Using SCVMM Self-Service Portal 2.0 to manage chargeback

Chargeback tools, such as Microsoft’s Self-Service Portal 2.0, can be used with SCVMM to automate resource provisioning while tracking and billing users appropriately.

Although self-service provides ease and convenience for users, cloud technology users in particular, it also runs the risk of VM sprawl and excessive resource utilization. To manage resources, track usage and ensure that users pay for the resources consumed, IT departments turn to chargeback tools. One such tool is the Self-Service Portal 2.0, available for use with Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 R2. The Self-Service Portal helps manage chargeback and create and deploy new virtual machines (VMs) at will. This tip explains how the Self-Service Portal works, the importance of using quota points with SVMM, and third-party options for managing chargeback.

SCVMM 2008 R2 shortcomings

Although SCVMM 2008 R2 does include a Self-Service Portal, the portal does not account for chargebacks. If you are planning to use this portal, and you want to keep track of resource usage without the aid of third-party software, then your best bet is to make use of SCVMM’s quota points.

The basic idea behind quota points is that some VMs consume more resources than others. For example, a SQL Server would likely consume more memory and CPU resources than a file server. Microsoft allows you to assign a point value to each of your VM templates based on the resources that the template machine consumes.

Once VM templates are assigned point values, you can create self-service policies that enforce quota points. Users are allowed to create VMs until their quota points are exceeded. Keep in mind that quota points only apply to the VMs that are deployed on a host, not to VMs that are stored.

Quota points are also assigned to groups of users. For example, you can apply quota points on a per department basis. You can either limit the entire group to a specific number of quota points, or you can apply quota point limits to each member (or user) of the group. To clarify, suppose that a company’s marketing department needs to create VMs at will, but there are some personnel within the department who have a history of abusing the privilege. You could use quota points to prevent excessive server resources from being consumed. Applying quota points on a per user basis means that each user within the department would be able to consume only a certain amount of server resources.

Assigning quota points at the group level effectively creates a bank of points that can be shared among the entire department. That way, the users who need an above average amount of server resources are balanced out by the users in the department who never create any VMs.

Self-Service Portal 2.0 chargeback capabilities

Microsoft released the Self-Service Portal 2.0 version last November. The new version is free and available for download at Microsoft’s website.  

With Self-Service Portal 2.0, SCVMM can calculate chargeback costs on a daily basis. These costs are based on two main factors.

The first of these factors is the cost of reserved resources. SCVMM allows host resources to be reserved for a particular business unit. For example, you might set aside 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of disk space for the marketing department. They are then free to create as many VMs as they want until the resources that were reserved for them are depleted.

The second factor that the chargeback mechanism takes into account is the cost of allocated resources. In other words, SCVMM not only looks at the cost of the resources that are reserved, but it also takes into account how many of the reserved resources are actually in use. It is up to the administrator to determine the rate that business units will be charged for reserved and allocated resources. For example, an administrator might decide to charge the business units $10 for every gigabyte of memory used each month.

It is worth noting that SCVMM does not have a built-in mechanism for reporting chargeback data. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering that chargeback capabilities were retrofit into the product. To view chargeback data, you will have to install the Self-Service Portal 2.0 dashboard onto a SharePoint server. This dashboard is downloadable from the same webpage as the Self-Service Portal, but as a separate download.

Third-party software options

Aside from Microsoft’s Self-Service Portal, there are third-party products designed to allow chargebacks for VM usage. The most well-known third-party chargeback product for Microsoft’s Hyper-V is VKernel. VKernel is more flexible than the Self-Service Portal, because it allows chargebacks to be made based on the actual amount of resources consumed, although it can also calculate chargebacks for allocated resources. In addition, VKernel supports application, customer and VM-level chargebacks.

Although VKernel is the best-known third-party chargeback utility for Hyper-V, it isn’t the only one available. Quest Software’s vFoglight is designed to perform infrastructure monitoring and reporting for Hyper-V and VMware ESX, and includes a chargeback feature.

About the author:
Brien Posey is a seven time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. During that time he has published many thousands of articles and has written or contributed to dozens of IT books. Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Posey served as CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He has also worked as a network administrator for some of the nation’s largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

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