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What's New in C2: More Cloud Management Same Convenience

Posted by Justin Nemmers

5/21/14 10:37 AM

It's been a little while since I've blogged about the cool things that we're doing in C2, Beyond doubling our customer count since 1 March, we are also thrilled to be  a 2014 Gartner Cool Vendor in Cloud Management. This announcement has led to even more interesting in our amazing unified IT management and self-service IT platform. Follow that up with an upcoming GigaOM Structure participation, and it’s even more clear that we’re gaining significant traction across the industry.

CloudBolt Gartner Cool Vendor Cloud Management 2014

Throughout all of these exciting developments, our engineering team continues to innovate C2. They're constantly adding new capabilities and features that we know will help IT organizations change the way they work with and communicate to the business they support.

What's new in CloudBolt C2

Since the release of C2 v4.4.1, we've produced two additional releases, capped by the 19 May release of C2 v4.4.3. We've focused on adding capabilities that will empower IT organizations to provide end users with greater levels of controlled access to and management of IT resources and applications, all in a manner that enables the IT organization full control over governance, as well as cost transparency.

By focusing on lifecycle management, we’ve created more valuable touch points in C2 that enable IT organizations to more effectively unify multiple environments, easing the management burden that often increases and complexity grows. Of course an offshoot of simplifying complex environments is that it frees IT staff to focus on value-added tasks, such as developing new offerings to the business.

Orchestration, Modeling, and Customization

Complex environments typically have workflows that require numerous custom parameters and actions based on the values of those parameters.  C2 can now associate flows with server parameters, such that the changing of a parameter will result in a flow execution. Additionally, parameters can now have cost values assigned to them.  The result is that administrators can expose a parameter—let’s use “Enable Monitoring” as an example—and execute a workflow to actually enable or disable monitoring when the parameters is changed.  Also, when the parameter is enabled, C2 will add an additional charge to the showback reporting for that instance or application.

Self-service IT order application with chef integration

We’ve also made the creation and maintenance of parameters cleaner and easier in our intuitive user interface.

Configuration Management

Quickly integrating Configuration Management tools to enable IT organizations to automate application installation and maintenance is a reason many customers deploy C2.  Despite our integrations already being leaps-and-bounds easier to use than other vendors, we’ve added additional improvements to this core capability, too.  We’ve tightened up both our Puppet Labs and Enterprise Chef connectors, including key enterprise capabilities present in both those tools. We’ve added improvements that will aide organizations that have a high rate of VM and application churn, as well as some UI updates that make it easier to manage application lifecycles.

Want to see how easy this is? I challenge you to install an additional application on an existing stack using another tool.  And then try the same thing with CloudBolt C2.

API

Our API v2 was build by developers that interface with other vendors’ APIs on a daily basis, so you can imagine that we know a thing or two about how to build a great API. Since C2 v4.4.1, we’ve added more capabilities to the v2 API, and C2 now ships with several example CLI scripts that will be useful to any developer interested in programmatic access to C2’s extensive capabilities.

Provisioning and Lifecycle Updates

We’ve been listening to our customers that are tired of managing multiple Windows templates for each required instance disk size.  C2 can now auto-extend the primary windows disk when you select a larger storage size in an order form.

Users can now request additional disk space not just at provisioning, but at any point in the VM’s lifecycle, and that disk can be thin, thick, or eager-zero provisioned.

Challenged by vCenter’s lack of customization support for CentOS? C2 will automatically solve that problem, too—CentOS VMware customizations through C2 will now work properly like they used to on previous versions of vCenter.

Have other ideas that will make your life easier?  We’re always listening.

Unified IT Management. Today.

If you’re looking at Cloud Management Platforms because you have an active project underway, or if you’re just kicking the tires, the time is right to consider CloudBolt C2. We’re constantly working to lower the barrier of entry to enterprise software to levels previously unseen. CloudBolt C2 is cloud, made easy.

Schedule a Demo to get started, or or try it yourself . And let us know what you think!

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Topics: Feature, Cloud Management, Upgrade

API v2, Chef Roles and Orgs, AWS Elastic IPs, and Add VMware Disks

Posted by Justin Nemmers

3/18/14 12:14 PM

We’re pleased to announce the immediate availability of CloudBolt C2 v4.4.1.

This release is jam-packed with new capabilities intended help IT organizations better manage and access their existing IT resources—not just through the provisioning process, but through the entire lifecycle management process as well.

Even before the C2 v4.4.1 update, customers have some pretty awesome things to say about us:

Upon completing a 2.5 day PoC with a large complicated user:

"You accomplished more on day one than VMware did in two weeks."

Other praise:

"If we were to build something, this is exactly what it would look like."
“This is completely plug and play.”
“Wow, that seemed almost too easy.”

And my personal favorite… Upon quickly knocking out a Chef and vCloud Orchestrator use case that vexed every other vendor:

Customer, to co-workers walking by office:
“Dude, you have to see this. It’s [explicative] awesome!”

C2 v4.4.1 builds on an already awesome product.

CloudBolt C2 v4.4.1 features a completely re-designed API. Our new API layer enables the programmatic control of C2 by parties that prefer a command line-based interface, or want to cleanly integrate C2 into an existing scripted process.  While this capability isn’t new to CloudBolt, it’s much improved and deeper functioning in C2.

C2 API browserC2's built-in API browser greatly aides development against the new C2 API v2

VMware

You talked and we listened. Customers asked us for better management of new and existing VM virtual disks in VMware. C2 users can now add new disks to VMware-backed VMs. C2 also ingests more information about existing VM disks.

vmware datastore add disk virtual machineUsers can add additional virtual disks to VMware VMs

Customers were also looking for a way to manually set the root password on Linux-based VMware guests.  Despite the VMware API not directly supporting this, we’ve developed a way to allow users to specify a new root password at provisioning time, and C2 will ensure that the provisioned instances will be accessible using that password.

Configuration Managers: Chef and Enterprise Chef Configuration Management

The Chef connector has been enhanced to provide support for the import and management of Chef Roles.  Now users can interface with and select Chef Roles for assignment and deployment to servers both at provisioning time and in an ongoing manner. Along the same lines as roles, C2 v4.4.1 also includes a new Chef Community cookbook importer in the UI. Browse and import community-provided Chef recipes and Cookbooks. 

chef configuration management roles

Running Enterprise Chef?  We haven’t forgotten about you. In fact, C2 boasts the industry’s best Chef integration, and we’re expanding that important relationship to include integration with Enterprise Chef features and capabilities. C2 v4.4.1 adds support for Enterprise Chef organizations. We’ve also added support for hosted Chef, and for those of organizations using Chef to manage software on EC2-based instances, we now support communication with AWS-based Chef servers, but also the deployment of Roles, CookBooks, and Recipes to EC2-based servers.

Configuration Managers: Puppet

We didn’t forget about our Puppet Labs integration, either. In this latest release, we’ve expanded the details C2 collects about the Puppet nodes. The latest Puppet configuration management report status and link to the entire report are now available from the Puppet connector details page.

Amazon Web Services

C2 now has deeper support for EC2 and related components. First, users can now directly manage AWS Elastic IP addresses right from C2—both at provisioning time, and in an ongoing basis. In addition to detecting and importing AWS availability zone metadata, C2 now supports assignment of a specific actual availability zone within a region.

Amazon web services assign elastic IP addressUsers can now select and associate AWS Elastic IP addresses from within C2.

Usability Improvements

Don’t forget that we use C2 to manage our own It environments. This helps us identify places where C2 could be a little more usable after a few small tweaks. In this release, we’ve made a number of these little tweaks, but I’ll discuss a few of the more important ones here. C2 v4.4.1 now automatically validates IP addresses when entered on the order form.  We also noticed that the latest Firefox web browser update broke C2’s built-in console access application. C2 v4.4.1 fixes that. We’ve also added the ability to download a job log file directly from the UI—no need to log into the actual C2 instance.  Lastly, and thanks to a customer that uses C2 to manage 10k+ VMs, and hundreds of OS templates, we’ve drastically improved the performance of VMware OS template import.

How to get it

If you haven’t yet seen C2 in action, get started here.  Ready to kick the tires yourself?  Request a download. Already runnung C2? Log into our support portal to download the Cloudbolt C2 upgrade today.

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Topics: Feature, VMware, Puppet, Chef

Introducing CloudBolt C2 v4.3, VM Utilization, More Reporting, and a Reboot Button

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/13/14 4:45 PM

Fast on the heels on our last release, v4.2.1, where we added Chef Configuration Management as well as vCloud Orchestrator support, we're happy to announce the immediate availability of CloudBolt C2 v4.3. Our developers have been hard at work making significant advances in the functionality and capability of C2, our Controlled IT Self Service portal software.

Building on the advances made in previous versions, C2 v4.3 adds numerous capabilities that improve how end users and administrators alike interface with their IT environments.

New In Reporting and Visualization

Users and administrators can now view current and historical VM utilization information on environments back-ended by VMware. The “Stats” tab in the “Server View” page provides information on that server’s CPU and Memory utilization.

4.3-vCenter-Server-StatsThe Server Details view gains VM utilization information.
We’ve also added several new reports, including a per-group server count trend, which shows the rate of growth or contraction on a per-group basis. C2 v4.3 also includes a built-in report that enables users to drill down into the makeup of a selected group’s servers.

Looking at a server in C2, but wondering when it was added? We’ve updated the "Server View" page to now include the date the server was added to C2. We’ve also gone ahead and included this information by default in the server list. 

4.3-Cloud-Server-ListSee when VMs were added at-a-glance.

Administrators that make use of the C2 CLI for advanced integrations or other purposes will be interested in v4.3's updates to the export_server_info command line. It now allows the output to STDOUT rather than just a CSV data export.

Security

We've added support for RADIUS authentication targets.

C2 v4.3 also gains the ability to forcibly limit users to a single concurrent session, meaning that they cannot be logged in from multiple locations or with multiple web browsers simultaneously.  Of course, this is configurable in the event you prefer to allow multiple concurrent sessions. 

UI Enhancements

Users can now add additional network interfaces (NICs) to servers anytime, not just during provisioning. Adding NICs is not just important for VM maintenance, but also enables more complicated lifecycle management capabilities, including VM promotion or demotion in and out of various environments.

4.3-Add-NICAdd a NIC to a server at any time.

For those customers that use C2 in environments with 10 or 10,000 servers (or more!), we’ve updated C2’s widget dialogs to allow for partial value filtering, better handling large environments and complex environments.

C2 now enables administrators to delete networks from the resource handler detail page. This is helpful in the event a network is no longer needed within C2. 

You shouldn’t have to press a power off button and then a power on button to reboot a server. We added a convenient “Reboot Server” button that does the same thing.

We’ve made additional speed and performance improvements in the UI. The server list page, server detail pages, logical data center environments, resource handlers, and groups pages all perform faster than previous versions of C2.

In environments back-ended by VMware, C2 v4.3 also now syncs with VMware much faster and more efficiently. Changes made directly to VMs in vCenter will be detected and updated in C2 more efficiently. 

Upgrades are a Snap!

At CloudBolt, the upgrade process is just another feature. Watch our upgrade video to see just how easy it is.

 

Seen enough? Request a Download today.

Download C2

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Topics: Feature, Upgrade, Release Notes

C2 Controlled IT Self Service Software Integrates with Chef, vCloud Orchestrator

Posted by Justin Nemmers

12/6/13 9:39 AM

CloudBolt C2 is not just the most extensible product on the market, it’s also backed by the industry’s most agile development team. 

C2 continues to impress customers:

“If I were to build a tool to solve our problem, it would look exactly like this…”  --Large Education Software Company

v4.2.1 improves on previous releases thanks to:

  • The addition of two new connectors, expanding the breadth of what C2 can manage in your environment.
  • Additional reporting improvements, including a new stock report.
  • User interface improvements and updates.

Connectors

C2 v4.2.1 now includes support for Chef Configuration Management. Similar to our support for other CM tools, administrators can import Chef Cookbooks, assign them to logical data center environments, and then make selections directly available to end users through the C2 Controlled IT Self Service portal. Administrators remain in complete control over which users can deploy which Cookbooks, and into which environments. Of course, Chef Cookbooks can also be included in C2 Services through the C2 Service Catalog. Lastly, C2 continues to be able to assign cost, as well as track software licenses as Chef Cookbooks are deployed (and removed) from systems.

IT Self Service Chef Configuration ManagementImport Cookbooks and Recipes, and provide the power of Chef Automation to end users through C2's intuitive Controlled IT Self Service Portal.

Also new to CloudBolt C2 v4.2.1 is a connector for VMware’s vCloud Orchestrator (vCO). C2 administrators can import flows, map parameters, and assign points at which C2 will call vCO workflows. Permissioned users can also be presented with a button in the server view that allows them to run appropriate flows on a one-off basis. Since C2 ingests existing flows, there’s no need to start from scratch with your automation implementation. C2 will import everything it needs to know from your vCO environment, and enable you to extend your Orchestration capabilities into your Controlled IT Self Service Portal.

VMware vCloud Orchestrator Integrated with an IT Self Service PortalC2's UI will allow you to import existing VMware vCloud Orchestrator workflows, and map parameters. Workflows can be assigned to automatically run at any point during the life cycle management process.

We’ve also improved the VMware connector. C2 has supported datastores for a while now, but now also supports the selection and assignment of a datastore cluster to a specific logical data center environment.

Reporting

We revamped our internal reporting in C2 v4.2, and in v4.2.1, we’ve continued that trend by including a new report: Storage, which displays the total storage allocated to each deployed server in your permission scope. We’ve also poured on the caffeine: all of the reports now load even faster than they did before.

User Interface

Our last release introduced an all-new UI. In C2 v4.2.1, we’ve made some additional updates and tweaks to the interface, including:

  • Improvements to data tables
  • Input fields have additional UI treatments
  • Improved custom logo branding capabilities

C2 Chargeback and showback VM utility rate metering chartC2's industry-leading intuitive ordering process has gotten even better. Users now see an interactive chart displaying the proportional cost based on their choices.

Also, we’ve added new graphical rate breakdowns to the order forms. As users make selections in the ordering interface, the chart will automatically be updated to reflect the proportional cost of the CPU, RAM, storage, operating system (i.e. the OS build), and software packages as parts of the total cost for the resource.

Summary

The pace at which the CloudBolt development team is able to iterate the product is thanks to the wise architecture decisions made after decades of experience managing complex data center environments. The C2 architecture enables CloudBolt to rapidly develop and deploy new connectors and capabilities.

In fact, we look at the upgrade process as just another feature. Everything in C2 is upgrade safe, and it takes just a few minutes to add all of these new capabilities into your existing C2 installation. Watch how the process unfolds here in this quick video.

See enough? Request a demonstration today!

I want to see it!

 

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Topics: Feature, Data Center Automation, Upgrade

New Release of C2 Controlled IT Self Service Portal

Posted by Justin Nemmers

11/11/13 3:45 PM

C2 v4.2 of Controlled IT Self Service is Now Available

Our latest version features a new UI, and steps up the awesome from there.

Controlled IT Self Service Dashboard

Look and Feel

Already hailed as "the most intuitive" IT Self Service Software available on the market, C2's new user interface brings a modern look to the C2 Controlled IT Self Service Portal you know and love.

The new UI elements and organization will allow us to add additional capability into C2 that would have been troublesome to do in our existing UI. Interested in learning more about our roadmap? Drop us a line.

C2’s new look also includes a number of significant backend performance improvements. You should notice that overall, the UI is more responsive, loading pages faster, and filtering results quicker.

Dashboard

This latest version of C2 also introduces the C2 Dashboard. The C2 Dashboard provides an overview of things that are relevant to the user, including server statuses, order history, and information on the latest jobs. By default, the C2 Dashboard also serves as the landing page users are directed to upon login. As is the case with everything in C2, users will only see information on items that are relevant to them, and that they have permissions and access privileges to.

Reporting

Controlled IT Self Service requires reporting. Although C2 included a separate external advanced reporting system, customers asked for, and we have delivered some significant additional reporting functionality. 

C2 v4.2 now includes integrated reporting. C2 will now produce charts and graphs right from the UI, and also gains the ability to directly export the source data as CSV, which can then be opened and further analyzed in a spreadsheet program of your choice. C2 v4.2 ships with a number of embedded reports today, and we’ll be adding more with every update. Also new with integrated reporting: regular users also gain access to reporting capabilities. When run by a non-administrative user, the reports will only display and aggregate information about the servers, groups and logical data center environments they have access to.

Controlled IT Self Service Reporting Pie Chart

C2 Integrated reporting is also now available to C2 VE customers, including those that are using C2 VE at no-cost in environments under 100 VMs.

Controlled IT Self Service Report Highest Cost Servers

For those customers that have implemented C2’s advanced external reporting (which is provided by an external Jasper reports instance), those reports are now displayed to administrators directly in the UI. To ease the installation and configuration, CloudBolt also now provides the external Jasper reporting server as an OVA download. Contact support for more information.

Orchestration Hooks

Orchestration Hooks are how C2 interfaces and automates external systems that either do not have or need a connector. Every job type in C2 has multiple points where Orchestration Hooks can be configured to run, automating every last manual process and procedure in your IT Organization. While C2 has had this impressive capability since inception, we’ve made a few important changes in C2 v4.2.

We’ve made the power of C2 Orchestration Hooks even more accessible with an all-new UI. Additionally, we’ve also made it possible to select External Orchestrator flows from configured and integrated External Orchestration tools, including HP Operations Orchestration and (coming soon) VMware Orchestrator. Just select the appropriate job type, and then pick the hook point, and choose the flow(s) you’d like to run.

LDAP/AD Integration

C2 has directly integrated with multiple LDAP and/or Active Directory instances for a while now. In C2 v4.2, we’ve updated some of those fields to provide the room necessary for filter and search of larger, more complicated LDAP/AD environments.

The Upgrade Process

Good news! It’s as easy as ever.

Ready to get started? Request a download today.

Download C2

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Topics: Feature, Upgrade, Release Notes, IT Self Service

New Release: CloudBolt C2 v4.0. Innovation at all New Levels.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

7/22/13 8:05 AM

The next-generation Cloud Manager keeps innovating in numerous ways that help make IT organizations run better and more efficiently.  

Each time the product team goes to the whiteboard to talk about the C2 roadmap, we rely on our decades of combined data center experience.  We recall the hundreds of conversations we’ve had with current customers.  We want you to know that we’ve listened.  The result is a new major release of CloudBolt C2 that brings connectivity and resiliency of our customers’ Cloud Resources to unparalleled levels.   Some of the key new features in C2 4.0 are: 

Cloud Supply Chain Verification (CSCV)

We’re proud to announce the availability of the CSCV system.  Sounds intimidating, but we’re certain you’ll need it.  As the numbers of IT environments, virtualization platforms, DCA tools, and Orchestration tools increase, so does the overall complexity of running and provisioning systems into any one environment.  C2 does a great job of orchestrating and automating this entire process, but what happens when an administrator changes a password in vCenter?  Or a developer unexpectedly updates a workflow in an external orchestration tool?  Automated provisioning will break. 

Cloud Supply Chain Validator CloudBolt C2
The Cloud Supply Chain Validator. Ensure that all aspects of your automated environment are operational.

The purpose of CSCV is to ensure that all needed actions in any environment configured in C2 both executes, and returns the expected result.  CSCV will automatically run through any number of tests, and immediately notify the CloudBolt Administrators in the event of a failure. 

We don’t just allow for CSCV to test provisioning, though.  CSCV can test the end-to-end process of de-commissioning, power on/off, and installing/removing applications.

In short, C2 will tell you when something breaks in the end-to-end provisioning process for any environment C2 is configured to manage.  It does this across virtualization and public/private cloud platforms as well as Data Center Automation tools, Configuration Management tools, and any external Orchestrators (more on that momentarily), and, of course, any orchestration hooks that you have configured in your environment. 

Read more about the CSCV in a blog post here.

Multi-Portal Support

Are you a managed service provider that’s using C2 as a portal for your end users?  With v4.0, we’ve added multi-portal support.  C2 can now be configured to accept connections from multiple URLs.  Your customers or users securely connect to CloudBolt and each URL will represent a different portal, and that can be separately configured with theme colors, and a customer logo.

C2 Multi-Portal creation Service ProvidersMany different aspects of the C2 UI can be customized based on the URL used to access the C2 UI.

Service Catalog

While users have always been able to create multi-server orders (that can even include a software defined network or two), C2 did not have a built in service catalog.  We do now.  Administrators can pre-create services, assign group and environment permissions, and make those services available to other C2 users.  A service for CloudBolt C2 is any combination of servers, applications, networks, and environments.  In short, anything that can be ordered in C2 can be made into a service, allowing easy ordering of complicated services and application stacks.

C2 Service Catalog Cloud Manager
C2 makes it easy to create fully-contained services, and make them availble to your users.

Abstraction Layer 2.0

A key aspect of C2’s architecture is that the abstraction layer allows us to rapidly develop new connectors to additional technologies.  The process of developing a connector is much easier once we have developed a connector class that contains all of the appropriate data model and orchestration components in the C2 internals.  C2 v4.0 contains two important updates to the Abstraction Layer:

  • New connector class: External Orchestrators
  • Open API for customer-written connectors

The new connector class supports external orchestrators (also known as runbook automation tools).  Once your External Orchestrator is connected into CloudBolt, C2 Administrators will gain the ability to call nearly any contained workflow at multiple points during the provisioning, decommissioning, power status change, and health check processes.  Users with the correct permissions will also be able to see, and execute, specific external workflows from within the server view.

C2 HP Operations Orchestration workflows resource categoryC2 can import and directly execute workflows from HP Operations Orchestration and (soon) other orchestration tools as well.

Today we are shipping C2 v4.0 with a connector for HP Operations Orchestration (HPOO).  Want to connect to another external orchestrator such as VMware vCenter Orchestrator, or Microsoft System Center Orchestrator?  That capability is just a phone call away. 

CloudBolt already has unrivaled flexibility to integrate with external systems and custom systems using Orchestration hooks but sometimes a deeper integration is desired for custom developed configuration management tools or first gen cloud management tools that are being phased out over time.  C2 4.0’s Abstraction layer includes a new open API that allows customers or their services partners to write their own CloudBolt connectors. Ultimately these connectors can even take a path to full support from CloudBolt but regardless CloudBolt can be enhanced to connect to any tool that an environment may dictate.

Orchestration Hooks

Speaking of Orchestration Hooks, C2 v4.0 has an updated Orchestration Hook management UI.  C2 Administrators can completely manage the type and order of Orchestration Hook execution, and also now assign multiple hooks per step.  All from the UI.

C2 Orchestration Hooks UIThe C2 Orchestration Hooks UI uses scripts and workflows to integrate nearly any technology external to C2. 

Connector Updates

We’ve added support for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Management (RHEV-M) to the list of currently supported Hypervisors. 

Puppet Configuration Management is now fully supported for Data Center Automation.  Environments with Puppet installations can now use C2 to automate the installation and management of applications in environments.  Users can be presented with a list of available applications, and select the desired ones to be installed.  Of course Puppet-managed applications also get the same License Management, permissioning, and rate metering that C2 provides.

Other Updates

C2 v4.0 now supports hosting the OVA on XenServer. 

We’ve also expanded the LDAP and AD integration, Administrators can now have multiple auth targets per C2 instance, and can support multiple domains in a single AD forest.  Additionally, the synchronization of user data between C2 and the authentication systems is richer, and includes more attributes.

Summary

The capabilities in C2 are both innovative, and also highly accessible.  Most administrators can install C2, and be using its intuitive interface to deploy virtual machines in under 20 minutes.  We’ve focused our efforts on innovating, but with a decided understanding that even the most innovative feature is useless if it takes three months to install and configure, and this is no different in C2 v4.0.

Want to see more?  Request a demonstration today.

I want to see it!

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Topics: Innovation, Feature, New Technology, RHEV, Release Notes, Puppet, Development

Introducing the Cloud Supply Chain Validator, integrated with C2 v4.0

Posted by Bernard Sanders

7/22/13 7:30 AM

Modern IT environments are subjects of constant change, and thus are likely to be incapacitated by unexpected effects of one of these alterations. Storage, network, server configuration, passwords, DNS, VM templates, and applications are modified frequently, and any of these changes could have ripple effects that are not caught by traditional monitoring solutions.

Traditional monitoring systems are great for ensuring that any one specific infrastructure component is healthy, but they typically do not/can not cover the end-to-end use case that IT consumers depend on every day. In this way, traditional monitoring can be thought of as unit testing for your data center. Unit tests are vital, but they are not a substitute for functional tests that ensure that all the individual components work together to fulfill end-users’ needs.

Enter C2’s Cloud Supply Chain Validation (CSCV). This feature, new in C2 v4.0, empowers CloudBolt customers with a new way to test the end-to-end processes that are most sensitive to environmental change. CSCV ships with a set of tests that can be run on demand or on a schedule, the most prominent among them being a provision and decommission test. This test, run nightly by default, executes a series of provisioning orders, decommissioning each server that was built as it goes. C2 admins decide how many tests they want run each night and for each one they provide an environment, group, OS build, and any other provisioning parameters that may be needed for that environment. If the tests fail, the admin is notified and can act proactively to resolve the situation.

C2 Cloud Supply Chain Validator
The CSCV test configuration

Provisioning is the ideal workflow to test the health of infrastructure, because it is so far reaching. Fully automated provisioning will hit the network, storage, virtualization systems, public cloud providers, and potentially DNS, asset tracking systems, monitoring, backup, hostname reservation systems, change management systems, and any other infrastructure that CloudBolt has been configured to interact with via its orchestration hooks and external orchestrators. Knowing that provisioning is healthy, administrators can have confidence that the bulk of their systems are behaving properly and able to interact with each other as expected.

C2 Screenshot Cloud Supply Chain Validator
Run and view CSCV test results directly from C2.

At any time, administrators can check the health of the tests in C2’s web interface, drill down into results, and kick off ad-hoc runs of the tests. The end result of Cloud Supply Chain Validation is that the owners of the IT infrastructure will find out about breakages and have the opportunity to resolve them well before users encounter the problem when they urgently need the system to work. Admins and end consumers of IT both gain increased confidence in the state of their systems and can sleep a little better at night.

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Topics: Innovation, Feature, Bernard

IT Usage Metering and CloudBolt C2

Posted by Justin Nemmers

6/24/13 11:17 AM

Is it Metering, Chargeback, or Showback?

At their core, utility metering (or just “metering”), showback and chargeback of virtualization or Cloud IT resources are the same idea. The difference is that with chargeback, a report is ingested into an invoicing system, and bills are generated for delivery to end-users. Showback cost reporting is chargeback, but without the last step of producing invoices. 

Reporting is at the Core

CloudBolt C2 collects all kinds of information about the environments it manages.  In order to get access to majority of this data, C2 comes embedded with a powerful (and open source) reporting engine—Jasper Reports—that enables administrators to generate and schedule reports on nearly anything of interest in the C2 database. Some examples are:

  • “What was the QA team’s usage in dollars, broken out by software and VM resources last month?”
  • “How many VMs, by group, have Oracle installed, but have not been turned on in 30 days?”
  • “What groups have VMs that have access to network X?”

All of these are relevant questions, which would be very hard to answer if the information was spread across multiple disparate systems. Furthermore, any reporting system needs to actually have data at the appropriate level of granularity.

How C2 Makes it Happen

With that background set, let’s talk for a minute about how this relates to metering and billing. As I said above, granularity is key here. CloudBolt C2 globally assigns allocation costs to several core compute components:

  • CPUs (physical and virtual)
  • Memory
  • Storage

C2 Global HW Rates Cloud IT Metering
Global Hardware Rate View

Next, C2 lists out *every* OS template that it knows about. This includes templates from every virt platform and cloud provider that C2 is managing.

C2 Global OS Template Rate Cloud IT MeteringGlobal OS Build (Template) Rate Editing

Most other platforms stop here. C2 takes it a step further. For those environments that have some flavor of Data Center Automation (DCA) tool like Puppet, Chef, HP Server Automation (the bits that used to be Opsware), we also allow administrators to globally set the per-application costs. For environments that lack a DCA tool, Administrators can assign the software costs to OS templates, so consumers will still be exposed to the impact of the software stack they have chosen.

C2 Global Application Rate Cloud IT Metering
Global Application Rate View
 

Because there’s a division between the hardware and software costs, Administrators have the ability to report on operating system, application or hardware costs, or any combination of the above, as well as the total cost incurred for each instance. This separation ends up being pretty important when you’re trying to make business decisions related to technology.  Additionally, we can track (and report on) this information no matter where the resource lives, in any environment C2 manages.

The Challenge of Multi-Cloud

Global rates work for environments that average IT costs across all aspects of their enterprise.  That’s a pretty unrealistic world-view, though. As I’ve said before, we have spent time in the data center.  Out of that experience comes the understanding that different environments have different costs not just for hardware, but often for software as well.  

To account for this, CloudBolt C2 administrators have the ability to override any of the above costs on a per-environment basis.  This means that C2 understands that your Production HA VMware-powered and HP SA managed environment can cost more for hardware, applications, and OS templates than your QA environment that uses Xen and older hardware, and is managed by a free installation of Puppet. 

C2 Environment Hardware Rate Cloud IT MeteringHardware rate override for an environment named “Seattle Prod DC”

We allow administrators to set per-environment costs for OS Templates, and, of course, Applications.

C2 Environment OS Template Rate Cloud IT MeteringApplication rate override for the Seattle Prod DC environment

Hours, Days, Weeks, or Years?

Not all allocation-based metering environments are created equal.  Does your organization use a metric other than a month?  What about models that rely on smaller increments?  C2 has the built-in ability to globally meter usage in hours, days, weeks, months, or years.  Organizations are free to choose the mechanism that makes the most sense for their Business.  Since C2 keeps the resource status accounting internally, but uses a reporting engine to generate the billing information, the IT organization owns the business decision of how best to account for the Business’ resource usage.  A billing report can be made to include all allocated resources, or just those that were used over the requested reporting interval.  Additionally, and if desired, all reports can be pro-rated based on how long the resource is actually powered on.

C2 Rate choices hour day week month year Cloud IT MeteringC2 can account for allocation by the hour, day, week, month, or year.

 

Showback Cost to End Users

Showing a user the cost impact of their request is an important step in gaining increased visibility over out-of-control IT costs in an enterprise.  This becomes even more important when an IT organization has implemented a hybrid cloud, as there can be significant additional operational expense from running unneeded or underused instances.  C2’s ability to show users the cost of their ordered resources is an important self-education tool that can effectively drive desired behavior.   End users and Administrators alike can both see the split between hardware and software cost for each instance or service requested.  As users make selections in their ordering window, the total price will automatically adjust based on the users’ selection.  For instance, in the following three diagrams, a user request (and perception) will change pretty rapidly when they see the cost of the database stack they chose.

C2 Self Service Showback pricing Rate Cloud IT Metering
A LAMP server selection by a member of the Bonds Group in the San Jose QA Lab environment costs $20.70/month.
 

C2 Self Service Showback pricing Rate Cloud IT MeteringA similar request, but selecting the SQL Server stack costs $174.70/month.

C2 Self Service Showback pricing Rate Cloud IT Metering
Another similar request, but selecting the Oracle/JAVA stack costs $557.20/month.

Once a user selects multiple systems for an order, they will have the chance to review their order before submitting for approval.  As part of the approval mechanism, approvers may be given the ability to edit existing orders before approving them, which provides a valuable mechanism to control costs.

C2 Order approval editing quota Self Service Rate Cloud IT MeteringOnce an order is submitted, the approver can be given the opportunity to edit the order before it’s approved.

The Path from Showback to Chargeback

One of my previous comments (http://info.cloudboltsoftware.com/blog/bid/306535/7-Takeaways-From-the-Red-Hat-Summit) about chargeback and showback is that due to internal resistance, few organizations are actually taking the step of producing invoices or decrementing funds from a budget.  Effective reporting is the first step in achieving true chargeback in an organization.  Only when IT organizations understand the true impact of a team, project, group, or line of businesses’ IT consumption can the Business itself make effective decisions around spend and focus of precious funds.  CloudBolt C2’s single pane-of-glass management coupled with the powerful built-in reporting goes beyond rate metering and actually enables Business-Driven IT.  The reporting engine makes getting the intelligence out of how an environment is being used possible no matter what your role in the organization. 

Thankfully, C2 can handle both use cases today.  Once C2 is implemented, IT Organizations can begin the process of using showback costs to drive user behavior, stamp out VM Sprawl, and further the push for true internal IT chargeback to business units.

Take-Away

Utility metering is an important part in recognizing where funds are being spent for access to IT infrastructure and applications.  An effective tool must not just do this for one platform, but unifying any number of platforms.  A granular metering infrastructure must separate the application cost from the hardware cost, which allows IT Administrators (and/or users) to piece together different variations of hardware and software to get the end capability needed.  All of this must be reportable in any format needed or desired.  Metering may be only one aspect of “the cloud”, but it’s an important one, and one, with CloudBolt C2, is built in, and integrated at every step of the way.

Want to learn more about how Utility Metering plays a part in Business-Driven IT? Bernd Harzog, the Cloud analyst at TheVirtualizationPractice.com recently wrote a paper that analyzes the various business impacts of next-generation cloud managers. 

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Topics: Feature, Consumability

New Release: CloudBolt C2 v3.7.2 advances on capabilites

Posted by Justin Nemmers

5/30/13 8:49 AM

automated provisioning gears complex

Our engineering team continues to incorporate significant capability into the C2 platform. Version 3.7.2 includes several updates intended to improve the end-user experience as well as admin-specific features which further C2’s benefit to IT administrators. Despite the added features, we continue to innovate with an eye toward intuitive interfaces and controls. In C2’s case, added benefit does not equal added complexity.

On to the improvements!  First, the big one: C2 now ships and supports an OVA template that enables IT administrators to rapidly deploy C2 in XenServer. We’ve offered this capability on VMware’s vCenter since the beginning, but now C2 offers the same time-to-value for those that have selected a different virtualization manager. 

In larger deployments, the administrator view of the C2 Job List can be quite long. To help with this, we’ve added both a better UI to view job statistics, but also the ability to filter the job list based on job type.

Sticking with this theme, we also made significant improvements to the page C2 Administrators use to control Server Build Defaults. Administrators now have an easier interaction to add new, or change existing default settings for the parameters required by the underlying virtualization manager.

C2 Administrators have long had the ability to set resource group quotas in C2. In this latest release, we’ve made point improvements to how this system operates behind-the-scenes. The result is a more robust quota framework that ensures C2 Administrators are continually able to rely on C2 to effectively enforce resource limits set on the group level.

Several customers have asked that C2 provide them the ability to automatically test the network connection for a provisioned server. We were happy to oblige. C2 can now ping the server’s IP to ensure the network was set up correctly before completing the provisioning job.

Lastly, on the C2 Administrator side, we’ve made some back-end Apache configuration tweaks and changes to further improve the UI performance.

Of course, we didn’t forget about you IT consumers out there!  C2 Administrators have been able to modify the ordering process to match the end user’s level of ability and understanding. In version 3.7.2, C2 Administrators are now able to add tool tips that will be displayed in the ordering process. These tool tips give C2 Administrators a way to explain required inputs to end users in a clear and concise manner. In this case, as always, the C2 interface is modified from within the C2 interface. No need for costly developers, or SDK licenses.

Happy provisioning with the well-oiled machine that is CloudBolt Command and Control!

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Topics: Feature, VMware, Release Notes, vCenter

CloudBolt Releases v3.7.1 of C2- the Next Generation Cloud Manager

Posted by Justin Nemmers

4/29/13 8:12 AM

upgrade wrench 72

We continue to innovate C2, the next-generation cloud manager that provides the easiest self-service IT portal available on the market.

The development team has been hard at work, and is proud to announce the release of CloudBolt C2 v3.7.1. We've focused this release on feature enhancements that provide more information to the end user, as well as more administrative control over certain aspects of provisioning through C2 and managing C2 resources.

For end users and administrators alike, we've added a progress bar to the order details page. As jobs are executed, the progress bar will let the requestor know what a provisioning job’s progress is. As C2 allows for multi-server and multi-environment orders, this progress bar works equally well in single or multi-server orders.

When ordering a virtual machine, the requestor can now see the quota impact of the request in the ordering window. We have found that making this information visible to the end user results in more efficient request use of resources.

Administrators also have a new UI for managing CloudBolt Resource Pools. CloudBolt Resource Pools allow Administrators to create pools of IP addresses, VNC ports, and other parameters that would normally require manual input. For example, an administrator can assign a pool of IP addresses to C2, which will then automatically select and mark as used a resource as needed. CloudBolt will not allow a resource’s re-use until the existing resource is released. This allows C2 to further automate previously manual processes.

Also benefitting administrators is a more efficient VM synchronization engine. C2 now ingests and synchronizes VM information from VMware more efficiently, which has resulted in a significant performance improvement. This means that changes made to VMs using the vSphere or vCenter interface are more rapidly detected by C2. 

In v3.7.1, we've made similar performance improvements to the AMI import process for the Amazon Web Services connector.

Our deep integration with HP Server Automation continues to remain a priority. In addition to officially supporting HP Server Automation v9.14, we now support the import and installation of HP Server Automation OS Build Plans through the C2 interface. If you haven’t tried unifying your virtualization with your data center automation/configuration management, you’re really missing out.

As you can see, we've been pretty busy, but this was just a dot release! We've got some great things cooking in our development shop that you won't want to miss.

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Topics: Feature, Upgrade, Release Notes