A new player has recently appeared in the panorama of cloud services: Express Cloud, the platform of the provider CloudItalia which allows you to create a cloud server in just 10 minutes. Services such as Express Cloud by CloudItalia make it possible to minimize the management costs of a remote server: instead of requiring the installation of a dedicated server, an actual physical machine, within the provider’s data center, the cloud approach allows you to activate a server machine in minutes and without any effort.
Express Cloud carries the IaaS label. Acronym of Infrastructure as a service, the term IaaS allows you to define what makes up the cloud: instead of having a dedicated server available, those who activate a service of this type can count on virtual servers which, “in the eyes” of the operating system and system administrator, appear as real machines, equipped with processors, RAM, video card, network card, and so on.
The customer of the IaaS service can activate one or more virtual machines and then think about their management without worrying about the hardware or the continuity of the service in case of hardware failure. Indeed, it is up to the cloud service provider to take care of these aspects.
The cloud approach is simple and flexible because it allows you to set up a virtual machine in a few minutes, even managing rather complex configurations in complete simplicity. The service is designed to adapt to customer needs: if the virtual machine resources are insufficient to support the workload, it is possible to add virtual CPUs, RAM or disk space at any time.
Similarly, when the virtual machine is oversized compared to the actual needs, it will be possible to “take a step back”. In the case of CloudItalia’s Express Cloud service, which we had the opportunity to try today, it is possible to configure a virtual machine with 1 CPU, 2 GB of RAM and 40 GB of the hard disk.
Starting from this basic configuration, it is possible to go up by virtualizing – depending on your needs and based on the operating system that you will install on the machine – up to 32 CPUs, 128 GB of RAM and 2 Terabytes of the hard disk. Not all operating systems support the same number of processors or the exact amounts of RAM.
You can refer to this page to get an idea of the virtual machines that can be created with Express Cloud. You can examine the proposed configurations by choosing between the various versions and editions of Windows, 32 and 64 bit and among the different supported Linux distributions.
Thanks to the VMWare virtualization system, the Express Cloud customer will not have to install the operating system or worry about aspects related to any user license (in the case of Windows Server systems). Once the virtual machine has been created, they can immediately start using it, adapting it to their specific needs. Regarding network bandwidth, Express Cloud sets no limits: it is possible to send and receive data without restrictions (maximum upload and download speed: up to 200 Mbps, equal to about 25 MBytes/sec).
Cloud: Cheap And Versatile
Activating a virtual machine on the cloud, in addition to being simple and flexible, is also very cheap. Express Cloud allows the user to choose between two rate profiles. The first, on consumption or ” pay per use “, will enable you to activate a tariff based on the actual use of the virtual machine. Since it costs the vendor to keep the virtual machine on, Express Cloud gives you a 60% discount for every hour the engine is off.
Alternatively, the Express Cloud service can activate the machine by paying an advance fee for 30 days. In the first case, the hourly cost to keep the virtual machine running is approximately 0.029 euros + VAT (discounted if the machine remains switched off); in the other, it can reach 0.022 euros + VAT (CloudItalia still applies further discounts, already on the first purchase).
After activating a subscription by choosing the hardware resources operating system and submitting the request, Express Cloud will start configuring the virtual machine automatically.
Turning On And Configuring The Virtual Machine
Within a few minutes of activating the virtual machine, Express Cloud sends the password for remote desktop access to the Windows or Linux virtual machine to the user’s email address.
This password can be used with the administrator or root username to connect to the virtual machine and administer it remotely.
The username administrator will need to be entered in Remote Desktop to connect to Windows virtual machines; the root, on the other hand, will have to be used to connect via SSH to Linux virtual machines. In both cases, it will be necessary to specify the personal password received by email (which can subsequently be changed from within Windows or Linux).
Before proceeding, however, it is necessary to wait for the virtual machine’s name to appear in the Express Cloud Dashboard (the message Processing the request must disappear; we suggest reloading the page several times every few minutes). In this area, within a few minutes, the public IP address of the virtual machine and the local IP should appear.
You can immediately start the virtual machine by clicking on Turn on (the first green button on the left). After a few minutes of waiting, by typing ping followed by the public IP at the command prompt on your system, you should already get a response from the newly activated and turned virtual machine.
By entering the public IP address in the remote administration software (in the case of Windows, the Remote Desktop client is OK), you can connect to the virtual machine and start configuring it. In our case, as you can see from the image, we have deliberately activated a virtual machine with a modest configuration (one CPU, 2 GB of RAM and 40 GB of hard disk) requesting the use of the 32-bit Windows Server 2008 R2 template.
Despite everything, the machine appeared very responsive and ready to be configured to perform one of the many roles allowed by Windows Server. The Windows Server machine template loaded from Express Cloud also looked up to date. With a simple Windows update check, it was possible to verify that only some Microsoft patches from November and December were missing (which, however, caused some problems on some systems).
The virtual machine is not placed “behind” a firewall. The suggestion is to activate the Windows firewall and set the network interface to Public. Furthermore, it would be good to ensure that the Windows Server firewall only accepts incoming Remote Desktop connections from the virtual machine administrator’s IPs.
To understand which ports are open and reachable remotely, we suggest using the Steve Gibson Shields UP service mentioned in the article Open ports on the router and close them when no longer needed.
NAT, Firewall And Load Balancer With The Virtual Switch
The CloudItalia Express Cloud service provides the optional Virtual Switch for those who want more. Through the latter, Express Cloud customers have the NAT, Firewall and Load Balancer functions available: each of the three components can be freely customized by the user. As regards the NAT functionality, the customer finds – already set by default – the DNAT and SNAT rules to allow use from the “outside world”; however, all settings are freely adjustable.
Additional Custom Templates
CloudItalia Express Cloud service also allows you to create customized templates. Indeed, after configuring a virtual machine, the user can create a personalized template, a sort of “image” of the virtual machine’s content which he can restore as needed (the service involves paying an additional fee every month).
Express Cloud also provides the additional Snapshot service, which monitors and “records” all application changes or system updates in real time. In this way, the user can restore the virtual machine to a previous state at any time. Finally, through the helpful scheduling function, the user can plan the switching on or off of the machine at pre-established times or request the creation of a snapshot.