Building a Private Cloud With System Center 2012 (Part 9)

by [Published on 25 March 2014 / Last Updated on 25 March 2014]

This article continues the discussion of building a private cloud by demonstrating the techniques required for creating service templates. This article will also discuss the options that are available for establishing self service provisioning.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

So far in this article series, we have done a lot of hard work, but we are starting to get close to the point where we will actually be able to put our private cloud to work. In this article, there are a couple of things that I want to accomplish. First, I want to quickly step you through the process of creating a service template. Next, I want to outline your options for providing your users with self service capabilities.

Creating Service Templates

A service template is essentially a container that groups various components together to form a service. For example, a service template can contain a virtual machine template, a network configuration, an application, etc.

To create a service template, open the VMM console, select the Library workspace, and then click on the Create Service Template icon found on the ribbon at the top of the screen. When you do, VMM will launch the New Service Template wizard, shown in Figure A.

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Figure A: The New Service Template Wizard walks you through the creation of service templates.

As you can see in the figure above, there are four different types of service templates that you can create. You can create a blank service template, a template for a two tier application, or a template for a three tier application. Multi tier application templates allow a single template to build multiple virtual machines. However, these types of templates are beyond the scope of this discussion. As such, we will focus on building a simple VM template.

At first it would probably seem that the logical course of action is to choose the Single Machine template. However, doing so will automatically define a new VM. Our goal is to build VMs from the components that we have already created. As such, we will be using the blank template.

Go ahead and assign a name to the template. I will call mine Basic VM. Next, select the Blank Template option and click OK. When you do, you will see the screen shown in Figure B.

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Figure B: This is the Virtual Machine Service Template Designer.

As you can see in the figure above, the main window is basically a canvas that you can use to outline the service template. The pane on the left side of the screen lists your VM templates. You can simply drag a VM template to the canvas. After doing so, the service template looks like what you see in Figure C.

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Figure C: The service template is populated with VM information.

At this point, we could add an application to the service template or drag additional VM templates to the service template, but in the interest of keeping things simple, go ahead and click the Save and Validate icon instead. When you close the Service Template Designer, the new service template should be listed within the Service Templates container, as shown in Figure D.

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Figure D: The Service Templates that you create will be listed within the Service Template container.

Self Service Options

As stated at the very beginning of this article series, our ultimate goal is to enable self service provisioning. Authorized users should be able to use a self service interface to automatically deploy virtual machines or even collections of virtual machines that are already configured to run applications. These virtual machines and applications should be deployed in a way that complies with the policies that the IT department has already established. This is why we have spent so much time building templates. Templates provide a basis for self service provisioning.

So how will self service provisioning actually work? Microsoft provides three different options for providing self service in System Center 2012.

The first option is to use something called AppController. AppController uses a diagram view to allow users to deploy services or VMs from existing templates. It can also be used to deploy services to Windows Azure clouds.

The second option is to use the Service Manager 2012 Self Service Portal. This is really Microsoft’s preferred method for providing self service capabilities to authorized users. Service Manager provides some really advanced capabilities. For instance it offers Orchestrator integration and can even launch Runbooks.

Although Service Manager 2012 might be the preferred self service portal, it is not the one that we will be using for the purposes of this article. The reason is simple. Service Manager 2012’s self service portal is overkill. Its features and capabilities go far beyond what we are trying to accomplish. In fact, Service Manager has been described as a toolkit rather than a straightforward solution.

Although the Service Manager 2012 self service portal would work perfectly well for what we are trying to accomplish, I would prefer not to introduce unnecessary complexity into our private cloud. The lesson here is that the “Microsoft preferred solution” isn’t always the best fit for every situation. As such, you should choose the mechanism that makes the most sense for your own unique situation.

That being the case, the self service mechanism that I will be using throughout the completion of this article series will be the Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Self Service Portal. It is arguably the simplest of the three available solutions, and it does exactly what we need it to do without introducing any unnecessary complexity in the process.

The disadvantage to using the Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Self Service Portal is that it isn’t really designed for customization. Therefore, if you need a highly customizable solution, you are probably going to be better off using Service Manager 2012.

If you aren’t sure whether or not the Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Self Service Portal is going to meet your needs, then my advice is to follow along for the rest of the article series. By doing so, you will have the chance to “get your hands dirty” and see exactly how the Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Self Service Portal works and what capabilities it offers. You will then be able to have a better idea of whether the Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Self Service Portal will meet your needs or if you would be better off using a different self service option.

Conclusion

In the next article in the series, I will walk you through the process of getting the self service portal ready to use. I will show you how to use VMM to deploy the self service portal. From there, we will provide certain users with access to the self service portal. I will also be showing you how to grant users access to the private cloud that you have created and how you can give authorized users access to deploy a template. The end result is that users will be able to use the templates that they have been assigned to create virtual machines on the fly. Users will have the ability to fully manage any virtual machines that they create.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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