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REVIEW: Dell Cloud lets you have it your way

Peter Wayner | Feb. 21, 2013
Dell's VMware-based cloud infrastructure provides all of the flexibility and complexity of the leading enterprise virtualization platform

There's also an option for starting up a machine with a particular ISO file -- useful if you want to boot up a particular LiveCD version of Linux or any other OS. The portal even lets you pretend that you're accessing the CD/DVD drive on your machine though you're just uploading ISO files.

The ability to poke around at this level is liberating. You can mess around with a virtual machine on your desktop using VMware Workstation or VMware Fusion, then upload it to your virtual rack and start it up in the server farm. Most of the other clouds let you create images of your servers, but usually you end up doing the work to build the image on their machines.

The VMware software layer is also employed when you start communicating with your running machines. You can open up the SSH port if you like, but the simplest path is to use VMware's remote client. One screen on your portal shows a list of all of your virtual machines. If you click on one row, the VMware remote client will start up a connection in another window of your browser. This process was a bit glitchy for me, but I finally got it to work with Firefox. Once it started going, I was able to fiddle with the server from my desktop. The video wasn't as snappy, but that's the price of working across the country from the server.

To get a feel for the speed of Dell's cloud machines, I pushed a Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual machine through the DaCapo benchmarks, a set of Java routines that tests many common Java server applications. As with other virtual machines in other clouds, the results varied greatly. Many of the benchmarks were 50 to 100 percent faster than an Amazon High-CPU instance (14.5 cents per hour). But others, such as the image rendering tests (batik and sunflow), ran neck and neck.

These differences mean you must try out your application yourself to see if you're getting the performance you want. For instance, the lucene indexing routines were faster on the Dell medium than on the Amazon High-CPU box, but the searching tests ran in the same amount of time. The good news is you can fiddle with the VMware machine on your desktop until you get the right combination of software packages and device routines to improve your performance.

If you like VMware, you'll like Dell Cloud. Here, the Dell Cloud portal offers a visual depiction of the virtual machines you have running in your VMware vApp.

The network you knowDell is also offering the same kind of transparency for the network configuration. You can choose between a number of different networking options for your VM once you get it running. You can configure internal and external networks, as well as reconfigure your virtual boxes in much the same way as you would your real servers. When you want your machines to speak to the outside, you can monkey around with NAT and DHCP to pass out the external IP addresses.


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