I wandered lonely as a virtual machine – with apologies to William Wordsworth

Over the next few months I’m going to be taking a closer look at how to set up Questionmark Perception on cloud-based virtual machines.  I’ll be writing some tutorials aimed at system administrators and integration developers.  I’ll show you, in detail, how to install and configure Perception in Amazon’s cloud and how to use it to test your own integrations.

But first: what are virtual machines, and why do they form clouds?

Ten years ago you could walk into a typical data centre and locate the physical machine that was running your application. You could walk around the server room and do a quick scan of the flashing LEDs to get a dashboard-like view of your running applications. Sometimes a big server would be shared between multiple applications, but sharing the operating system, web server and other common components was error prone and things quickly got complicated!

Today, data centres are often just populated with anonymous machines that combine to form a cloud of computing resources. Each application is installed on its own virtual machine with its own virtual operating system. Virtual machines ‘float’ in the cloud, wandering transparently between the physical machines as required.

One of the main advantages of virtualization is that it enables resources to be used more efficiently. When an application is inactive, the physical resources it was using can be quickly recycled, saving energy and helping ensure that future generations can also enjoy the “vales and hills” that Wordsworth once wandered through.

One of the most popular computing clouds is Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, known as Amazon EC2 for short.  Virtual machines in Amazon’s EC2 are rented out to Amazon account holders on an hour-by-hour basis for just a few dollars.

The physical machines that make up the cloud are distributed around the world in Amazon’s data centres.  But clouds can be private too.  Software for virtualization is available from well known suppliers like VMWare and Microsoft allowing companies to create private clouds in their own data centres.  There is even an open source cloud platform called Eucalyptus.

The easiest way to get going with Questionmark Perception is with our OnDemand solution, but if you need an OnPremise solution you might already be thinking of installing Perception on your own cloud based-systems. This is a subject I’ll be covering in more detail later.

6 Responses to I wandered lonely as a virtual machine – with apologies to William Wordsworth

  1. Surej says:

    Thank you Steve. I will be watching this space closely.

  2. Jackie Goehl says:

    Now I understand what a cloud is I can call my old contact who now works for VMWare and sensibly try and sell them Perception!

    Thanks for this. Again an explanation for normal mortals like me that is much appreciated.

  3. […] general is a beautifully titled (I’m jealous!) post by Steve Lay on the Questionmark blog: I wandered lonely as a virtual machine – with apologies to William Wordsworth. Steve (who was the chair for several years of the IMS QTI project) is one of the smartest people in […]

  4. […] I wandered lonely as a virtual machine – with apologies to William Wordsworth […]

  5. William Stephenson says:

    Hi Steve – I’m a Reader in English at Chester University, UK, and I’ve just found your blog. I’m working on a collection of poetry tentatively entitled *Virtual Machines* and I wondered if could ask permission to quote 3 sentences of your excellent writing as an epigraph. Thanks for making these complex issues clear to a humanities scholar! Best wishes, William Stephenson

  6. admin says:


    I have no objections, in fact I’m flattered by your request. I’d be interested in a link to your work if or when it is publicly available.

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    Steve Lay
    Integration Products Owner, Questionmark

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