One size definitely doesn’t fit all. Nearly every cloud infrastructure provider gives their customers a choice of virtual machine configurations.These configurations often take the form of pre-defined “buckets” of VM attributes, so fine-grained choice is still not really an option. But does this really matter?
At Tier 3, we think it does, and our customers do too. Instead of asking our customers to decide between a set of vendor-specified instance sizes, Tier 3 encourages customers to provision machines with any combination of processors, memory, and storage that best fits their needs.
There are at least three benefits we see to offering in-depth customization of virtual machines attributes.
Meet the hardware requirements of pre-packaged software without over-provisioning. The cloud isn’t just for custom web applications. Many users want to run commercial-off-the-shelf software in a cloud environment and apply vendor-recommended hardware sizing guidelines. Whether you’re installing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 (recommended hardware: 4+ cores and 8+ GB of RAM per web server), or the Adobe Creative Suite (recommended hardware: 16 cores, 16 GB of RAM), each application will have its own battle-tested preferences. One choice would be to fit the packaged software into the “best fit” instance size offered by a cloud infrastructure provider. That may very well work, but it’s possible that you will end up paying for processor or memory allocation that wasn’t needed. Tier 3 enables you to provision virtual machines with up to 16 virtual CPU cores, 128 GB of RAM, and multiple terabytes of storage. Choose whatever combination you want!
Create default server sizes that match your needs. Just because we want our customers to have broad choice in their virtual machine sizes doesn’t mean that we want to create the Wild West within your organization. Rather, we offer a way for you to convey your preferences, as well as govern overall provisioning capacity. Tier 3 servers can be organized into (nested) Groups. You could choose to design your Group structure based on departments, projects, or any structure that makes sense for you. On a Group-by-Group basis, you have the ability to set Server Defaults that describe the preferred operating system, storage, processor count, and memory for new servers that get added to that particular Group. For example, consider the creation of a Group for software pilots within the infrastructure operations team at your company. You want to keep costs low while making sure that prototypes get the horsepower they need. So, define a default server profile that has high CPU and memory allocations while keeping extended storage at a minimum.
Server Defaults are useful, but you may not want everyone provisioning and consuming massive amounts of cloud resources without your knowledge. Therefore, Tier 3 introduced the idea of Group Capacity which caps off how much capacity can be allocated to servers within a particular Group. This helps you govern usage while empowering your team to manage their own server capacity allocation. Just like all the other Group settings, these can be inherited from a parent Group, or overridden on a Group-by-Group basis.
Grow or shrink an environment, and don’t depend on up-front predictions. It’s not always easy to know exactly what kind of strain your server is going to experience in its lifetime. Heck, you might not even know the lifetime of the server itself! Many cloud infrastructure providers offer tiny “starter” sizes for virtual machines. These are targeted at hobbyists or people simply trying out a cloud server. But what if you wanted your developers to start with small machines but grow them when a prototype turns into a full-fledged development effort? Instead of starting with too big of a machine and wasting money, or too small of a machine and constantly working around the limited headroom, create a Tier 3 cloud server that meets your needs today and can be resized tomorrow. Pick a virtual machine size that gives you just what you need now. Then, as your needs change, you may adjust compute and storage properties at anytime. In many cases, these changes take affect instantly and without even rebooting the server!
So, the next time you’re thinking about the VM sizes that cloud vendors offer, make sure to think about these benefits and if they apply to you. Chances are, they do – and you can save additional time and money with Tier 3.