If you’re searching for agility in the cloud, ask your vendor for a map

miron_mizrahi.jpgBy Miron Mizrahi

 

Miron Mizrahi has had a career spanning more than 20 years in the software industry. In recent years he served as the WW Solution Lead for Business Service Management (BSM) as well as Converged Infrastructure for HP Software Professional Services, where he is now a Portfolio Strategy Lead.


Many of the customers I talk to say agility and faster time to value are some of the primary business drivers for considering cloud-based services. But when you actually look at how good the various cloud computing solutions are at delivering agility you notice something interesting. While it may take only minutes to provision a service, it usually takes weeks to design one. Where the current generation of cloud solutions falls short is they provide little to no help in designing and building cloud services – which should be a key part of your cloud strategy.

 

Most cloud deployments today focus on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – basically the ability to provision on-demand computing, network and storage resources, all offered via a self-service catalogue. We can pick how many machines we need, how many CPUs we want, the amount of memory and storage and even the OS. All the user has to do is choose and go. But the real question is, what does one do with a bare metal server or even with one running Windows 2008 or Linux? It’s nice that I can have it up and running in 12 minutes, but is that enough? Or rather, is it going to solve the business problem I have? Is this all the bang I can buy for my buck in the cloud?

 

Looking beyond IaaS

If all you need is a file server for your team members to store documents on, then IaaS is a perfect fit. But most scenarios you will find in a typical enterprise IT environment require more than that. Let’s look at some examples:

 

  • The team responsible for the customer service portal needs to test a new code drop every 3 to 4 weeks
  • The application support team wants to evaluate new database and application backup tools
  • The middleware and messaging group is trying to perform integration testing as part of the migration of the corporate email system to Gmail.

 

All these use cases require environments with full application instances, including not just the platform (OS, database, middleware and application) but also code, configuration and data. In cloud-speak, we have moved up the curve from IaaS to PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) and Application-as-a-Service.

 

And this is where the agility story starts to break down. Why? Because the main difference between IaaS and PaaS is not the technology that underpins them, it is in the type of cloud services they provide. PaaS provides services that are much more complex and which necessitate an order of magnitude more effort to build and design. And who’s likely to be doing that work? You, the customer.

 

Take, for example, the customer service portal team in the example above and imagine what the environment might look like: half a dozen servers with a web server (on Linux), a couple of app servers (on Windows), database with data, a bunch of configuration files, who knows how many WARs/JARs/EARs, backup and anti-virus software, maybe a mail server … you get the picture. Designing this service to be ready for instant deployment can takes weeks – and this is just one service, one application.

 

Pre-packaged maps for cloud services

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could buy an IaaS solution which also has value-add content? You could – let’s say – buy a pre-packaged add-in for Oracle and one for JBoss and one for ActiveDirectory on Windows 2008 R2 – ready for installation … “Just add water.” Download what you purchased, load it into the tool, configure some basic (specific to your environment) parameters and voila – you have a service ready to be consumed in your self-service portal.

 

 And if you needed something not yet available, wouldn’t it be great if your vendor could build it for you? At the distribution cost? After all, surely they will be able to sell this to other customers. Better still, your cloud vendor should be the expert on how to design deployments optimized for performance and availability. If I am selling an IaaS solution, it stands to reason that I know best how to deploy – for example – Oracle on it. So you get to benefit from this expertise rather than having to acquire it yourself. In summary, vendors should:

 

  • Offer value-add in the form of pre-packaged cloud service designs which customers can install and create services in hours, not weeks.
  • Assist customers in designing services and building the content needed for them.

 

This way, customers can mature and accelerate adoption of their cloud services at a price point that doesn’t break the bank and without having to shoulder the entire cost, time and risk associated with large scale design and content development. In nature clouds come with water vapor in them. Maybe we cannot get to this level or readiness in the IT world, but if all customers have to do is just add water, we will have come pretty close.

 

HP has a solution for pre-packaged cloud service designs called HP Cloud Maps, which are part of the HP Converged Cloud solutions announced today. Please visit the Converged Cloud announcement site for more information. For more information on HP Cloud Maps visit http://www.hp.com/go/cloudmaps.

 

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Labels: Cloud
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