What provisioning the Cloud infrastructure and cooking have in common…

November 2, 2011 - 1 Comment

What provisioning the Cloud infrastructure and cooking have in common…


I like to cook. Sometimes, I’ll grab whatever ingredients I have on hand, put them in a Dutch oven, throw in a few spices, and make a delicious casserole that can never be repeated. At other times, I’ll follow a recipe to the letter, measure and weigh everything that goes in, and produce a great meal that I can repeat consistently each time.

When provisioning servers and blades for a Cloud infrastructure, the same 2 choices exist: follow your instinct and build a working (but not repeatable) system, or follow a recipe that will ensure that systems are built in an exacting fashion, every time. Without a doubt, the latter method is the only way to proceed.

Enter the Cisco Tidal Server Provisioner (an OEM from www.linmin.com) , an integral component of Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud and Cisco Intelligent Automation for Compute. TSP lets you easily create “recipes” that can be easily deployed onto physical systems and virtual machines with repeatability and quality, every time. These recipes can range from simple, e.g., install a hypervisor or an operating system, to very complex: install an operating system, then install applications, run startup scripts, configure the system, access remote data, register services, etc.

Once you have a recipe (we call it a Provisioning Template), you can apply it to any number of physical systems or virtual machines without having to change the recipe. Some data centers use virtualization for sand box development and prototyping, and use physical servers and blades for production. Some data centers do the opposite: prototype on physical systems, then run the production environment in a virtualized environment. And of course, some shops are “all physical” or “all virtual”. Being able to deploy a recipe-based payload consistently on both physical and virtual systems provides the ultimate flexibility. Yes, once you’ve created a virtual machine, you’ll likely use VMware vSphere services to deploy, clone and move VMs, but as long as you’re using TSP to create that “first VM”, you have the assurance that you have a known-good, repeatable way of generating the golden image. When time comes to update the golden image, don’t touch the VM: instead, change the recipe, provision a new VM, and proceed from there.

While small shops use TSP “standalone” with the browser-based GUI, any sizable data center will want to use orchestration (the Cisco Tidal Enterprise Orchestrator) driven by a catalog-based self-service portal (the Cisco Cloud Portal). Together, these three components comprise Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud, and fully automate the processes from end-user resource requests to bare metal provisioning and bare metal imaging.

Provisioning vs. Imaging:

Bare Metal Provisioning is the automated equivalent of having someone go from system to system, insert an operating system or hypervisor DVD, answer questions and wait for the process to complete. TSP’s Bare Metal Provisioning performs these same functions, except they’re done remotely over the network, and they’re done unattended. This is called automated server provisioning.

Bare Metal Imaging, on the other hand, is a full system backup: master boot record, partition layout, partition contents, applications, settings, data, in short, every single bit of a local disk. After a backup is made, you can restore that disk image to the same system for disaster recovery purposes (rolling the system back in time to a known-good state) or to other identical systems to “clone” the original system.

Whether you need to do an initial data center roll out of “static” systems (i.e., install Windows or Linux on physical servers or blades once, and keep that OS on the system forever), or have a “dynamic” data center where payloads get changed on a frequent basis, the Tidal Server Provisioner and Cisco Intelligent Automation empowers you to deploy high quality systems quickly and consistently.

Now back to the kitchen and my cookbooks…

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  1. So using your analogy, Bare Metal Provisioning is equivalent to delivering hot pizza to order, while Bare Metal Imaging is more like selling frozen pizza for reheating at home? 🙂