March 28, 2012
I’m on a train.
No, really, I’m typing up this blog post as I travel from NYC to Rochester, NY.
That’s got me thinking about how we’re a mobile bunch – us IT folks – traveling anywhere we need to be to do the job we need to do.
This has got me thinking about how to manage Virtual Infrastructure while on the road, no small task, to be sure.
First, you need to have a connection to the Internet in general. On the ground, that’s not so hard, but does require some forethought. You’ll either need to know someplace where you can connect to WiFi, or else bring a mobile modem or WiFi hotspot with you where you’re going. You could tether your phone, but keep in mind that you may not be able to make or receive calls if you do that, so an independent data device may not be a bad idea if you travel a lot.
In the air, that’s a different story. Most major air carriers have WiFi on only a few – if any – flights. Check ahead to see if you’ll have access to connectivity as you fly the rarely-friendly skies.
Then, you’ll need a VPN. When doing remote admin for virtual systems, you will be talking to components like vCenter and Virtual Machine Manager, which means you’ll literally be transmitting the keys to your kingdom across the networks you’re on. Sending that data “in the clear” is a very bad idea.
Once safely linked to a network, you need the right configuration at your datacenter. For VMware, you can use the vCenter Web clients to do most things, but you may want a Remote Desktop Server to allow you to access the full versions of various tools while on the road. This might be Microsoft’s own RDP server, or could be a third-party remote-access tool to your own desktop – depending on the security policies of your organization.
For Cloud platforms, this becomes a bit easier. As these systems are typically designed to be administered via Web interfaces anyway, you won’t need the RDP server, but you still need the connectivity and security. Make sure your vendor supports linking to their tools over HTTPS/SSL and use it – always.
Once you have all these tools and tech lined up, you can administer your Virtual Infrastructure from just about anywhere you can get a mobile signal. Just remember to go slowly and ensure that you save your progress at every opportunity. You never know when the cell network will give up the ghost, leaving you with no connection and a lot of work half-done.