Moving On Up (in the stack)

This time of year a lot of folks are making their 2013 goals and/or predictions.  I do happen to have a professional goal that happens to be somewhat of a prediction as well – moving up in the stack.  What does that mean?

crystal ball

Taking a step back for a moment, I recall being in grade school and having AT&T come in and talk to us about the technology and innovation behind – yes telephones.  At the time it was exciting how we could actually have a conversation with someone around the world – a form of virtual reality if you will.  It was exciting to imagine new possibilities that might be available in the future (no flying cars though).

What was innovating, and cutting edge back then, we tend to take for granted today.  We’ve built so many layers of technology above this foundation that we expect to be able to have a video call on our mobile phones, or stream HD movies and music to our living rooms and mobile devices.  We continue to add layers of technology onto yesterday’s innovations as they become the foundation for even more.

I see a similar trend with virtualization and cloud computing.  I love VMware and I’ve enjoyed doing amazing things with it.  I’ve watched several entire pallets of physical servers that my team eliminated with VMware be moved out of the datacenter and leveraged virtualization to relocate datacenters, improve backup RTO/RPO, operations and much more.

vSphere and the ESXi hypervisor aren’t going anywhere and I am sure there are still more exciting innovations to come in this space, but increasingly we are seeing a greater focus on automation and agility – layers that build upon vSphere and the ESXi hypervisor.  If you’ve seen my previous blog posts you’re already familiar with my “value triangle” – the hypervisor can only address CAPEX and some OPEX benefits by itself – the lower (and smaller) half of the value triangle.  But start layering automation and operational improvements on top of this, and you can capture far more OPEX benefits in your organization and perhaps even enter the “agility” zone.

Earlier this year VMware introduced the vCloud Suite which now includes vCloud Director (vCD) and vCloud Networking and Security (vCloud N&S – formerly the vShield products).  These additional “layers” are becoming less of a high-end product and increasingly a part of the core foundation.  Additional products like vCloud Automation Center (from the Dynamic Ops acquisition) will build upon foundational layers like vSphere, ESXi and vCloud Director to enable more automation, efficiency and agility in their operations.


One example I like to share is how long would it take to procure and deploy an n-tier application (i.e. web front end, database backend, plus middleware) in your current environment, working across the technical silos, teams and internal processes?  I’ve seen some firewall changes take weeks of back and forth until the correct changes could be implemented.  But what if you could quickly provision such complex applications consistent with PCI and other security requirements for networking?  Weeks and months become days as project delivery dates are shortened and business goals are met in significantly less time.  And you better believe you’re competitors will be looking to do this too 🙂

I think 2013 will be a year where a critical mass begins to focus their attention above the hypervisor and onto these empowering new layers.  In 2013 I’m planning on installing the vCloud Suite and vCloud Automation Center in my home lab and becoming more familiar with the capabilities of these products and I’m very much looking forward to the learning experience.  What are your technical and professional goals for 2013?

16 Responses to Moving On Up (in the stack)

  1. Jon Bodarky says:

    All too often, you’ll find firewall provisioning takes what is perceived to be a Very Long Time because application owners are unable to communicate said application’s networking requirements to the teams managing the firewalls.  Virtualizing firewall functionality does not speed provisioning unless a new physical firewall is required, which shouldn’t be often.

  2. BlueShiftBlog says:

    Hey Jon,
    Agreed that virtualizing firewall functionality *ALONE* doesn’t shift the paradigm…but when you can programatically edit/manage/provision these elements new possibilities become available just as they have with virtual machines.
    Imagine a business model based on CI’s (configuration items) that the customer can select and manipulate the properties [ I know you can! 🙂 ].   You can add CMDB, workflow and self-service provisioning from a service catalog on top of this and now you’ve got the foundation for a new paradigm.  Security models and governance are already programmed in as parameters, and once the approvals are granted, it’s done and available for the customer/business unit. 
    Also in some cases just making the functionality available as part of a new orchestration tool is enough to bypass some of the bureaucratic delays in some organizations where cross-functional and cross-technical communication doesn’t transcend the silos nearly enough.
    VMware is talking about the “Software Defined Datacenter” and abstraction from physical hardware enables more elements of the datacenter to be configured programatically, enabling new opportunities for automation and orchestration.  Cisco has an impressive arsenal in this area between Tidal, New Scale, and their latest acquistion of Cloupia.  And of course with VMware we have vFabric and vCloud Automation as well as future developments from the Nicria acquisition. 
    The “Configuration Item Model” holds value for the customer, but far more IMO when you can layer automation and orchestration into the elements the business cares about (workloads) as opposed to networking/storage/compute , etc.

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