mobile device support is that it largely depends on Exchange 2010, so will not work on sites that do not use this version of Exchange.
Data Protection Manager
Data Protection Manager (DPM) is a server for managing backups. Using DPM, you can backup both virtual and physical servers. DPM works with agents installed on the servers it protects, and on the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service which is able to copy files that are in use.
Fabric is Microsoft’s term for the resources – servers, networks and storage – on which applications and virtual machines are implemented. The idea is to abstract these away so that users do not have to worry about the physical implementation, but can instead treat the fabric as a platform on which they can instantiate services or virtual machines. The term was first used in the context of Windows Azure, but has now found its way into Virtual Machine Manager as well.
In Virtual Machine Manager, a host is a computer running Hyper-V which hosts one or more virtual machines.
For more information on System Center 2012, see our information page