Back to basics: cloud automation with OnApp

Steve Fenton

Steve Fenton
OnApp Marketing

While you’ll find all kinds of topics covered in our blog, and detailed guides and how-tos in our tech blog, from time to time we’re asked to go back to basics and explain some of the core principles of the OnApp cloud platform.

One of the most important of those is automation. In this post, I’d like to provide an overview of the different kinds of automation in OnApp, before handing over to our Cloud Architecture team, who will go into more technical detail in future posts (like this one – automating vCD resource deployment with orchestration models).


Automate everything

Automation should be inherent to any cloud platform, and today it’s more important than ever for service providers to be able to automate cloud infrastructure at any scale, across cloud types and locations. Why? Because your customers need to run workloads on a wide range of infrastructure, for reasons of cost control, latency reduction, or compliance.

Whether your clients need public cloud, private cloud or a mix of both, hosted or on premises, OnApp simplifies and automates their cloud experience through a single, unified abstraction and management layer.

Automated cloud deployment

OnApp is a turnkey IaaS cloud solution: a production cloud can be deployed in hours, not weeks or months. That’s partly because of OnApp’s complete feature set – no need for costly development, customization and integration work. It’s also because of a highly automated deployment process, in which hardware discovery, hypervisor installation, control panel installation and deployment of other components require little human intervention.

OnApp is hardware and hypervisor agnostic, and crucially, is designed to enable cloud in heterogeneous hardware environments. The ability to automate cloud server provisioning and scaling on a mix of compute, storage and networking hardware gives you much more flexibility in cloud design, either for selling public cloud or hosted private cloud, or creating a secure cloud environment in the corporate datacenter.

Automated provisioning & cloud management

Once a cloud is in production, the complex process of provisioning virtualized compute, storage, networks and applications is achieved with a few clicks in OnApp’s self-service UI.

While command line access is also available, the entire cloud can be configured and managed using simple on-screen wizards and controls. OnApp automates deployment of virtual servers, application servers (VMs with pre-installed apps), container servers, edge servers and bare metal, with compute, storage and networking configured in a few clicks.

Failover, scaling, backups, metering and billing are fully automated. CDN can be completely automated, too, with content optimized and distributed to multiple locations. A built-in scripting system (called Recipes) enables further automation, for example by customizing virtual machines during provisioning or runtime.

Even manual activities can be built into OnApp’s automated workflows – for example, to add configuration of a third-party product into the VM provisioning process, or to require approval for actions that impact resource availability or cost. Everything is controlled through a streamlined html5 GUI, or via OnApp’s full REST API.

Automated multi-cloud management

OnApp automates web-scale, multi-cloud, multi-location infrastructure: a service provider or enterprise can manage all of their cloud assets through a single pane of glass UI, and manage any site from any site. OnApp groups cloud infrastructure resources into compute/storage/network zones which can be made available for provisioning to any arbitrary mix of users or user groups.

A zone can focus on infrastructure of a specific virtualization type (Xen, KVM, VMware); or in a specific location (London, New York, Toyko); or with specific security and compliance requirements (private clouds, public clouds). Deploying and managing virtual servers in remote locations is automated in just the same way as deploying them locally.

Simplifying access to third-party infrastructure is another OnApp innovation. By federating OnApp clouds and enabling workloads to move fluidly between them, OnApp’s cloud platform gives companies access to an on-demand network of clouds they can use to add scale and geographic coverage to their own (without CAPEX on buying new infrastructure); and enables you to migrate workloads to the locations that best suit a client’s price, performance or compliance requirements.

Storage automation

Automating storage provisioning and management in this distributed web-scale environment is critical. Storage is one of the biggest barriers to scale, which is why typical cloud automation solutions today impose a ceiling on cluster size, and are not able to automate cloud management across multiple clusters, multiple clouds and multiple locations from a single point of control.

OnApp has developed smart storage infrastructure that allows each drive to manage its own IO, content, and allocation of data: storage nodes are self-discovering, self-healing, and able to autonomously make smart decisions about how content is managed, without depending on a central controller.

This truly decentralized, software-defined storage system enables OnApp clouds to scale not just to hundreds or thousands of nodes in one location, but across locations – enabling real-time replication to remote sites, and bringing native DR into the cloud as well as ensuring performance at scale.

That’s all for now… watch out for follow-up blogs that’ll examine cloud automation in more detail.

If you’re new to OnApp, get in touch for a demo and see how all of this works in practice. Thanks!