It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the peak of inflated expectations, it was the trough of disillusionment, it was an epoch of unicorns and rainbows, it was an epoch of engineers and managers looking at each other in bewilderment. Is this a cloud I see before me? Come let me clutch thee — I have thee not and yet I still see thee. Et tu, Brute?
OK enough with the Dickens-Shakespeare mashups but I would like to talk about two islands — on premises systems and public IaaS clouds — and how and why we might connect these islands. Before we talk about how to connect these islands, lets first review why….
THE PUBLIC OPPORTUNITY
Today most organizations have an on-premises datacenter upon which they might have a private cloud, or just a virtualization infrastructure, or…perhaps something else entirely. What are some reasons they might want to want to move some things from this “private island” to a public island? Is the public island cheaper? Well, not always…
As Chad Sakacc explains in this excellent post, the technology costs for public cloud often aren’t any cheaper and can even be more expensive. But there’s also some variable costs here — the cost of your datacenter space, the cost of your infrastructure, power, cooling and the staff needed to maintain it. When these costs are considered it’s possible that purchasing infrastructure as a utility might be less expensive for the organization.
But perhaps more important at times than cost, public cloud is quick and easy to consume. No lengthy procurement process, nothing to order, ship and then deploy and configure — it’s all there just ready to be consumed when you need it (or in other words…Agilty). Unless you already have on-premises capacity, it will usually be quicker to consume public IaaS resources.
Now some business critical workloads may not be candidates for either security concerns (real or perceived), governance requirements, operations and many other reasons. To backup this point, a recent survey posted at Gigaom revealed that 98% of surveyed IT executives plan on expanding their datacenters to run internal private clouds with 61% citing security as the reason public clouds were not selected.
The private cloud simply isn’t going anywhere anytime soon — a strategy for leveraging the utility computing model that focuses exclusively on workloads hosted on public IaaS are missing the internal/private elements of the datacenter which are most likely a larger piece of the pie. To fully unlock the potential value of utility computing, both sides must be addressed and a strong bridge must be built to connect our multiple “islands”.
That leaves us with some good starting use cases for public cloud — test/dev workloads, web tiers, seasonal capacity and new initiatives. And for many environments this will be something less than half or even less than one-third of the datacenter. So now we have two islands…..how do we connect them?
BUILDING A BRIDGE
So lets say you’ve got a VMware infrastructure in your on-premises environment and you want to consume IaaS from one of the many vCloud providers. Well you can start by using vCloud Connector which can package up and migrate workloads and move them over to the hosted vCloud environment. But this really isn’t so much of a bridge between your “islands” as it is an occasional ferry that can package up VMs as OVAs and transport them back and forth. At some point we’re going to need something more than this.
The Advanced version of vCloud Connector adds some valuable features but will not be available to VSPP (VMware Service Provider)partners until later this year. The first feature is a Layer 2 VPN which allows for subnets to be spanned across your “islands” making it no longer necessary to change the IP scheme when you move between islands. The second feature is content synchronization which allows for your VM templates (a part of a provisioning service catalog) to be kept consistent across all of your islands. Now we just replaced our ferry with a small bridge between our islands.
As we look to the future there’s also more coming both from the vCloud Suite as well as VMWare’s upcoming NSX offering — Layer 2 VPN, VXLAN, and virtual firewalls. Imagine if workloads can be moved between your islands, with both IP addresses and routing and firewall rules maintained during the migration. Now our one-lane bridge just became a highway as we truly begin to unlock the value of utility computing.
There’s some important lessons here for both service providers and IT organizations looking to unlock the value of utility computing. Many of us have been focusing on public cloud (IaaS) but now we realize that this may be only viable for something less than 100% of all workloads — we may need to make investments in our on-premises environments to fully unlock the value. There’s use cases for both private cloud and public cloud and not every workload is likely to fit in the same bucket. This is where it becomes clear that hybrid cloud will be the new normal — and for many organizations this means making investments in their on-premises environment such as moving beyond mere virtualization to the vCloud Suite for example.
Let’s say your goal is to help your customers unlock the potential value inherent in the utility computing model. You start selling hosted/public IaaS to your customers — which does have value and use cases — but now you’re limiting your scope to faction of the total pie — the workloads that meet the test/dev, web tier, seasonal capacity, new project criteria. If you want to help your customers unlock the potential of utility computing you need to make investments in the on-premises environment as well.
Help your customers move beyond virtualization, by offering converged infrastructure solutions like the FlexPod and the Vblock, powered by VMWare’s vCloud Suite and perhaps adding orchestration, automation, service catalogs and more. As you help them down this path not only will you be unlocking the value of utility computing in their on-premises environment but you’ll be helping them to build a better on-ramp and bridge to those vCloud powered public clouds. As new capabilities like vCloud Connector Advanced and VMware NSX become available, the ability to build a strong and sustainable bridge between these islands grows dramatically. Perhaps more importantly, you are unlocking the value to the workloads that may be captive to the on-premises environments — perhaps more than half of the entire datacenter.
If I can stand on my soapbox for a minute here, I’ve always believed that the best sales approach is a strategic and consultative approach at the CxO levels. Talk about the full environment and strategy and opportunities for synergy. The service provider needs to understand the customer’s environment and needs while the IT organization may need guidance on technology, trends and what strategies could be the most effective. Contrast this to the traditional volume approach where the focus is “what can I sell you this quarter so I can meet my numbers?”. Sales can enter the cloud era by focusing on long term strategy and not short term volume — ultimately this will lead to unlocking more value for both parties in my opinion. [Stepping down from my soapbox...]
THE IT ORGANIZATION
Many IT organizations are at different steps along their evolutionary cloud journey. Some have adopted virtualization, some have adopted private clouds, and others are at varying points along this spectrum. If you’re running VMware — you may want to be looking at building up your private cloud with the vCloud Suite while at the same time you look into leveraging vCloud IaaS providers where it makes sense.
Look into converged infrastructure solutions; look into the vCloud Suite — look into automation, orchestration for your workloads. Improve your posture for those workloads you don’t expect to move to public IaaS providers in the coming years. Unlock value and improve your foundation in order to build better bridges.
The hybrid cloud is likely to be the new normal — build up both your private and public clouds to unlock value and build strong bridges in between. Seek out a service provider that can help you unlock the value of utility computing on BOTH of your “islands”.