What is Green House Data's Public Cloud?

Green House Data’s Public Cloud is a highly available, self-service, and scalable cloud hosting platform. Powered by VMware’s vCloud Director Suite, customers are given a simple web-based interface and access to resources to build out their infrastructure, however big or small. Multiple billing options are available, allowing you to pay for a set amount of resources each month or pay only for what you use, as you use it.

vCloud Director

VMware vCloud Director home screenvCloud Director is a software abstraction layer that sits on top of the vSphere Suite, turning it into a multi-tenant platform. By using API calls, vCloud Director translates users requests inside of its interfaces into operations that are performed on the compute hosts, storage, and networking layers.

Each customer is given an Organization inside of vCloud Director with one or more Virtual Data Centers (VDCs). A VDC is a representation of the backend compute and storage infrastructure that is available to the customer. In Green House Data’s public cloud, all compute hardware is the same, and pVDCs are instead differentiated by the storage performance tiers. 

Through the My Cloud section of the public cloud interface, customers are able to manage Virtual Apps (vApps) and Virtual Machines (VMs). vApps are used as "smart containers" that contain one more multiple VMs. Using vApps, certain operations can be performed on groups of virtual machines, such as powering on, snapshotting, copying, or creating a template. Typically, vApps are built for a specific function, such as a department, a project, or a single application set, but there is no right or wrong way to design them.

Unlike other cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Virtual Machines do not have to fit a specific instance size and can be custom built to any CPU, RAM, or storage specifications. These resource amounts can also be adjusted at any time in the properties section of a VM. 

To assist with rapid deployment and configuration of VMs, a special feature called Guest OS Customization can be used. This process leverages VMware Tools inside of the Operating System to configure certain items such as the hostname, IP address, SID, and even Active Directory membership.

vCloud Director also contains a built-in remote console, which is accessible through a Firefox or Chrome browser plugin. The console doesn’t require network connectivity and allows you to install the OS for the first time or recover from a crash, as if you had a mouse and keyboard attached.

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Catalogs

The Public Cloud interface also has a Catalog section, which serves as a media repository for the templates and media you can use in your environment.

Templates are copies of other virtual machines or vApps in a special format that can quickly be deployed again once or many times. Templates can be created from vApps you’ve built in the My Cloud section, or they can be imported from another environment in OVF or OVA format using the built-in uploader.

Media files are the application and operating system installation files that are attached to a VM when building out your server infrastructure. These files can be imported into the catalog in .ISO or .FLP format.

A Public Catalog is also available, which contains prebuilt templates and media that can be used in a customer’s environment.

Storage

Green House Data’s gBlock storage platform is used to provide operational storage to the server workloads. The gBlock storage is offered in three different performance tiers, leveraging multiple disk and pool types of achieve specific Input/Output Operations per Second (IOPS) levels. The gBlock tiers are:

Tier
Estimated IOPs
Disk Type
Performance Level
gBlock 500
500
SAS, SATA
Standard
gBlock 1000
1,000
SAS, SSD
High
gBlock 2000
2,000
SAS, SSD
Extreme

Each storage tier available to the customer will be represented as a separate Virtual Data Center (VDC). Since VDC selection is performed at the vApp level, all Virtual Machines inside of a single vApp will be given the same storage performance. This is important to know when designing and deploying your vApps. A vApp can be moved to a different VDC and storage tier at any time provided it is powered off.

Green House Data also offers file-based NFS/CIFS and object-based storage services that can be accessed by the virtual machines running inside of the Public Cloud.

Networking

The Green House Data public cloud offers multiple networking options to fit the needs of any environment.

The most common networking configuration is the Routed networking type.  In a Routed network design, a virtual firewall, called an Edge, is deployed. This firewall is a small Linux-based appliance managed by the vCloud Networking & Security Suite (vCNS). 

The WAN interface of the Edge firewall is connected to Green House Data’s Premium Blend IP Bandwidth services, which is a highly available blend of multiple broadband carriers. No rate limiting is set on the outside interface.

The LAN interface of the Edge is connected to a private portgroup that the virtual machines also connect to. vCNS leverages a feature called “mac-in-mac encapsulation”, which means that multiple layer 2 networks can be used on the same internal subnet, in the same environment, without the traffic interfering. This is a large benefit for Disaster Recovery scenarios and when running Production and Dev in the same environment.

The Edge firewall has a self-service management interface inside of the vCloud Director interface where users can create their own firewall rules to decide which traffic is allowed into the network. Individual or entire blocks of public IP addresses can be assigned to the Edge and mapped to your Virtual Machines using NAT rules. The Edge firewall also comes with the following features at no extra cost:

A second network type, the Dedicated network, does not provide any level of firewall protection of NAT translation. In this scenario, a public IP address is presented directly to the virtual machine where it is able to route to the internet without any further configuration. This network type can be useful for test and development machines, or can be set on the WAN interface of a third-party virtual networking appliance. 

Green House Data also leverages the Dedicated network type to bring custom networking options into the Public Cloud. By attaching this network to a private VLAN, we create a “hybrid” environment, where infrastructure in the Public Cloud has access to other resources, such as colocation equipment, a dedicated circuit, or even another cloud.

Backend Infrastructure

The hardware behind Green House Data’s Public Cloud infrastructure is built to enterprise-class standards and is highly available. All aspects of the design are built to at least N+1 redundancy to prevent against any single hardware failure.

Dedicated compute resources for the virtual workloads are provided by Dell PowerEdge servers. These compute servers are never operated past 70% of their capacity to ensure high availability and that there is no contention between virtual workloads. Servers are also configured with redundant power supplies and 10Gb Ethernet cards to protect against a single point of failure. The server NICs are connected to redundant active/active Layer 2 Ethernet switches, which then connect into the Green House Data core network backbone.

To support the storage needs of the virtual machines and appliances, Green House Data’s gBlock shared SAN storage is provided to the vSphere cluster. This storage is presented from a series of EMC VNX storage systems over 8Gb fiber channel to each host.

Guest Operating System Management Services

Guest Operating System management is a free service that assists customers with initial deployment and ongoing management of guest Operating Systems (OS) on Virtual Machines (VMs).  The service includes installing, patching and hardening the guest operating system at initial deployment, as well as on-going installation of updates and patches required to keep the server secure and functioning well.

OS Deployment and Management (OS Patch Management and Updates)

Design Meeting

Successful delivery of OS deployment and management require an in-depth understanding of the customer’s network, solution requirements and security needs, which the Green House Data engineering team gathers during a formal design meeting.

Standard for OS Installation, Patch and Security Hardening

Green House Data Engineering adheres to a Standards Document for installing guest OS, patching guest OS, and security hardening virtual machines.  

OS Patch Management Process

Proactive communication with the customer prior to patch deployment is a critical component of the process. 

System Audits

The Green House Data technical team must audits your environment quarterly to assess status of operating system updates and patches.  Audit include:

Report that summarizes the results of the audit and can be shared with customers during customer reviews.

Supported Guest Operating Systems

Green House provides OS Patch Management and Updates for any guest operating system that is compatible with VMware and is actively supported by the software maker.  Details of VMware supported releases are documented in the VMware Guest OS Compatibility Guide.

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