Example cost: Virtual Private Cloud on VMware

In the last 6 months, I have helped multiple customers achieve their dream of a virtual machine environment built for them exclusively, but with abilities to control their virtual machine setup, configuration, turn up, tear down, etc.  These dedicated infrastructure environments are in the ipHouse data center.

This isn’t ‘cloud computing’ as many people think of it (thanks to Amazon EC2 and the like), but it is pretty close to that vague definition, and with far more control available in terms of everything-vm-wise.

What do I mean?  With this virtual private cloud, a customer can set up 3 Ubuntu systems, 2 Windows Server 2003, 1 FreeBSD, and 7 Windows Server 2008 systems.  There really isn’t anything novel about this (again, reference Amazon EC2 and the like).

What is novel is that the customer can configure these VMs as they wish.  Disk space allocation, partitioning, memory configurations, number of vCPUs.  Basically, if you can do it on a physical server – you can do it virtually.

Another differentiating feature is that VMware vSphere 4 supports many operating systems while most public cloud providers offer a very limited number in comparison.  This choice alone can be enough to warrant looking at this kind of solution.

No per hour fees, no storage fees (above what the customer has purchased), highly available (if configured to do so), dynamic resource scheduling (if configured to do so), bandwidth fees that are predictable. (see VMare vMotion and Storage vMotion, VMware HA, VMware DRS via website)

I’ll build a configuration example offering shared storage between the VMware physical servers.  I’ll be doing some cost estimates for the per month fees.  These estimates will be high and are purely shown for example.  You would want to contact ipHouse Sales to get a real idea for the costs involved.

First, hardware…

  • Dell Server systems, picking PE2900III as the base for cost and reliability experience
  • Compellent, NetApp, and/or SUN Storage for shared storage systems
  • Connection for storage via Fibre-Channel (expensive), iSCSI, and/or NFS
  • FortiNet FortiGate firewall, single or HA depending on customer needs
  • Interconnect switches from server to firewall, server to server, and server to storage

And the software – VMware vSphere 4

Let’s start with 2 servers, configured as:

  • Dell PE2900III (reasonably priced, very reliable, I have spares on the shelf)
  • 4 ethernet ports (2 built in, 2 port card installed, more can be added)
  • 2 73GB SAS drives mirrored together for booting VMware vSphere 4
  • 32GB RAM (48GB is max for this hardware platform)

Put virtual machine storage on iSCSI or NFS (cheaper than F/C), this will burn one ethernet port per server.

vMotion, the ability to move a running virtual machine, also consumes an ethernet port per server

Management of the underlying ESX server burns a third ethernet port.

Virtual machine traffic rides on the forth port and is connected to the firewall(s) via intermediate switches.

Let’s assume approximately 750GB of storage space (over iSCSI or NFS), 2TB per month of transfer (Internet facing), single firewall.

and picture…

2 Servers, 1 firewall
2 Servers, 1 firewall

Almost pretty, and estimated at $1600 per month, adding another server brings the cost up by an estimated $400 per month, HA firewall another $110 per month.

Each VM that is powered on per month also has a cost.  A basic VM without the ability to vMotion, HA, or DRS is $17.50/month, a full VM with all features enabled would be $62.00/month.

(do remember that I am estimating the pricing at higher than what we would sell services for, but I wanted to give examples that have some basis in fact built upon the infrastructure I have already put in place for other customers.  term commitments will change the sell price, the above is based on a 2 year term.)

For some operating systems there are also per month fees involved.  FreeBSD, Ubuntu (and many other Linux distributions) do not have extra fees.  RedHat Enterprise Linux, Windows Server (any flavor) do have monthly costs involved.  Please talk with your ipHouse Sales person to discuss your needs and the costs involved.

Now, before you look at the price and go into sticker shock, step back a moment.  Take a deep breath.  There, now continue reading…

This is private infrastructure dedicated to you as the customer.  You decide how resources are divvied up and attached to each virtual machine.  You get to decide how many and what kind of virtual machine is deployed.  (With some design work, you can even give priority to one virtual machine (or group of VMs) over others, though this is a little more advanced and you may need a little hand holding to understand the implications and configuration.  But that is what we are here for!)

This is not the solution for a customer that wants to run just a few, smaller, virtual machines.  If you are this type of customer we have other solutions available from ipHouse.

If you are a customer that wants to run 8-10 virtual machines (minimum) and have a mix of needs depending on resources, operating system, firewall capabilities, then this solution is very cost effective in comparison to the public cloud providers, with the added benefit that the infrastructure is dedicated to you.

This solution is also scaleable.  Additional storage, compute power, memory, bandwidth, all horizontally scalable.  Need more compute power?  Add another physical server.  Need more bandwidth?  Turn it up.  Need more storage?  Add another LUN (or increase the NFS export allocation).

This solution can also be built by us at ipHouse with ipHouse managing the whole system including the underlying virtual machines.  This does change the costs and as I have mentioned before, you should talk with your ipHouse Sales person about this and the options involved.

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