Enterprises – make Docker work for you!

Break out of the silo

Since the inception of Docker, developers have been excited with the possibilities it offers for portable applications and scalability. Their business’ IT departments, though, have what looks like another silo and technology to manage.

Abiquo, the leaders in hybrid cloud management, added the ability to manage Docker hosts and enhance their usage with multi-NIC and multi tenant networking and security early in 2015. Now, Abiquo is pleased to announce a new set of features for Docker integration in Abiquo 3.8 to enable companies to productize and commercialize container services to their workgroups.

IT infrastructure experts have been looking for enterprise-class monitoring, policy-based utilization controls and the same kind of anti-affinity configuration that can be used to great effect in hypervisors such as VMware ESX.

What’s coming in Abiquo 3.8

  • Monitor Docker host resources, container resources and application metrics
  • Create alarms based on monitoring information. Compare containers, send a mail based on conditions
  • Improved scheduler/allocator for Docker. Now you can define oversubscription strategies as well as use our anti-affinity functionality to prevent certain containers being deployed to the same Docker host
  • Updated Docker support up to version 1.9

This update follows Abiquo’s strategy of enabling enterprises and service providers to deliver container capabilities as a new technology capability in a data center, providing the same enterprise capabilities that the product offers for virtualization technologies or public cloud. One interface, one API, your choice of physical infrastructure and many integration capabilities..

Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIN or at www.abiquo.com for the latest on the Abiquo Hybrid Cloud solution.

Ping us on contact@abiquo.com, @abiquo or LinkedIN if you are at Dockercon Europe and want to meet up and discuss how we can support your needs to get Docker from under the desk, into the data center!

Read more about Abiquo’s Docker support here

WizardCloud isn’t just about technology

Offering a cloud service is not only about deploying VM instances, managing templates or delivering DevOps agility to your organisation. When you decide to productise and customise your cloud service, you need to think about other collateral actions that will directly contribute to the success of your cloud project.

Features such as multi-branding and multi-language support are a big help and Abiquo has incorporated them from the very beginning. But styling and localizing the user interface might not be enough. There will be differences between the vocabulary used in a DevOps environment and that used in an enterprise, or an MSP service. So Abiquo has always enabled our customers to customise the vocabulary and terms their users will see. For example, a tenant in an MSP environment might be a department in an enterprise space. In other environments this could be a project or a unit.

Use your own business terms

In Abiquo 3.2 we have improved this supporting feature by separating “default” terms from “customised” terms in two different files, enabling you to more easily preserve your customisation between releases, thereby simplifying the maintenance process.

And our reseller model support enables you to manage different brands on the same Abiquo platform, by deploying different language files and other customisations in separate domains, thereby enabling full function delegation to reseller companies that will offer your cloud services to their end customers.

But now we’ve taken this a step further. In the new Abiquo 3.2 release we incorporate two important new capabilities to improve the take-up and efficiency of your cloud platform.

Wizards and Tutorials

Even if you think your platform is the easiest platform in the world to use, new users probably have a different view when presented with a rich set of portal functions. Abiquo has always had comprehensive documentation and “getting started” guides on the Abiquo wiki but as nobody really likes to read manuals, we’ve added a key capability to help get your users familiar with the platform.

Abiquo 3.2 incorporates the ability to create custom wizards and tutorials for your users. Abiquo will include some of these out of the box, and you can develop your own step-by-step tutorials to enable users to learn about your specific features and processes, and wizards to guide them through tasks. Add videos, animated GIFs, HTML, and whatever else you need to guide the user through the platform. You can identify any Abiquo element by ID or name, and highlight it. You can also prevent the user from moving to the next step until they click a specific button, and much more cool stuff.

Even better, you can create specific tutorials for each role on the platform, as you will see in the following video.

You may like to use this to introduce new features, services or application templates to your users – it’s much more immediate and interactive than an email newsletter!

Add Javascript Snippets

Do you have a Support system? Do you want to know if your users like your latest feature? Do you want to incorporate a chat to interact with them? Nowadays there are hundreds (or even thousands) of SaaS companies that offer their advanced systems to incorporate in your site. Why not in Abiquo? Abiquo 3.2 enables you to organize all these snippets and show them in your Abiquo UI. When you do this, the result is really cool!

snippets

 

The above screenshot shows how you can add a UserVoice widget to ask your users about their satisfaction with the service, and enable them to add new ideas or send a message. On the right, a chat box provides direct on-line contact between your user and the service desk.

You can also use this with analytics tools such as Google Analytics to understand how your users interact with your Abiquo cloud platform.

These are two of the new features added in Abiquo 3.2 to boost your production cloud services. But there are more to come, because for Abiquo these kinds of capabilities are as important as supporting a new cloud provider or a new technology. Because we understand that user satisfaction will be a key indicator in measuring the success of your service.

As always, you will see our new features very soon in Abiquo anyCloud

Some time ago, we had a couple of inquiries about support for running KVM hypervisors with Open vSwitch (OVS). Older versions of OVS included the brcompat module, which made OVS work with regular Linux bridges instead of its own virtual switches. This meant Abiquo would behave as if it were using regular bridges. However, with recent versions of OVS, this brcompat module has been deprecated and it is not working as well as it should. Support for OVS is in our development roadmap, but in the meantime, we will explain how to “hack” an unsupported version of this feature using libvirt “domain events”.

(more…)

In our latest release, Abiquo has introduced an Outbound Event Stream API. This lets you use events that are recorded in your Abiquo powered cloud platform for various purposes.
While it’s easy to see how these events can be used for monitoring and alerts, they can also be used to increase revenue from your platform.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you going:

Creating sales opportunities

In Abiquo, you can set ‘soft limits’ and ‘hard limits’ for each Enterprise (or “tenant” if you prefer) and each Virtual Datacenter. If you set the soft limit to, say, 80% of the hard limit, then you could use the Outbound Event Stream API to send an email to your inside sales team when your customer reaches the soft limit. If your organisation uses a CRM solution such as Salesforce, you can even have this change automatically updated in your CRM records.

Abiquo soft limits

Abiquo allow customers to set ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ limits to monitor customers’ usage

Getting closer to the customer

One of the big challenges in self-service environment is that your customer will be creating virtual machines and implementing new applications without you necessarily knowing about it. For a managed service provider, or even an internal IT provider, this reduces the understanding you have of customer projects.

Using the Outbound Event Stream API, you could alert a Solution Architect or Account Manager, perhaps with a CRM integration, to when a customer implements a new Virtual Datacenter or Virtual Appliance. You could also do this with the Abiquo Reporting Enhancement Pack of course, for an overview of this activity.

Learn more about Abiquo’s Outbound Event Stream API and how it can benefit your business on the Abiquo Wiki

Abiquo’s award-winning user interface provides a simple, intuitive interface for both end users and systems administrators to manage virtualized cloud environments. However when you need to deliver business information to the people who need it, Abiquo Reports can be an ideal platform.

The recent release of Abiquo Reports contains a number of new reports that specifically aim to visualise key business metrics that help understand how your users are utilizing the Abiquo environment. For example, the new System Activity report delivers a wealth of summary information to help make business decisions and to target business activity, by identifying:

  • Growth information on the number of Users, Enterprises, Virtual Datacenters, Virtual Applications and Virtual Machines

  • Charts and heat maps to help visualize when the system is being used.

  • Identification of of the top growing and shrinking Enterprises by various metrics (by user count , VM count, and by activity)

Reports Infrastructure growth

User Audit Report

Additionally, the new Infrastructure Growth report uses Abiquo’s detailed accounting data to encapsulate key system level trending and growth information of the key resources, and can be used to easily summarize and visualize system growth within a single page, easy-to-read report.

Datacentre Planning report

Abiquo Reports uses Jaspsersoft,the most flexible, cost effective and widely deployed Business Intelligence suite in the world, enabling better decision making through highly interactive, web-based reports, dashboards and analysis. Leveraging a commercial open source business model, Jaspersoft provides end-to-end BI capabilities at a fraction of the cost of other vendors. Visit www.jaspersoft.com to learn more.

The use of Jaspersoft allows for automated scheduling of reports in multiple formats, and provides a framework for customer that wish to develop their own reports.

Visit our Wiki for more information on Abiquo Reports with Jaspersoft

Abiquo supports two basic charging models for cloud resources:

  • Allocation – where customers are allocated a pool of cloud resources (vCPU,vRAM,storage etc.) and are charged for those resources regardless of whether they are consumed or not

  • Consumption – where customers are charged for the resources they have actually consumed, typically on an hourly basis.

However, the needs of Abiquo customers are often more complex with discounts, commitment, burst and many other models coming into effect and in order to meet those customer needs, and to also deliver flexible accounting and billing solutions Abiquo have developed a billing plugin integration.

This allows Abiquo’s rich set of raw data (allocation, and consumption) to be imported to an easy to read CSV file, or directly to a billing solution such as Aria, Zuora, Ubersmith or CloudCruiser. Billing data can be aggregated in a number of different ways by Abiquo in order to support a variety of different tennant models.

As well as standard resources such as vRam, vCPU, and Storage, Abiquo can also provide accounting data for other services that may incur additional costs on the cloud platform. Functionality such as reserved hardware, high availability can all be metered, along with additional resources such as specific template images or hypervisors.

The billing integration also supports custom connectors. Allowing data from third party sources (e.g. networking bandwidth) to also be tracked and aggregated with other usage data that will form the final bill.

Click here to learn more about the Abiquo billing integration or click here to find out more about Accounting in Abiquo.

I’m Steve Rushen, Sr. Director, Services and Support at Abiquo. Over the next few weeks I want to use this blog to share some of the experience that I’ve gained during the last two years at Abiquo, helping our customers to create award winning cloud services.

As an introduction I want to define what companies need from a cloud service.  It may sound obvious, but some companies rarely think about what they want their ‘cloud’ to do and tend to jump straight into a service without thinking of the business’ needs and requirements. I’ve seen many organisations run trials with one product after another, while they explore the cloud market. They are simply treading water and delaying the launch of any service while they try to understand what it is they want. This can build an ever-increasing list of requirements that makes projects delayed, or even doomed to failure, before they have even started.

Before companies run at full speed towards the cloud they should take a step back and think about what is required from the service. Organisations need to think about the essential characteristics of the cloud they want to build. NIST lists these as; on-demand self- service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and a measured service. For some businesses this isn’t going to be a complete list but it’s a great starting point for most.

Once the broad list of characteristics is complete, and with the knowledge of the business environment (i.e. the hardware, storage, networking and hypervisors that will define the service), companies will be ready to start building a list of requirements. That list of requirements is what should shape any discussion that is had with hardware and software vendors that are ready to talk cloud; without it the vendor be working to their own agenda without the customer in mind. If businesses are serious about creating cloud services then a little bit of upfront work will help define success. When choosing a cloud service many customers forget or are unaware about checking their cloud’s compatibility. Organisations need to identify cloud vendors that won’t be constrained by the hardware or the hypervisors that they are either using today or in the future.

If you’re a business that already has that list of requirements and wants to see what Abiquo can do, then get in touch. I’m always happy to have that conversation.

Here at Abiquo we just released our 2.0-GA version. And among many improvements and goodies we released our API. From the beginning, we have always wanted to stick to RESTFul principles of design. We all agreed that RESTFul APIs when done well are simple to use and easy to understand. We want to not only implement our own clients, but let other people implement their own abstractions of our application. There are many articles on how to version a RESTFul API. In this one I just want to present the thoughts and ideas that are behind the Abiquo API versioning.

Media Types

RESTFul APIs work with representations. A representation holds the state of a resource. These representations are composed of data, metadata that describes the data, and optionally, metadata that describes the metadata (normally used to verify message integrity). The metadata of a representation is represented as key-value pairs and sent in headers. This metadata includes the data type, or format. And the format of the representation is known as the media type. That is, when a GET request is performed for a resource, what it obtains is its current state in a specific media type. So we decided to handle versioning with media types. Different Content-type header defines the format of the representation. This is called content negotiation. Media types also accept variables, which are also represented as key-value pairs. For example, a valid mime type could be: application/vnd.company.mime+json;version=1.0. This can be very useful for versioning mime types and this is actually how we implemented the versioning. We all agreed to adopt the versioning of media types as the versioning technique for the Abiquo API. We decided to use custom vendor mime types. Custom mime types follow a convention. First the directory, we chose application because we were modelling our data model. Then the media type itself, which is usually in this form: vnd.company_name.type. In the case of an Abiquo rack for example: vnd.abiquo.rack. Followed by the format, for example the XML representation of a rack:

application/vnd.abiquo.rack+xml
<rack>
<name>example</name>
 </rack>
 

By adding the version as a parameter:

 application/vnd.abiquo.rack+xml;version=1.1
 

We could have gone with the plain, common application/xml. But we thought that, although perfectly valid, it is not strict. It is not strict because clients are not asking for any arbitrary XML but for a specific representation in a specific format. In contrast an Accept header such as */* or application/xml is admitted. We encourage the use of the appropriate mime type though. But we do not admit those very same mime types for Content-type header. The Abiquo API does not deal with just any XML representation. In addition, as the headers arrive before the body, we can reduce network burden if the Content-type or Accept headers are unknown to the Abiquo API or invalid for the resource. One practical benefit is that an API client might be upgraded in parts. As the implementation of the representations proceeds, the media type can be modified.

Practical example

With versioning we wanted to handle changes, deletions and additions in our application. All of that without breaking the backward compatibility. Let’s say that we have this XML: application/vnd.abiquo.rack+xml

 <rack>
 <name>example</name>
 </rack>
 

If we wanted to add a new property to the rack, for example description, we will end up with this representation:

 <rack>
 <name>example</name>
 <description>An example of an Abiquo rack</description>
 </rack>
 

This is the easiest scenario as old implementations of valid clients will just ignore the new property and keep working with the its old representation. Not even a version parameter is needed here. But what if the change is incompatible. For example, we want to further iterate our rack. We realize that a description is not enough and we want to add up to three descriptions. This could be a valid rack.

<rack>
 <name>example</name>
 <descriptions>
 <description lang=&quot;en_US&quot;>An example of an Abiquo rack</description>
 <description lang=&quot;es_ES&quot;>Un ejemplo de rack Abiquo</description>
  <description lang=&quot;es_CAT&quot;>Un example de rack d'Abiquo</description>
 </descriptions>
 </rack>
 

Well, this rack is incompatible with clients expecting the old rack version. This is where content negotiation comes in handy. By versioning the rack, a client might actually ask for any of those three representations.

 GET /rack/1
 Accept: application/vnd.abiquo.rack+xml;version=2.2
 --------------
 <rack> /> <name>example</name>   <descriptions>
 <description lang=&quot;en_US&quot;>An example of an Abiquo rack</description>
 <description lang=&quot;es_ES&quot;>Un ejemplo de rack Abiquo</description>
 <description lang=&quot;es_CAT&quot;>Un example de rack d'Abiquo</description>
 </descriptions>
 </rack>
 

OTHER OPTIONS Tying the version to the actual media type instead of using parameters was an option too. The rack representation could then be: application/vnd.abiquo.rack+xml

 <rack>
 <name>example</name>
 <rack>
 

And when modified it would become: application/vnd.abiquo.rack-v2+xml instead of application/vnd.abiquo.rack+xml;version=1.1 But we discarded this because even though it is not the same version of the representation, we felt like it was the very same mime type. Since parameters are something that adds data to the media type we think this is the right place. Another common version pattern for APIs is to add the version number as a path segment.

 GET api/v1/rack/1
 
 GET api/v2/rack/1
 

But we did not like the idea of tying our API version to the URIs, as this is the resource identifier. In our opinion, the resource identifier should stay the same, even though the representations of the resources change.

There are hundreds of public clouds out there, with more coming every day. Most of them are not truly clouds, just a hosted service with “cloud” stamped on the website and no real changes to the offering. And the offerings that do have self-service are often klunky or ugly or both. Just because the user is IT, rather than a business unit, doesn’t mean that it’s ok to serve up the red-headed stepchild of technology.

As you might have already seen, Abiquo places a high value on both form and function. In fact, we strongly believe that it should look great AND work better than you could ever hope for. So when we see a customer apply our product and our philosophy to their own in a really sophisticated or interesting way, we think everyone should pay attention.

Claranet uses Abiquo for its Virtual Data Centre

Claranet’s recently announced Virtual Data Centre offering is the first integrated self-service cloud offering available to the European market. The offering combines self-service,  governance, resiliency, network integration, and migration in a single service. Claranet Virtual Data Centre customers manage their own resources and users through a simple, yet powerful, online interface.

To learn more about the Claranet cloud offering, visit: http://www.claranet.co.uk/virtual-data-centre.html

To learn more about how Abiquo made Claranet’s offering possible, read more in this press release: http://www.abiquo.com/news-and-events/abiquo-powers-claranets-virtual-data-centre.php

 

 

 

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cloudexpo

Abstract

Implementing a successful Enterprise Cloud requires that the needs of all stakeholders be balanced and in harmony. Without this balance, it simply doesn’t work, leading to failed projects – as a number of early cloud adopters have already discovered to their cost. Balance is not just about consultation, it’s about selecting technology that works to address the needs of each stakeholder. In my upcoming keynote, I will demonstrate that not only is balance possible, but that with it, the Enterprise Cloud actually becomes greater than the sum of its parts, truly achieving both the individual goals of each stakeholder, and the collective goal of the organization.

Read the whole story at www.petemalcolm.com — post a comment there, then join us at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley, Wednesday, Nov 9th at 1:30 for the General Session.   We will open the floor to answer questions and bring some followers on stage to join us for a community panel.  Tell your friends through twitter with #tightrope or #cloudexpo.