Birth of a data center cloud, part 1

Welcome to part 1 of my blog series, “Birth of a cloud” (and you thought these came from the cabbage patch!). In these posts, I’ll be taking you from the inception and planning of the data center cloud to an important mature component of the green data center.

For some time now, we’ve operated internal use and customer virtual machines using the excellent Xen hypervisor. As good as the standalone virtualization has been, it’s time to step it up a notch and take advantage of all the capabilities of a cloud, so we’re using the new Xen Cloud Platform as a good foundation.

For this project, we’re using Rackable Systems servers with 2x AMD Opteron 275 dual core CPUs, 8Gb memory, and 2GbE ports. These aren’t state of the art by any means, but they’ve been doing yeoman duty as standalone hosts and they’re rock solid hardware (we only use Linux virtual machines so there’s no need for hardware virtualization support).

We’re starting off with 6 cloud hosts but we’ve laid out the network for the full 16 cloud hosts that the Xen Cloud Platform we’re using is capable of (figuring 6 core Opterons, that’s 96 cores). The network uses a single switch, split in two networks, one for data traffic (all port 1s) and one for storage traffic (all port 2s).

Storage for the cloud is a common NFS server. This allows us to take advantage of XCPs workload balancer and the ability to shift live virtual machines between cloud hosts seamlessly.

The cloud is also integrated into the data center DC power distribution. Cloud hosts are split between separate DC power feeds which, with. the addition of XCPs work load balancer, will insure maximum reliability.

This is a basic overview of the hardware infrastructure to support a virtual machine cloud. In part 2, I’ll talk about establishing the cloud and bringing it up under manual control. In part 3, I’ll talk about using the work load balancer for automatic control of the cloud and finally, in part 4, I’ll talk about advanced projects that provide the ultimate in green results, such as the effort to allow the cloud to power down unneeded machines when demand is low. Stay tuned!

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom


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