Serve Yourself (“Cloudy April” – Part 28)

Do-it-yourself Clouds

As you may recall from part 16 (Hyper-V Cloud), one key aspect of what we define as “a cloud” has to do with it providing some level of “self-service”.  You provide a portal or some other method of requesting and then being granted IT resources. 

“Yeah, I’d love to let my users do that, Kevin.”

Of course you would.  Rather than getting a request for a new server or servers for a business unit or group that needs to do development/test/or production hosting of some application or service, and then expecting you to get it all set up for them, wouldn’t it be easier if they could do it themselves?  How long does it take you to set up new physical servers? 

“Order, receive, install, configure… it takes weeks… sometimes months!”

That’s right.  And even if you’re highly virtualized, you still have a lot of work to do to set up and configure the virtual servers each time a request comes in.  But if you could have A) a pre-defined set of machine templates, B) a well-established and easily manageable, delegated hierarchy of administrative rights, and C) a portal that allows for that delegation, plus the ability to request and be granted virtual machines and services on-demand.  Wouldn’t that be nice?


You configure the datacenter.  You set up the virtualization platform, including the compute, networking, and storage available.  You define the machines and the administration.  And then you introduce your business to “the portal”, where they can define their own infrastructures, their own administrators and users, and finally request services which ultimately end up being virtual machines for their use.

“Sounds awesome, Kevin.  What is it?”

It’s the Self Service Portal (SSP).

“Oh.. isn’t that included in SCVMM 2008 R2?”

Well.. yes, there is a very easy-to-configure SSP in SCVMM 2008 R2.  And that’s very useful if all you want to do is grant self-service rights to users or groups so that they can directly create, use, and destroy virtual machines.  (Go here for a feature comparison of VMM SSP and VMM SSP 2.0. And check out this great two-part article on how to configure the SSP in SCVMM.)  But in many cases businesses have a more complex environment that requires more well-defined control and workflow.  For the ability to:

  • Configure the datacenter and all of its components (compute, storage, and networking),
  • Allow business unit IT admins to “onboard” their business (with an approval process),
  • Allow business unit IT admins to define their Infrastructure, and then services (and one-or-more “service roles”) that they require, along with the administrators and users who will utilize them,
  • and finally allow their users to create and use  virtual machines – without concern for where that machine is coming from or how the under-the-hood infrastructure is actually implemented,

you need the Self Service Portal 2.0.  SSP 2.0.  SSP 2.0 is a free solution accelerator from Microsoft that installs onto its own server(s) and interacts with (and drives) SCVMM 2008 R2.  It includes the web portal, the application itself, and the database (it requires SQL Server). 

Example of the architecture of what is requested: Infrastructure, services, and service roles.

“If I’m using the SSP that’s included with SCVMM, can I just upgrade it?”

No.  It’s an entirely new and separate tool.  It replaces the original SSP.

So… to summarize the benefits one more time:  Your users and business units get to define and use resources in a matter of minutes rather than days or weeks.  And you (the datacenter administrator) get to sit back and monitor the process.  And all the while a record is kept of who-used-how-much compute or storage power, so that they can be charged-back accordingly.   That’s “private cloud” at its best.

Here are some related resources for you:

Are you considering building and providing a private cloud for your users and/or businesses?  Have you used the SSP or the new SSP 2.0?  Have you considered some other “private cloud” solution?  Give us a comment!

Tomorrow, Part 29 (we’re almost done!) will be about a new cloud-based server monitoring service. 

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