IT departments can't ignore the cloud. If they fail to deliver systems that are fast and easy to set up, business teams will just sidestep them and sign up for a cloud service — whatever the consequences for security or compliance.
To address that issue, the IT team may decide it needs a way to offer a private cloud aimed at the business, and to manage the public cloud services that departments are using. IT teams using Microsoft Azure, System Center and Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012 will be able to offer public and private clouds to users through a new tool called System Center App Controller, which Microsoft previewed earlier this year as Concero, and announced at its Worldwide Partner Conference in July.
Microsoft says the tool is designed to allow a business team to build its own system on a private cloud, scale it out to Azure if it needs more resources, and take it back inhouse without worrying about incompatibilities — and IT can manage all these processes in the same way.
The concept of being able to move a system off premises and back again because you have the same platform resembles the approach that OpenStack is working on, but with familiar Microsoft tools. ZDNet UK asked System Center technical product manager Kenon Owens to explain what App Controller offers and what you need to make it work.
Q: So the idea is to build a private cloud that you offer to the business — as a service or as a platform?
A: Microsoft's approach to the private cloud is to take all the disparate pieces of hardware, gather them into logical units and create delegated clouds. These clouds can be assigned to, for example, different business units.
Microsoft's approach to the private cloud is to take all the disparate pieces of hardware, gather them into logical units and create delegated clouds.
We are viewing this approach not at a server but at a service level. So that's multiple tiers of multiple servers that combine together. Being able to deploy, configure, start, stop at a service level makes the cloud service much easier to manage and means I can delegate it to the business units that are running the applications.
It's all about keeping the control you need over the infrastructure, but giving the self-service user the freedom to do what he needs to do as quickly as possible.
So how does App Controller feel like a cloud to business users?
It allows self-service users to manage, monitor, deploy and operate services they've assigned. They can start them, stop, and scale them. It's a service running on a box that's connected to different connections. It communicates with them and it aggregates users' identity to make sure they're authorised to see these services.
How does it actually work?
The service catalogue is built through Service Manager where you can build these standardised packaged offerings. Service Manager 2012 has workflow engines built in that integrate with Orchestrator, so when I finish clicking 'submit' on, say, the Platinum option, a service ticket is created.
Orchestrator is monitoring that queue and when it sees that incident, it pulls it out and says, "Let me check if this person has authority, so I can just do it automatically or pass it to a human to have them approve it. If it's authorised, can I...