Welcome

Welcome to the OxCloud blog. We’re intending it to be a collection of technical notes on the University private cloud, general musings on cloud computing, as well as a commentary of what we like (and don’t like) about the various technologies underlying the private cloud infrastructure we’ve implemented. Probably we will include the odd ill-thought out rant, too, because that’s what blogs are all about (or so I’ve heard).

So firstly, a quick introduction to the Oxford private cloud. Full documentation is available from http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/sis/cloud/ – but in brief, there are three services offered to the University:

1. Individual VMs (the “Hosted VM” service)

Under the Hosted VM service, we deploy a Windows or Linux VM and hand it over to the customer. Hosting and the underlying infrastructure are looked after by the Oxcloud team, but the administration of the VM itself (patching, application installation and maintenance etc) is the responsibility of the customer.

2. Infrastructure-as-a-service (the “Virtual Datacentre” service)

Under this service we offer a pool of resource (CPU, RAM and storage) that the customer can assign to virtual machines as he or she sees fit. This concept is called a “virtual datacentre”. For the VMware-savvy, in essence what we do is create a resource pool in vSphere and hand it over to you to deploy VMs into (although that’s a bit of a watered-down description – there’s a bit more to it than that). Within this service there are two options regarding how your virtual datacentre is networked:

  • it can go on the “Campus” cluster, which allows you to bring in the VLAN (and hence the IP range) that you are using in your college or department,
  • it can go on the “DataCentre” cluster, which means a new VLAN – and so any VMs you deploy will be on a different IP range to the VLAN that you use in your college or department.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, which will be the subject of a further blog post.

3. Database-as-a-service (the “ORDS” service)

The third service is the Oxford Online Research Database Service (ORDS). This allows research projects with staff at Oxford to swiftly create relational databases that can be edited, searched, and shared online. It also allows existing databases to be imported, so that they may be shared or further developed. Full documentation on ORDS will be forthcoming shortly on the OUCS website.

The infrastructure underlying these three services is based on Dell hardware (Dell BladeCenters with Dell Compellent storage), running VMware’s vSphere and vCloud Director virtualisation products. The infrastructure is spread across two sites (OUCS on Banbury Road and the University Shared Data Centre on Parks Road) with half the service delivered from each site. Should it be necessary, we have the ability to fail one site over to the other and deliver the entire service from one site – either in a planned migration, or in the event of a disaster that takes one site offline. We’ll have more on this in a later blog post.

So, for now – welcome, and we hope you will find the content of this blog to be of interest. We welcome feedback: if on the blog, please leave a comment, and if on the cloud service, feel free to get in touch via one of the mechanisms at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/sis/about/contact.xml

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