Converged Infrastructure Buzz

There’s been a lot of interest in converged infrastructure platforms by IT organizations, and these can be a great foundation for a cloud infrastructure across the enterprise. However, our experience working with clients on realizing their converged infrastructure suggests that you need to think about this not just as a technology deployment, but also a catalyst to transform to a cloud operating model.

If you’re going to meet business expectations for improved IT agility, you’d better make your processes as agile as the technology can support. What does all this mean? And how can you leverage converged infrastructure to achieve such an operating model?

I recently did a 20 minute slidecast with Rich Brueckner of Inside-Cloud, and we discussed best practices for realizing converged infrastructure and the drivers for it.

Take a look/listen and let me know what you think:

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What’s in the case?

Steve Herrod’s super session was one of the things I enjoyed most about this year’s VMworld.  Not only were the technologies and ideas that were introduced inspiring and where I was hoping to see VMware head but there was real passion for making content accessible evident throughout the entire presentation.  VMworld coming so soon after the great one day class from Edward Tufte really increased the impact of the message.  I had been thinking of content in terms of Big Information, of how do we present information to people, how do we share and collaborate etc.  Steve’s presentation pushed that point even further, it’s all about the content really, the receptacle that it’s delivered in is irrelevant, it could be a briefcase, or a Ming vase, all the end user cares about is what’s in it.  Just take a gander at Vincent Vega there staring at Marsellus Wallace’s soul, the briefcase isn’t what was cool in Pulp Fiction, it’s what was in it. Continue reading What’s in the case?

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Private Cloud is the new paradigm

Everybody’s talking about Private Cloud these days, and I think that’s great. There have been a number of really good posts and articles about it lately and I think the more people writing and thinking and implementing Private Cloud strategies and ideas the better. An informative and frankly tactically -in the best sense of the word-focused article I’ve enjoyed is A Private Cloud is Called IT by Mike Fratto over at Network Computing.

Mike, thankfully, begins by defining terms stating that a Private Cloud is one which is “wholly hosted in your data center”. I think this is the most realistic definition at the moment and my hope is that soon we will be able to extend that to be one that is managed, provisioned, secured and is compliant as if it was wholly hosted in your data center. I think he’s underestimating some of the benefits of the Private Cloud at this point versus an IaaS solution primarily because I’ve yet to see an apples to apples IaaS offering. The service levels, availability, performance, etc. just don’t exist to compete against a Private Cloud. The cost savings associated with Private Cloud are dramatic when done at scale, and I certainly haven’t seen many organizations doing IaaS at similar scales, it’s just not realistic at the moment. That being said the savings disparity between the solutions is a temporary one, the Public Cloud solutions will catch up, as will the bandwidth capabilities to allow massive migrations to them. In the meantime, the next 18 to 36 months in my opinion, Private Cloud certainly is the way to go, better savings, better security, better compliance, and more easily implemented and more importantly more easily migrated to. Let me add the caveat again, at scale! Taking 1 application, a set of call center users, a dev environment, etc. is not at scale. I’m talking entire lines of business, entire data center, or class of applications. Mike is absolutely on in regards to the steps required to get you to an automated data center, or Private Cloud and nails the reason for doing so: “leaving you with more time to work on more interesting tasks”. Or to put in my vernacular: allowing your engineers and architects to work on innovation and new offerings for the business rather than keeping the lights on. There are many studies out there that show that IT spend is focused mostly on keeping the lights on, some estimates are as high as 75%, and not on innovation and new services for the business.

Private Cloud is the new paradigm of IT, it’s not a sea-change, or a bolt from the blue, but I believe the next evolution of enterprise IT. Mike does a great job listing out several key steps specific to his realization of an automated data center that help enable the Private Cloud. His are very focused on the Infrastructure component of the transformation required. I think that there are two other key components in the transformation to Private Cloud: Applications, what is my right-sized Application Portfolio, what is my cloud sourcing strategy for those rationalized Applications, and how can I develop new Applications that benefit from the new paradigm; and Governance, what are the policies and processes required to manage the new paradigm, what do I automate, how do I secure the environment, what is the fewest number of IT controls I can implement to be compliant and what is the unified console that provides be the transparent insight into my environment from resource management, risk and compliance perspectives. It’s important to make progress against the Application, Infrastructure and Governance components in a relatively lock step fashion, getting too far out ahead in the maturation and implementation of one of the components leads to poor benefits realization efficiency and can actually cause the other areas to regress.

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Cloud Differentiators

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with my clients and partners lately about what makes a Private Cloud a cloud. There are many schools of thought on this, no end to the opinions really, but I think it comes down to a few differentiators between “just” virtualized infrastructure and a cloud. For me those differentiators are less about technology and more about how you manage and provision things. A virtual infrastructure is still managed and provisioned on a resource or asset basis, where a cloud is managed and provisioned as a service or by policy. A service being some aggregation of resources to deliver something meaningful to your customer. An integrated approach to Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) is required to accomplish management as a service or by policy. It’s not enough to have a Dashboard that shows you the status of your environment, you need a console that reports and allows you to interact.

The virtual infrastructure is a key enabler of the cloud, but it’s not the cloud. At EMC we’ve developed a product and services portfolio that enables the Private Cloud vision of any device, anywhere accessing your information and your applications regardless of the infrastructure it happens to live on. Our Virtual Computing Environment coalition extends that enablement by including the components of unified internetworking and compute with the cloud operating system. Private Cloud is more expansive than VCE and the first technology solution offered by it in the form of the VBlock. The real differentiator between the virtual infrastructure and the Private Cloud is any device, anywhere is able to access your applications and information with your governance controlling it regardless of the underlying infrastructure, be it internal assets or those provided through the public clouds.

It’s the integration of GRC into the environment that delivers on the Private Cloud promise of all the agility, flexibility, scalability, multi-tenancy and automation associated with cloud computing tempered with the security, availability, resiliency, and control of the data center. This means that getting to a Private Cloud has to be about a lot more than deploying new technologies, it’s a wholesale transformation of IT and a new way of interfacing with the Business and your customers. A lot of what has been promised and demanded by frameworks like ITIL, SOA, MOF, COBIT, etc. is now able to be delivered through the infrastructure and toolsets supporting it. It’s possible to implement the Service Catalog and things like automatically approved changes into the resource management infrastructure to begin to provide real self service of IT where appropriate. The appeal of many existing public cloud solutions are the ease with which users can consume them: a credit card; a few clicks; and bam you have storage, or a server, or a CRM system. An integrated approach for GRC can provide this same user experience, plus the enterprise necessities like Service Levels, Business Continuity, Data Protection and the like for enterprise IT. This is the stuff that gets traction with the people I talk with about cloud and to me is the real promise of Private Cloud, a promise that is actually deliverable today.

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Accelerating the Journey to Private Cloud

I argue, frequently and with just about anyone who will engage, that Cloud Computing is the model and there are several different types of instantiations.¬† This certainly isn’t a new or controversial idea, and not a sea change in and of itself.¬† The same could be said for Web 2.0, SOA, N-Tier, Client-Server and back to the Platonic Ideal.¬† The blogosphere and twitterdom is filled with talk of IaaS, PaaS, SaaS &c. as various forms of Cloud Computing and those are interesting forms but not necessarily new ideas or modes of computing.¬† EMC has laid out the vision for a Private Cloud, it’s rather well defined and we have gathered together a number of partners to help us enable our customers in the creation and operation of private clouds.¬† I’m certainly a proponent of Private Cloud, believe in the model and think that it is innovative and a new mode of computing, but I come here not to praise private cloud, but to enable it.

I’ve spent the last few months talking with customers all over the world about Cloud Computing in general and what EMC means by Private Cloud in particular.¬† I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of feedback from the CXO level down to the managers and administrators that will be tasked with running these clouds.¬† A few common themes have emerged in these conversations.¬† Rarely does the question, “Why Cloud Computing?” come up, it’s almost as if Cloud is a foregone conclusion, hyped into the mainstream.¬† I am almost consistently asked by people at every level, “So now what?”.¬† EMC and our partners, and the market in general, has done a good job of laying out the groundwork and vision for Cloud Computing and its benefits and a hardware and software portfolio to enable it.¬† The question becomes how do I actually execute against the vision with the products to make it reality, as it does with most paradigm shifts.

It seems to me that a lot of IT organizations are positioning themselves for Private Cloud, knowingly or unknowingly.  The virtualization of the data center, not just of servers, but real enterprise virtualization is a key milestone on the path to Private Cloud.  Not only does it provide the framework to build a Private Cloud on, it brings real benefits to the organization in terms of reduced Capital Expenses, Operating Expenses, time to provision, mean time to repair and improved customer satisfaction for internal and external customers.  These benefits are core to the allure of Private Cloud and IT is keen to realize them as quickly as possible.

I’ve often seen, and industry analysts seem to weekly report, that virtualization efforts seem to hit a wall when around 20-30% of the workloads in the data center have been virtualized.¬† There are many reasons for this, ranging from applicability of previous virtualization solutions to enterprise workloads, and insufficient application owner and line of business buy-in to the transformation leading to lack of approved downtimes and applications not being approved for P2V.¬† We’ve helped a number of customers push through this wall and drive towards their goals of 80-90% of workloads being virtualized through the development of enterprise virtualization programs, acceleration services, documenting the activities and processes surrounding the virtualization of servers and applications, training and comprehensive communication and marketing plans to get the buy-in of the stakeholders and application owners.

It’s not just driving enterprise virtualization that will help IT realize the benefits of Private Cloud, however.¬† A lot of outsourcing companies operated for years on the concept of “Your mess for less”.¬† For this to be a real transformation it can’t just be the same old problems running on a shiny new architecture.¬† A key component of the journey to Private Cloud has to be the rationalization of the application portfolio.¬† We are constantly adding new applications and features and functionality into the environment, and for every “server hugger” out there I’d argue there’s an “application hugger”, we all have our babies and we’re certainly not going to let them be torn from our arms.

A systematic review of the existing application portfolio to identify opportunities for retirement, feature\functionality consolidation, replatforming and virtualization on proprietary unix systems provides the roadmap for how many of the promised savings can be realized.  If you want to embrace x86 as the chosen platform you have to figure out how to get as much of your application portfolio as possible onto it.  Coupling this portfolio rationalization with a comprehensive business case for Private Cloud provides the framework for driving line of business and application team compliance and for a realistic timeline of how quickly you can actually realize Private Cloud.

So that accounts for the infrastructure and the applications, now for the trifecta, governance!¬† A new model of computing requires a new model of governance and the associated tools and processes.¬† Thousands of virtual machines crammed into a small number of cabinets dynamically allocating and deallocating resources is a daunting environment if your key governance tool is Microsoft Excel.¬† The identification of appropriate services to provide, service levels to achieve, and a chargeback model to allocate costs are required, absolutely required, to have any chance of successfully building and operating a Private Cloud successfully.¬† This requires transparency into what you have, what you’re using, where it is, who owns it, what it requires, how it is to be measured and monitored, backed up, replicated, encrypted, allowed to grow or shrink, &c.¬† Sounds scary, I’m sure.

The service catalog, an integrated management tool framework and automated processes allow you to monitor, maintain, provision and recover the costs of such an environment.¬† Your administrators, engineers and operations teams need to be trained on the technologies, service levels, communications plan and have their roles and responsibilities well documented to empower them in this kind of model.¬† New tools and proactive methods for communicating with your clients have to be developed and integrated to ensure they understand what services you are providing them, how they are being charged for them and what service levels you guarantee.¬† I personally think that self-service plays a key role in the development of a Private Cloud, or most cloud models for that matter, and integration of Change, Release and Capacity Management into a self-service portal can make the difference in your client’s adoption of this new paradigm.

We’ve packaged these services up under the umbrella of Accelerating the Journey to Private Cloud and have integrated our Technology Implementation Services, and several new EMC Proven Solutions into a holistic stack to enable our customers. It’s not a light switch or a silver bullet, it still is a journey, but we’ve worked hard to take the lessons learned from many years of data center consolidation and migrations, process automation, custom reporting and dashboards, building innovative solutions and architectures, product training and managing transformative programs and integrate them into an effective services and solutions stack to accelerate the journey to Private Cloud and realize real benefits today.

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Clouds on the horizon

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about clouds and the future of IT across the blogosphere: Chuck is always good for a post or two; IBM spoke up the other day; and there are even reports that “Hey, this is real!”.¬† I can’t help but wonder if Cloud Computing is really just the marriage of flexible architecture, ubiquitous networks and IT Service Management?¬† As has been noted on this blog I am highly infrastructure biased, but I think it is apparent that fast, readily available networks are changing IT, your phone, laptop, Kindle, &c. are now viable end devices for application and content delivery almost anywhere on the planet.¬† Exciting times indeed!

If you scratch beneath the surface a bit the magic and mystery of the Cloud becomes a little more apparent: you have a high-performance, omnipresent network; a flexible delivery engine that is highly scalable and efficient; and a management framework that provides the appropriate Service Levels, security, compliance and communications the customer is seeking.  To truly deliver a cloud service you first have to identify and define a service that can be readily doled out to customers clamoring for it.  I can think of tons of services internal to an enterprise that would qualify for this designation, so I think the concept of a private cloud is a cogent one.  Take for example File Sharing, or Email, or Market Data, or Order Processing.

So why now?  The emergence of good allocation and resource management tools certainly makes the management of the service a lot easier, add adaptive authentication, identity management and role based access, couple that with the virtualization capabilities and infrastructure components geared to hypervirtualization and you have the recipe for easy to deploy private and public crowds.  The market adoption of frameworks like ITIL and ISO 20000 and their focus on Service Level Management provides the appropriate mindset for the IT organization looking to become service oriented.  Now ride all of that on a ubiquitous, converged, highly available fabric and you can provide these services to pretty much any client, via any platform, any where.

Suddenly Clouds aren’t so amorphous but really the next logical progression of virtualized infrastructure, Service-Oriented Architecture, and IT Service Management.

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Product Management

Awhile back I got a call on a Friday night that is familiar to many consultants, “Can you be in City X on Monday morning?”¬† The program manager on the other end of the phone remembered hearing that I had a degree in Product Management and was eager to get me in front of his customer who was looking to transform his organization into one that managed infrastructure according to a Product Management Lifecycle (PML).¬† Now I admittedly view the world through PML-tinted glasses, but this concept had really piqued my interest.¬† The idea was a pretty simple one: convert his organization to be product-oriented and merge the PML with the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework and the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) that the organization was already spottily using.¬† As a Unified Field Theory devout I was hooked!

The customer, like most, was approaching the development, testing and management of their infrastructure through a number of siloes: people thinking about the long term strategy; another group concerned with the implementation of systems; a group that tested the integrated infrastructure; a group responsible for the daily management of the environment; and an organization dedicated to interfacing with the customer to understand their requirements (and on occasion their satisfaction).¬† Strategy, architecture, engineering and operations were divided across the organization with several silos within each knowledge area.¬† No one was incented to work together, no one had a vision of the entire infrastructure as a “system” and finger pointing was the order of the day during any outage.¬† Walking around the several floors the IT department was spread over there was an air of discontent, people bolted for the door at 5pm, at the latest, were largely disengaged and took pride in the walls they put up around their particular part of the organization.¬† Worst of all the business, their customer, was unhappy and questioning why they were spending so much on that black box called IT.

Continue reading Product Management

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