Tag Archive: Chargeback


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After the successful release of the Capacity Management suite product at VMworld , its all been pretty quiet on the VKernel front , which usually means they are up to something.In addition to coding away like the clever chaps they are , they’ve also been growing the company , always a handy thing to do if you’d like to put food on the table.Its been a bumper year and a record quarter for them with the key Metric of their client sizes continuing to grow, showing that people are taking the problem of optimisation planning & chargeback seriously. When I was invited onto a call with Bryan Semple , CMO for VKernel last week I was looking forward to something new. Little did I know that I’d actually seen a sneak peak of it back in July with the Chargeback 2.0 release.

 

One of the key features within the new versions of the chargeback product is that is supports chargeback for environments running on Microsoft’s Hyper-V platform , and specifically the support for the Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal Toolkit (MSVMMSSP) . This allow the creation of self service portals to not only provision Machines according to a quote , but to be able to collect metrics for static or utilisation based chargeback of those machines. This starts to become increasingly relevant as enterprises move towards a “cloud” model ( presumably private with hyper-v at the moment ) VKernel has been selected as the primary chargeback vendor. Other partners providing support for the toolkit include IBM , Dell , EMC NetApp and HP

 

Ok so I almost went two paragraphs without using the “C” word – I could have been a lot worse! When looking at the kind of product that VKernel offers from a cloud provider perspective , the importance of the 3 sub products ( Capacity Analysis , Optimisation & Chargeback ) gets juggled around a bit. A service provider doesn’t really care as much about VM rightsizing as the end users are going to pay for it. A public cloud is also going to be looking at capacity from a slightly different point of view so while its important , I would imagine they may well use a different toolset.

 

VKernel has integrated with Microsoft’s “cloud” product , but what will it do with VMware other than the existing integrations , I would suspect they are keeping a very careful eye on the vCloud Director API and how they can best plug into that for example to track the costs of a vApp in a hybrid cloud situation as it moves from the private to public datacenter.

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And you thought Part one had a Catchy title eh ? Billing – its a key part of the management portion of any virtualisation strategy , but how do you bill ? If you are a cloud provider then no bill = no revenue so its pretty key , but what about billing in the private cloud.

My employer deployed a chargeback model in an attempt to control virtual machine sprawl and persuade application team to “rightsize” their virtual machines. The implemented model was very straightforward and conservative , however it had very little effect when it came to controlling sprawl. Program teams , used to controlling significantly large budgets really didn’t worry about the costs of chargeback & could easily afford to “rent” 20 guests , where they only needed the one. Chargeback evolved into show back, as budgets shifted like kittens in a sack and hardware budgets became centrally managed. There was no need to charge op units for their VMs , but the reports were still produced for them. did anyone take notice of these ? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

So have we wasted our time ? Ultimately , no. There is still a lot of value in having a cost model for your virtual machines , even if you don’t bill based on it. It becomes an invaluable tool when designing a solution to illustrate potential savings by virtualising an application ( vs the additional application licence costs – see Part I ! ) There is also value for the operational teams when it comes to forecasting and financial planning.

It seems barely a paycheck goes by without a new release from VKernel , which of course is a great thing, no one wants a software company to stand still , and there is certainly no moss on their rolling stone !

The latest release is an update to one of their existing products – Chargeback. This was actually the first main release by the firm a couple of years back and in some respects was a little ahead of its time , addressing a challenge that many end users wouldn’t have hit yet.

Chargeback is a core piece of the puzzle for any self respecting cloud provider , but before “the cloud” was quite such a buzz it was probably the last things many shops were thinking about – Initial infrastructure design and persuading the business to virtualize production workloads were much higher up the agenda.

Speaking on my own experience of chargeback , it was quite a struggle to come up with an initial model that would ensure that the costs incurred in building out a virtual infrastructure for our application teams were suitably recovered, so we ended up with a much more static model of a fixed cost per vm/ per month.

VKernel has recognised some of these challenges and has shifted the core focus of the product from chargeback to “showback” – rather than being used as a tool to directly bill end users , it can be very effective at showing what they would have been charged at an external service provider for example.

Chargeback costs can be shown in one of 2 keys ways – allocated & measured. If a team has the view of they want to be able to use all their allocated resources and not worry about a variable cost each month then an allocated cost model is appropriate. Should they wish costs to be allocated on a more pay as you go basis , then measured costs can be shown. Both figures could be shown on a report to give end users an idea of over allocation – e.g.. You have been billed $100 for this VM in this charging period , but only actually used $30 of resources. This kind of figure could help drive a shift towards a fully measured model for virtual machine cost recovery within a private cloud.

Virtual machines can be grouped into applications / custom groups , which can then be allocated a cost centre. Each group can have its own rate for chargeback to reflect perhaps a lower tiered storage or denser overcommitted model in a non-production environment.. What would be nice is for those custom groups to be carried across into the other VKernel core products to be able to generate optimisation / capacity planning reports for that same group of applications. Brian Semple , CMO for VKernel has assured me this is a feature they like the sound of too – watch this space for further details. Reports can be automated and mailed to the relevant users in a variety of formats from Excel to Acrobat.

The biggest change with the 2.0 product is that it is no longer restricted to collecting reports from a VMWare environment. VKernel has been selected by Microsoft as a Key Chargeback Provider for the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal ( easily shortened to SCVMMSSP ;) )  Key Metrics from the Microsoft System center products – Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager can be pulled into the Chargeback appliance to generate the same level of reports and to integrate that functionality into the Self Provisioning portal built into SCVMM.

From a strategic point of view this does extend the relationship between VKernel and Microsoft and I suspect as time goes on we’ll see cross hypervisor support for more and more of the VKernel product line – Particularly as VKernel and VMware seem to be clashing horns a little. What I find interesting is does this represent a shift from Microsoft into integrating a virtual appliance based solution to management ? I’ll do a little bit of digging and follow up if possible. Personally I see the use of the virtual appliance as more of a function of the underlying development structure. VKernel’s dev team clearly specialises in the Java route , which as we know works great in a VMware based environment. By contrast Veeam rely on Microsoft .NET code in their products which I’d have thought would have potentially been a better fit from the Microsoft point of view.