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HP Labs unveils G-Cloud demo facility

HP has unveiled its 'G-Cloud Theatre', a demonstration facility of technologies that governments and enterprises could use to manage huge IT systems
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By Jack Clark, Reporter on
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HP G-Cloud Theatre

HP has formally opened the 'G-Cloud Theatre', a facility at HP Labs Bristol for demonstrating the company's vision of how the public sector and some large enterprises could run their IT infrastructure.

The facility, pictured, shows HP's proposal for how future public and private clouds could be displayed and administered.

"That's what the purpose of this is, to show how the technologies we have developed for a number of years to do with the management of massive scale infrastructures, the delivery of cloud services, all these areas that underpin cloud... could look in terms of a government cloud," John Manley (pictured, right), director of HP's automated infrastructure lab at Bristol, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

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HP G-Cloud Theatre action

"Cloud computing is a complex domain that has many different roles in it... the different parts of the demo suite are showing the different roles happening," Manley said.

Manley said the middle screen in the demonstration is used to highlight relevant information from the smaller screens. The smaller screens show the output of HP Labs-developed software for securing virtual machines, analysing infrastructure use and automating the provisioning of IT resources.

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HP virtual machine user interface

This user interface represents the intersection of a number of technologies that are currently being developed by HP Labs. This particular screen displays the number of virtual machines and their capacity utilisation in a 3D view. The virtual machines (VMs) in this case have been virtualised through a Citrix Xen hypervisor, but Manley said the software "is agnostic to the hypervisor".

HP Labs is also developing "forensic virtual machine" technology, Manley said. He explained that the technology will mean each VM that is provisioned will have a corresponding forensic VM attached to it. This machine will monitor the prime machine to provide early-warning alerts of trouble with the machine or security risks.

"The idea is that if you have a VM, there could be a notion of normal behaviour if it was used in a particular sort of service... if [the forensic VMs] see abnormal behaviour, they can alert that they've seen that abnormal behaviour," Manley said.

Forensic VMs will have a number of capabilities with regard to the virtual machine, including freezing any tasks it is running, examining it more closely or closing it down. An earlier version of this forensic VM technology has already been spun out of HP Labs and now forms part of the technology for HP's ProCurve switches, which can throttle the bandwidth used by viruses, he said.

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HP dynamic virtual machine provisioning

The user interface can also show the use of resources in real time, as pictured here.

"This is the service-provider view, where that service provider has requested more capacity on a particular service. When they request more capacity, each of those services have a threshold expansion size, so those services have autonomic behaviour. You're seeing new virtual machines flying in [pictured, top left] as they are provisioned to the service," Manley said.

The program is "built on a gaming engine to give the right sort of dynamic behaviour", Manley said. The purpose of the UI, according to HP, is to output data about massively scaled IT stacks, such as government clouds, in a variety of forms. Manly said HP believes that "once you start to scale up, you're going to need different modes of interactions with systems" beside the standard text or tree-based views.

"Because different people respond to different ways of looking at things and people have different roles, they want to see things at different levels of abstraction," he said. "This is how a government cloud could look in the future."

HP has no definitive timeline for a commercial application of the technology on display. "This is ongoing work," Manley said.

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