News Column

Patent Issued for Cluster Configuration

August 21, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Computer Weekly News -- A patent by the inventor Rider, Eric (San Jose, CA), filed on January 13, 2010, was published online on August 5, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews correspondents.

Patent number 8799418 is assigned to VMware, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA).

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Related Application(s)

"The present application is related to U.S. application Ser. No. 12/686,835 filed on the same date.

"Description of the Related Art

"Today's enterprises demand ever-increasing scalability, high availability, and improved performance of their enterprise applications. This generates a need for designing a supportive infrastructure so as to provide maximum performance, scalability and availability of servers for running applications. Server cluster configuration is one efficient way of providing such an infrastructure. Clustering servers increases availability of a system by ensuring that if and when one server becomes unavailable due to either scheduled downtime or failure, other servers can assume the workload and ensure that the applications running on the servers are available to users. Clustering also enhances scalability by supporting more users at the current level of performance and by improving application performance for the current users.

"Recent advancement in virtualization has provided even more scalability across multiple platforms. In virtualization, almost every entity uses some level of indirection to simplify computing and resource management. For instance, in a virtual environment each server host is configured to manage a plurality of client virtual machines with each virtual machine being an abstraction of a physical host and distributed virtual switches are abstraction of networks, etc. Virtual machines are fundamental building blocks of a virtual infrastructure and represent hardware resources of a computer while the virtual infrastructure (VI) represents interconnected hardware resources of an organization including computers, network devices and storages.

"Clustering concept has been adapted within the VI to provide greater scalability and enhanced performance to an enterprise. In a cluster a group of server hosts (or host) are pooled together to share resources in managing the plurality of virtual machines (VMs). When a host is added to a cluster, the host's resources become part of the cluster's resources. In addition, when a cluster is created, one can choose to enable it for advanced cluster features. Virtualization and clustering allows a computing system to perform the job of multiple computing systems by abstracting computer resources such as hardware, and sharing these resources across multiple environments. This includes hosting multiple operating systems and multiple applications that are available locally or at remote locations. Further, a virtual infrastructure built with clustering enables more efficient utilization and leveraging of hardware, high availability of computer resources, better resource management, increased security and improved disaster recovery process.

"However, the current infrastructure building tools to configure a cluster are not user friendly and are problematic for a variety of reasons. For one, the tools are not intuitive for a novice or average users to perform the VI build. Instead, only highly skilled and knowledgeable users to perform the build. This is especially the case when the cluster has to be set up with advanced features, such as live migration, high availability, fault tolerance, distributed resource scheduling, etc. Further, these tools do not provide an easy way for identifying available hosts that can be used to form a cluster and for determining which of these hosts are most compatible with one or more of the advanced features. Few users understand storage compatibility and connectivity criteria so as to select best-shared storage options for configuring the cluster. Furthermore, few users have the expertise to navigate through the complexity of configuring multiple, interdependent communication networks, such as management network/service console, virtual machine (VM) network, live migration enabled network, etc., in a cluster. As a result, most of the users do not know if hosts in the cluster are on shared storage or how to use shared storage, what types of network are available, etc. Further, users are not aware of what features the hosts have or whether the hosts even include advanced features.

"To further complicate the cluster configuration, different settings must be made in different user interface applications or in different parts of an interface application with no obvious link between them. As applications become more complex to accommodate more robust products, it gets harder to determine the right settings to take advantage of the range of products. Some of the experienced users who are capable of configuring such clusters generally do not have the foresight and technical skill to document key details of a final cluster configuration or the intricacies of configuring and customizing the cluster. As a result, even when the settings are configured, when an average user navigates to the required interface, the user must know all the correct details, the types of issues that can arise, the range of possible settings, and how to navigate through various issues in order to take full advantage of all the advanced features. For a novice or an average user with limited knowledge on the features, virtual networking and/or storage, this process is time consuming and requires a great deal of detective work to navigate and configure across different areas of a virtual community as the system is not intuitive enough to let the users know if the selected setting for the configuration will actually work or provide conflict. Even for users who have some understanding of networking in the real-world, for instance, virtual networking may pose a challenge as elements may have been moved around."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "Embodiments of the present invention provide computer-implemented methods, systems and apparatus for configuring a cluster using a plurality of hosts. A set of features defining requirements that hosts must conform to for forming a cluster, is identified. A plurality of hosts is identified for forming the cluster. A compatibility analysis is executed to ensure that the capabilities available at the hosts are compatible with the features requirements for forming the cluster. A set of suggested adjustments are presented to hosts that are not compatible so as to enable the particular hosts to become compatible with the requirements. Configuration template is constructed to define the cluster settings required for the hosts. The hosts that are most compatible are used in forming the cluster and the cluster settings from the configuration template are used in configuring the hosts. The resulting cluster provides optimal selection of computing resources, computer capabilities, storage, and network connectivity for a cluster of server hosts so as to enable usage of advanced cluster features.

"It should be appreciated that the present invention can be implemented in numerous ways, such as a process, an apparatus, a system, a device or a method on a computer readable medium. Several inventive embodiments of the present invention are described below.

"In one embodiment, a method for constructing a cluster from a plurality of hosts is disclosed. Each host is configured to support one or more virtual machines. The method includes identifying a plurality of features for forming the cluster. The features define requirements that must be satisfied by hosts to be part of the cluster. Hosts are identified to be part of the cluster. A compatibility analysis is executed for each of the identified hosts. A plurality of suggested adjustments are presented to particular hosts in order for the particular hosts to be compatible with the requirements. A configuration template is constructed for the hosts in the cluster that are compatible with the requirements of the features. The compatible hosts are selected and configured for the cluster using the configuration template.

"In another embodiment, a computer implemented method for constructing a cluster from a plurality of hosts is disclosed. Each host is designed to support one or more virtual machines. In this method, a plurality of hosts is identified to be part of the cluster. Compatibility analysis is executed for each of the identified hosts where one or more features are identified whose requirements are satisfied by the identified hosts. A plurality of suggested adjustments are presented to particular hosts to enable the particular hosts to be compatible with the requirements of the one or more identified features. A configuration template is constructed for the hosts that are compatible with the requirements of the one or more identified features. The compatible hosts are configured for the cluster using the configuration template.

"In another embodiment, a computer implemented method for constructing a cluster from a plurality of hosts is disclosed. In this method, a set of features for forming the cluster is determined. Each of the features defines default requirements that must be satisfied by the hosts to be part of the cluster. The default requirements of the plurality of features are presented along with a plurality of suggested adjustments to each of the default requirements. A compatibility analysis is executed to identify hosts that meet the requirements for enabling one or more of the plurality of features. The compatibility analysis re-calculates compatibility of hosts and provides a ranking of each of the identified hosts such that the higher ranked hosts are more compatible with the requirements for enabling the features. A configuration template is constructed for the hosts in the cluster that are compatible with the requirement. Based on the compatibility analysis, a set of hosts that are most compatible with the selected features is identified and configured with configuration settings defined in the configuration template for the cluster.

"In yet another alternate embodiment, a system for configuring a cluster using a plurality of hosts is disclosed. The system includes a cluster management server having a cluster configuration software and cluster configuration database. The cluster configuration software within the cluster management server is configured to interact with a plurality of hosts to form the cluster and to access the cluster configuration database to obtain information about the plurality of hosts. The cluster configuration software includes a compatibility module that interacts with the cluster configuration database to retrieve a Host list and a Features list. The Host list provides information on all hosts interacting with and managed by the cluster management server including a list of individual host's resources defining the host's capabilities. The Features list contains all licensed features available for each host including list of requirements for each feature. The compatibility module is configured to execute compatibility analysis for each host. The compatibility module is also configured to present a plurality of suggested amendments to particular hosts to enable the particular hosts to be compatible with the requirements of the features for the cluster and construct a configuration template for the hosts that are compatible with the requirements of the features. The cluster management server is configured to apply the configuration settings defined in the configuration template to each of the compatible hosts of the cluster. The compatibility module may interact with additional modules to ensure that the host match the requirements of the cluster and to provide options to override one or more of the requirements of one or more features in order to form compatible hosts cluster."

URL and more information on this patent, see: Rider, Eric. Cluster Configuration. U.S. Patent Number 8799418, filed January 13, 2010, and published online on August 5, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8799418.PN.&OS=PN/8799418RS=PN/8799418

Keywords for this news article include: Software, VMware Inc.

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Source: Computer Weekly News


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