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How to Create a Basic Plan Using the Service Administration Portal

This post is a part of the nine-part “What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2” series that is featured on Brad Anderson’s In the Cloud blog.  Today’s blog post covers Service Administration and how it applies to the larger topic of “Transform the Datacenter.”  To read that post and see the other technologies discussed, read today’s post: “What’s New in 2012 R2: Service Provider & Tenant IaaS Experience.”

As described in that blog post, success for a service provider largely hinges on its ability to attract and retain tenants.  It therefore falls to the service provider to think about how to use service offerings to draw tenants in, to consider different tactics for differentiation, upsell, and maintain healthy tenant accounts.  To help service providers meet these challenges, we have invested in key enhancements to the service management experience targeting these specific areas: 

  • Using value based offers to attract tenants and drive new subscriptions
  • Use offer differentiation & upsell to drive more consumption 
  • Managing tenant accounts and subscriptions

A “service provider” here could be an IT organization within a company that is providing services such as IaaS to other business units in the organization. Thus, an IT organization that operates like a service provider to other business units must create compelling service offerings in much the same way as a service provider tries to attract customers. 

Overview of an IaaS Plan

Service providers can build bundles of service offerings that are termed “plans”. Plans include composable service offerings that can be assembled together in order target different types of prospective tenants.  Tenants consume these service offerings by subscribing to a plan.  In a very general sense, a cloud is nothing more to the tenant than a set of capabilities (“service offerings”) at some capacity (“quotas”).

To support this business model, we have designed a very easy-to-use experience for creating offers, selecting the kinds of service offerings to include and then setting the quotas to control how much can be consumed by any single subscription.  But, it goes beyond a simple set of compute, storage, and networking capabilities at some quota amount! 

One of the most important aspects of plan creation is the process of including library content to facilitate simplified application development.  For that reason, the plan creation experience also features a way to include templates for foundational VM configurations and workloads.

Plan Creation

In the Service Administration portal, the left side navigation has a entry called “Plans” which lists all the plans currently in the system. As you can see in the figure below, the administrators have created many different plans. When plans are created they are “Private” by default, meaning they are not yet visible to prospective tenants.

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In a quick glance, the administrator can identify which Plans are accessible by the tenants, how many subscriptions they have along with other pertinent status.

Creating a new plan is very easy and is enabled by the Quick Create experience.

Scroll down and click on New, which takes you to the Plan creation experience.

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This experience enables plan creation and “plan add-ons”. We will be focusing on plan creation in this blog post. The plan creation experience is a simple wizard with just three screens. In the first screen, you give the plan a name, and in this case it is going to be called “BlogIaaSPlan” as shown in the figure below.

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As mentioned earlier, a plan is a container of service offerings that are available in the system. This system is configured to provide VMs, web sites, SQL Server databases, and service bus services. Therefore, the plan wizard allows all of these types of services to be offered in the plan.

We will focus only on virtual machines in this blog post. In this screenshot the ‘Virtual Machine Clouds’ service is selected and ‘Virtual Machine Clouds’ is chosen from the drop down.

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Skip the plan add-ons for now and click OK. That completes the plan Quick Create experience. As you can see, the BlogIaaSPlan is created and is private by default.  The plan is “not configured” yet and needs to be configured before it can be made public for tenants to be able to subscribe to the plan.

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Configuring the Plan

Clicking on the plan (BlogIaaSPlan) presents the plan dashboard page. This page shows the plan statistics at the top and a list of all the services that are available on the plan along with plan add-ons associated with the plan.

Since we are creating an VM only plan, we have not selected any other offer/services other than Virtual Machine Clouds.

 

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As seen in the figure above, the Plan is not active nor configured for it to be used.

Click on ‘Virtual Machine Clouds’ to configure the plan.

Associating the Plan with a VMM Server and Cloud

A plan that offers VM clouds is associated with a specific Virtual Machine Manager server and a Virtual Machine Manager cloud within that VMM server. When the tenant subscribes to this plan and instantiates a virtual machine, the system will deploy that VM with the specified properties on the associated cloud via the associated VMM server.

imageAs shown in the figure to the left, the VMM server is a mandatory property that needs to be set for an IaaS plan.

As part of the service registration, the VMM server information is already available in the system. Therefore, selecting the correct VMM server is very easy.

Once a VMM server has been selected, the VMM cloud managed by that VMM server needs to be selected and bound to the plan.

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As you can see in the figure, once a VMM server has been identified, the system queries the VMM server to list all the VMM clouds available on the VMM server.

We will choose the Gold Cloud to be associated with this plan.

A plan allows the administrator to bind the service to a specific cloud and controls on the upper limits on its usage.

Assigning Quota Limits to a Plan

The administrator will be able to set limits on the core compute attributes such as “the maximum number of VMs, logical cores, the max memory, storage and virtual networks each subscription can have.

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As you can see in this figure, you can specify absolute limits by specifying a number against each compute property to leave it unlimited, in which case it will be limited by the underlying fabric constraints.

Adding Allowed Networks to the Plan

The plan allows various cloud resources to be made available to the subscriber in a controlled manner. In this section we will go through the networks that are made available to the plan.

When a plan is being configured for the first time, there are no cloud resources assigned to the plan. Therefore all the cloud resources will be empty. Click on ‘Add networks’ to add networks to the plan and add the Fabrikam External network to the plan.

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When a tenant subscribes to this plan, and creates a VM, the only networks available for that VM to use will be the only networks allowed by the plan and in this case, it will only be the Fabrikam External network.

Adding Other Resources

Following the same pattern as that of networks, we can specify which hardware profiles and virtual machine templates are accessible within the plan. In this plan, all the hardware profiles and only the Windows Server 2012 VM template are chosen resulting in the figures below.

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With these configurations complete, the plan is ready to be subscribed to by tenants. Advanced scenarios such as the gallery and other settings will be discussed in later blogs.

Next the plan needs to be made it public so that it can be discovered and subscribed to by tenants.

Plan Activation

Go back to the Plans List view to see all the plans. As you can see in the figure below, the plan is now configured, but still private. 

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Select the BlogIaaSPlan and then make it public by changing its access privileges. As shown in the Figure below, you can see do it from the Change Access command

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The plan status will change to reflect the fact it’s now a publicly accessible plan. You can see that in the Plans view as shown in the figure below.

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Once the plan is made public it can be subscribed to and tenants can start to deploy virtual machines against the subscription.

Conclusion

In subsequent blogs, we will provide more details of creating advanced plans.

To see all of the posts in this series, check out the What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 archive.

Creating Usage Analytics Reports using Excel

This post is a part of the nine-part “What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2” series that is featured on Brad Anderson’s In the Cloud blog.  Today’s blog post covers Service Administration and how it applies to the larger topic of “Transform the Datacenter.”  To read that post and see the other technologies discussed, read today’s post: “What’s New in 2012 R2: Service Provider & Tenant IaaS Experience.”

As described in that blog post, enabling usage analytics scenarios for service providers is a key investment area for this release. Service providers cannot successfully monetize their services in the absence of a system that tracks and provides analytics on tenant resource usage.  

Overview of Service Reporting

The “How to Integrate Your Billing System with the Usage Metering System” blog post provided an overview of the Usage Metering System. This blog post will focus on how we extract the same data and provide analytics on tenant resource VM utilization and make them available in Excel pivot tables. (analysis via Performance Point is covered in a subsequent blog post). As shown in the figure below, the Service Reporting component extracts the data from the Usage REST API and transforms them into OLAP cubes for analytics, as shown in the picture below.

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Service Reporting is a data warehousing solution developed on top of the Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) stack.

In the 2012 R2 release, data is correlated from two sources

  1. Windows Azure Pack Usage (Tenant Resource Utilization data)
  2. Operations Manager (Fabric data such as Servers, VM Instances etc..)

Service Reporting is designed for the service administrator to create reports using Excel pivot tables to obtain the insights that help them in their capacity planning needs and show-back situations.

VM Usage Data Pipeline

In the figure below, the VM usage data source is VMM (Virtual Machine Manager). This data is periodically collected and stored in the OM (Operations Manager) database. This data is collected and stored in the WAP (Windows Azure Pack) Usage Database along with usage data of other resources. As mentioned earlier, the details of WAP Usage system was detailed in the blog How to Integrate Your Billing System with the Usage Metering System.

The Service Reporting component reads data from the Usage Database and then transforms the raw usage data into OLAP cubes for analytics. The data in these OLAP cubes are available for visualization and for drill down analytics using Excel and Performance Point.

 

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Scenarios

For the 2012 R2 release we targeted the following usage analysis scenarios:

  1. Usage trends across different time dimensions (hourly, daily, monthly, quarterly, yearly) to provide critical trending patterns
  2. Pivoting by subscriptions to understand which subscribers are impacting the business
  3. Pivoting by clouds/plans to understand which plans are used the most
  4. Side-by-side comparison between allocated capacity for tenants and their usage to help understand utilization ratios

These scenarios can be visualized in Excel and in Performance Point. Excel is a very popular tool for most reporting needs, and has pivot table capabilities that come in very handy for ad-hoc analytics. Excel workbooks can contain data to be analyzed even when disconnected from the SQL Server Analysis Server.

Configuring Usage Reports

The prerequisites for Usage Reports to work are that the Service Reporting component must be working correctly and usage data must be flowing into the system. This blog does not address the installation and deployment of the Service Reporting component. The Excel Usage Reports shipped out of the box in 2012 R2 need to be connected to the Analysis Server that holds the Usage Data Cube. This can be easily done by opening the Usage Report from the Reports folder in the install directory of the Service Reporting component. Navigate to the Data->Connections menu in Excel and open up the default connection that is shipped out of the box and edit it. As you can see in the figure below, you can navigate to the Definition tab in the Connection properties.

The connection string to use here is highlighted below.

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Ensure you add the correct connection properties and save. The only property you should be changing is the source (highlighted in red) below.

Provider=MSOLAP.5;Integrated Security=SSPI;Persist Security Info=True;Initial Catalog=UsageAnalysisDB;Data Source=fab-servicereporting;MDX Compatibility=1;Safety Options=2;MDX Missing Member Mode=Error

Make sure, the command text has SRUsageCube in the text.

Once these connection properties are saved, the Excel report can now be populated with data from the Usage Data Cube and its capabilities.

To test it out, you can create a brand new worksheet and then create a pivot table using the connection you just created.

Step 1: Open a new worksheet

Step 2: Click on Insert->Pivot Table

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  • Step 3: Make sure you have External data source selected
  • Step 4: Click on Choose Connection and select the data connection configured in the previous step.

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  • Step 5: Save the changes and close the dialog to go back to the Excel worksheet.

If the data connection is configured correctly, you should be seeing this form on the right side of your worksheet.

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Click on “All” and you will see a drop down with the following items.

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Click on the Settings icon (the round sprocket) and collapse all the fields.

You will see all the 19 “measures” that are available out of the box for reporting different utilization data points.

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At this point, you are ready to create your own report that is provided in the sample Usage Report.

Explore the Pivot Table fields and try to compose the report similar to the one in the figure below by dragging and dropping the different fields to the appropriate areas (Filters, Columns, Rows, Values).

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As you add the rows and columns, you will start to see the report shape up to look like the figure below.

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Slicers

Once you have a report that looks like this you can augment this report by adding slicers to give you filtering options.

Go to Insert->Slicer and choose the same connection that the pivot table is using. This will provide you with options to choose the necessary filter. Select VMM User Role (which is the same as Subscriptions) and you can see list of subscribers in the system and selecting one gives you the ability to scope the results.

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In this instance, I have created a slicer with “VMM User Role” but changed the Display name to “Subscriptions” to make it more intuitive. All the available “Subscriptions” are shown in this list and all of them are in scope.

Now, if you select just one of them, say “Unknown User Role” you will see the report change to just display the records related to just that subscription as shown the table below.

As you can see, all the values, instantly change to the selected filter, thus giving the administrator great ability to look at subscribers and compare them side by side. One can multi-select within the same slicer and chain other slicers to provide richer analytics.

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Conclusion

While Excel is super powerful and ubiquitous, Performance Point allows greater collaboration by enabling dashboards . By connecting to the Analysis Server of Service Reporting, one can take advantage of all the key fields that are available in Service Reporting to create powerful dashboards that can help the service administrator see the key metrics of the business is a single location. 

Subsequent blog posts will go into the details of configuring Performance Point dashboards.

To see all of the posts in this series, check out the What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 archive.