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Automating Microsoft Private Cloud Deployments


Hi, I’m a Systems Engineer here at Nimble Storage and I’ve recently been working with Microsoft and Cisco to deploy a Microsoft Private Cloud on a Nimble SmartStack. I thought I’d share some pretty cool automation that Microsoft have developed and that we used in during the deployment.

Before we begin, what is a Nimble SmartStack? Well it’s a converged infrastructure stack that combines Cisco compute and networking with Nimble Storage. There are multiple references architectures based on this platform, and one of them is Private Cloud with Microsoft. See here for more details:




OK so we have the platform, but what is “Microsoft Private Cloud” and is that different from just virtualization?


The answer is yes, Private Cloud is different to virtualization! It leverages Microsoft’s hypervisor (Hyper-V) which has come a long way since its initial releases but it’s much more than that. Microsoft describe a private cloud as being elastic, scalable, with automation, resource pooling, and dynamic self service provisioning. For more details see here: http://bit.ly/1cmTYN1. To deliver this Microsoft has the System Center 2012 suite of tools. This is a suite of tools which, since the 2012 release, are integrated together and can deliver on the vision of private cloud. Below I’ve listed the key areas the tools in the suite deliver (note - there are more in the suite but these are the key ones for delivering a private cloud):


  • Self Service Portal (SharePoint based web portal to Service Manager)
  • IT Service Management and a Configuration Management Database - CMDB (Service Manager)
  • Orchestration and automation (Orchestrator and PowerShell)
  • Management and monitoring (SCOM and Virtual Machine Manager)
  • Protection (Data Protection Manager)
  • Security (System Center is integrated with Active Directory)


Two key things happened when System Center 2012 shipped: integration between the tools and the licensing model changed. Microsoft now only sell them as a single SKU, which means if you purchase one you will get the lot. It’s worth noting that many customers already have one of the System Center tools in place in their infrastructures; typically SCOM or SCCM (which manages the devices) and if you have one already and software assurance you’re entitled to upgrade to the latest and greatest, and that means you get the whole suite now.


Great, got the platform and the software to deliver a private cloud, next to deploy! And this is where the automation comes in. Deploying and integrating this suite of tools does take time if you do it manually, typically a few days if you know what you are doing. Well Microsoft have a solution to this effort. It’s called the PowerShell Deployment Toolkit (PDT) and it makes deploying a Microsoft Private Cloud on a SmartStack a breeze.


The PDT automates the deployment of all the System Center 2012 components, including SQL2012, and does all of the integration required. It will even stand up a new AD domain if you require (great for service providers). Essentially this is a huge PowerShell script which automates the entire process.


Working with Microsoft (thanks Paul Appleby) and Cisco (thanks Kris Sekula) I recently saw it in action on a SmartStack hosted in the Cisco EMEA CPOC labs. It took about an hour and half to deploy everything from start to finish. As someone who has manually deployed the same suite in a previous job, following a 700 page guide from another storage vendor, I can fully appreciate what a difference this makes.


It’s simple, its fast, and it works – very much like Nimble Storage!


Want more information, or want to try it yourself? See the links below:


Get the PowerShell Deployment Toolkit (PDT) for System Center from here: 



Microsoft Blog on it here: 



Once you download, customise the variable.xml for your environment, and you’re ready to automate the deployment of a Microsoft Private Cloud. There is also a downloader.ps1 PowerShell script that comes with it which will download all of the required pre-requisite software you need for System Centre tools, but you still need to download the System Centre and Windows ISOs manually (see here: http://bit.ly/1d0F6qP).


For icing on the cake, when we deployed on the Nimble Storage at Cisco we saw storage savings of 75% from compression and zero block detection, and that was without allowing for the savings from thin provisioning!


If you’re in the UK and would like to see this in action on a SmartStack, reach out to your Nimble Storage rep and we can organise that for you.

About the Author



Love the fact that this promotes not only ease of deployment but a standardised repeatable architecture which looks the same every time.  Not only speeds up deployment times but helps operationally.... great blog Jason !


Having spent a good portion of my time during the Christmas break playing with the PDT I can absolutely echo all of Jason's comments. I found it staggeringly easy to build a whole System Center 2012 R2 environment from scratch with little more than a Hyper-V host and a little bit of trying to understand the scripts written. In fact here's a screenshot of my Nimble CS210 and my Hyper-V 2012 R2 host deploying and Sysprepping the whole environment from scratch!



Ease of use and simplicity..... fits very well with Nimble. Great post Jason!


Just wanted to add a quick update to this blog....

Recently a Microsoft Partner wrote a GUI interface for the PowerShell Deployment Toolkit (PDT) which makes tailoring the xml file which stores the PDT deployment configuration much simpler.

Take a look at it, it's available here: http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/PDT-GUI-for-Powershell-6908b819


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