As a Solution Architect for Scalar Decisions, we are often tasked with obtaining a thorough understanding of the integration process between solution components that will operate within a customer environment. We are also often asked to provide our personal (and professional) opinion on different products that compete with each other.
In order to provide experience based knowledge and opinion to our customers, we rely heavily on lab environments to test and evaluate potential solutions. Scalar Decisions does own and operate hardware based lab resources to assist with these requirements, however, these systems are often:
- Difficult to reconfigure
- Difficult to maintain consistency
- Difficult to gain access to
- Difficult to book or audit activities
We are also undergoing an office move which will make it difficult to maintain lab availability for a few months while the new facilities are built out. The overall theme here is that owning our own lab with a high-rate of change can be very difficult.
To avoid sliding back into the “lab on a laptop” environment that many of our team members were used to, we began to adopt Ravello. Ravello allowed us to share common and standardized environments (via blueprints) between team members, provided segregation and flexibility between environments, and dramatically reduced the time it took us to build or expand a lab environment.
Unfortunately there were many environments [that relied on VMware integration] that we could not move to Ravello, Until today! With nearly 100% of our customer base running VMware somewhere in their environment, the majority of our environment integration testing requires VMware to be available. Now that we have the ability to operate virtualized VMware ESXi™ and VMware vCenter™ instances within Ravello, any non-hardware related lab or demo can be moved to the cloud.
As of this writing, our first Ravello blueprint leveraging ESXi images was built for a RedHat CloudForms workshop/class. This particular blueprint consists of:
- 1 Instructor RedHat CloudForms Instance
- 3 Student RetHat Clouforms Instances
- 2 VMware ESXi 5.5 Instances
- 1 VMware vCenter 5.5 Instance
- 1 MS Windows Server Instance
- 1 FreeNAS Instance
- 4 Separate Network Subnets
Sharing the above infrastructure with 30-40 technical resources (from our Eastern offices) can be a challenge with the requirement of everyone sharing the same ESX hosts and vCenter servers. In Ravello, I can say that the initial setup of this lab took nearly 3-4 hours, and it can be copied and published to another cloud in 6.06 minutes! 6.06 MINUTES!! Even if we had unlimited hardware resources in the lab, we still couldn’t replicate that entire environment in 6 minutes (nor would I want to). The following screenshot outlines the resource requirement for this environment as well as the hourly cost:
The following screenshots outline the basic server and network layout of the application.
After 6.06 minutes, we are copied and running another version of CloudForms that is ready for testing:
Leveraging Ravello for this type of workload provides a new opportunity for us to provide additional value to our customers. We have an opportunity to test and better acquaint ourselves with new software products (VMware vSphere™ 6 just came out!), deploy demo and lab environments in less time, and extend this feature to our customers so that they can utilize the lab environment at their leisure. And to deploy this lab, not one email was sent to request an IP address.
We continue to look forward to using the Ravello platform for more advanced integration testing, prototyping, demonstration and learning activities.
*Note: CloudForms can also be extended to support Ravello as a Cloud Provider within its cloud management capabilities. Check out the blog on Ravello with Cloudforms.
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About Ravello Systems
Ravello is the industry’s leading nested virtualization and software-defined networking SaaS. It enables enterprises to create cloud-based development, test, UAT, integration and staging environments by automatically cloning their VMware-based applications in AWS. Ravello is built by the same team that developed the KVM hypervisor in Linux.