VMware vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand Test Drive

During VMworld 2014 VMware announced a new vCloud Air offering called “Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand” (VPC OnDemand). The basic idea was to remove the friction from getting access to vCloud Air by only asking for a credit card during signup–no long-term contract is required. Additionally, customers would only be billed for services consumed in the previous month much like most public cloud providers. In November an early access program was announced and last month VPC OnDemand became generally available.

To encourage new users VMware is currently offering a $300 USD credit that expires after 90 days. New users must sign up by December 31, 2015. Data transfer both in and out is free for “a limited time” as of the date this post was published. To get a sense of general pricing I used the On Demand Pricing Calculator to determine the hourly charge for an Ubuntu instance with 2 vCPUs, 4 GB vRAM, 80 GB SSD storage, 1 public IP address, and online/email support. The total came to $0.144 /hr. If I left the instance running continuously that would add up to $3.46 a day or about $104 per month.

The marketing material touts a 15 minute turnaround for a new user to sign up and get their first instance running, so I decided to go through the process and see just how easy it is.

Sign Up

The sign up link for the current promotion is: Sign Up with $300 Credit.

If you already have a My VMware account you can login to start the sign up process. Otherwise create a new My VMware account.

Next you are prompted to enter your credit card information and select a support level. For test purposes OnDemand Online Support is more than adequate. It’ll add 7% to your monthly cost–more appropriate for testing than the $100 minimum (or 12%, whichever is greater) Production Support level.

After about 45 seconds sign up was complete.

It took another minute to receive the “VMware vCloud Air is now active” email with a login URL. It took about 3 minutes to complete the signup process. Now on to creating our first instance.

Login for the First Time

The link in the activation email you’ll receive contains a login token and requires you to initially set a password.

Afterwards you’ll be able to login and access the Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand dashboard.

To begin the provisioning process click on the Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand tile. You’ll be prompted to select a data center in which to create your first virtual machine.

Create First Virtual Machine

It took a full two minutes to create a virtual data center, a gateway, and a routed network. After this process completes you’ll be presented with the option to create the first virtual machine in the new virtual data center.

The default VMware Catalog is presented with options for CentOS (6.3 or 6.4), Ubuntu Server 12.04 (32- or 64-bit), and Windows Server (2008R2 Standard, 2012 Standard, or 2012R2 Standard). I opted to create a 64-bit Ubuntu 12.04 VM.

You will be prompted to set the number of vCPUs, amount of vRAM, storage capacity (standard or SSD), and the network to attach the VM to. For this test I selected 2 vCPUs, 4 GB vRAM, 80 GB SSD storage, and the default-routed-network that totaled 11 cents per hour or around $2.64 for 24 hours.

It took about 90 seconds for the VM to be provisioned and power on. However, the boot process took an additional two minutes to complete after hanging on “Waiting for network configuration…” that typically happens when Ubuntu networking isn’t fully configured. After the additional 60 second pause for network configuration several of the services failed to start and the system rebooted.

On the second boot a “WRITE SAME failed. Manually zeroing.” error message for sda1 was reported. As best I can tell it has something to do with changes between Linux kernels and did not appear to be system impacting. The error did not reoccur during subsequent boots.

Summary

From initial sign up through to a successful boot of the first virtual machine it took a total of about 13 minutes. While the user interface and feature set is lacking when compared to other mature public cloud offerings vCloud Air does appeal to admins that are comfortable working in a VMware virtualized environment. The ability to manage VMs, service catalogs, networking, firewalls, storage, VDCs, vApps, etc. in a hosted vCloud Director instance without any setup hurdles should allow most VMware admins to quickly become proficient on the platform. In future posts I may go into how to connect vCloud Air VPC OnDemand to an on premise vSphere environment using the vCloud Connector plugin.

Note: All content in the included screen captures is copyrighted by VMware, Inc.