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My cloud looks a little stormy….

July 8, 2012

A few months ago I had a few bad experiences with a cloud based server hosting company and I thought I would share them…lets call this company “Cloud Host A”.  Below are some issues I had and at the end I will go though some “lessons learned”.

So first of all “Cloud Host A” told my company they were having issues with the new 3Par SAN they had bought (3Par are a company bought by HP and everyone seems to be raving about there SANs). Firmware updates needed to be applied and we needed to ensure our Windows servers had a specific update on them by the end of the day. That’s right folks…the end of the day. This was a bit of a problem as the servers we had put in at the time had no patch management solution (see the next issue below). Oh and by “a bit of a problem” what I really mean is an emergency change control and some engineers getting the opportunity to work late on another problem that should have been avoided.

No patching? Yes, that’s right. You see when my company entered into an agreement with “Cloud Host A” they said all patching would be handled by them. That’s great! Except we wanted the servers to be in our Windows domain and we wanted admin access (of course) at which point “Cloud Host A” decided they didn’t want to patch our servers after all, oh dear.

Next up we have the issues with backing up our SQL cluster. You see to get two SQL servers working in a cluster where both servers are virtualised under VMware you need shared storage presented to the servers as something called “RDM”. I won’t go into the technicalities of it here but the problem we had is that the backup product they provided (Veeam, a product I love) does not support backup of RDM. To back up this configuration you need a backup client running inside of the VM (think Backup Exec, NetBackup, TSM etc) and “Cloud Host A” didn’t have this backup option.

My next issue came when trying to get a couple of servers provisioned that would become domain controllers for a brand new AD forest. “Cloud Host A” provisioned two vanilla machines for me and the build of the first DC went without a hitch. The problem came when trying to join the second server to the domain; “no thanks” said Windows “I have duplicate SID’s on this server with the domain controller”.  This isn’t something I have seen before, but then I always SYSPREP a VM I am going to turn into a template and “Cloud Host A” hadn’t done this. What they HAD done is build the first server from a template and then just make a copy of that to provide the second server.

Finally there was a small matter of the VMware tools version of all our servers…we had two versions on the servers and I was expecting to see one. It turns out the provider was running two versions of VMware and our virtual servers had been migrated from one version to the other. Now VMware savvy  readers will understand when you update ESXi you should then update the version of VMware tools on each virtual server and then you should upgrade the virtual machine hardware version. It would have been nice if “Cloud Host A” had entered into a conversation with us about this.

Here are some lessons learned…

– When choosing a provider check you contract and SLA’s thoroughly.  Understand what notice they must give you when they need to provide urgent maintenance.

– Understand that the infrastructure they are providing isn’t made out of moon beams and pixie dust. They may well be running similar equipment to what you run already and will have similar issues with it.

– It’s good to have engineers on board who understand the technology your servers are hosted on, this helps to keep the provider in check.

– Understand that the company is there to make money and will give jobs to “the junior guy” such as building your new servers.  Ensure they have proper process in place for doing this!

– Work with your provider to understand the technology they will run your equipment on and the roadmap they have for the upgrade/replacement of that equipment over time.

– Design your system thoroughly up front and work closely with your chosen provider to ensure your needs can be met…think about administration, patching and backups before you sign that contract!

– Don’t presume moving to cloud hosting will solve all of your problems!

Had a bad cloud experience?  Let me know below!

C

 

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