With all the hype and progress happening around cloud computing, we know that our infrastructure and operations professional clients are under pressure to have a cloud answer. This is causing some unproductive behavior and a lot of defensiveness. A growing trend is to declare victory – point to your virtual infrastructure where you can provision a VM in a few seconds and say, “See, I’m a cloud.” But you aren’t, really. And I think you know that.
Being a cloud means more than just using server virtualization. It means you have the people, process, and tools in place to deliver IT on demand, via automation, are sharing resources so you can maximize the utilization of assets and are enabling your company to act nimbly. In our latest Forrester report we document that to be a cloud you need to have:
There’s an old adage that the worst running car in the neighborhood belongs to the auto mechanic. Why? Because they like to tinker with it. We as IT pros love building and tinkering with things, too, and at one point we all built our own PC and it probably ran about as well as the mechanic's car down the street.
While the mechanic’s car never ran that well, it wasn’t a reflection on the quality of his work on your car because he drew the line between what he can tinker with and what can sink him as a professional (well, most of the time). IT pros do the same thing. We try not to tinker with computers that will affect our clients or risk the service level agreement we have with them. Yet there is a tinkerer’s mentality in all of us. This mentality is evidenced in our data centers where the desire to configure our own infrastructure and build out our own best of breed solutions has resulted in an overly complex mishmash of technologies, products and management tools. There’s lots of history behind this mess and lots of good intentions, but nearly everyone wants a cleaner way forward.
In the vendors’ minds, this way forward is clearly one that has more of their stuff inside and the latest thinking here is the new converged infrastructure solutions they are marketing, such as HP’s BladeSystem Matrix and IBM’s CloudBurst. Each of these products is the vendor’s vision of a cleaner, more integrated and more efficient data center. And there’s a lot of truth to this in what they have engineered. The big question is whether you should buy into this vision.
What is the opportunity for Microsoft partners (or other VARs, SIs, ISVs and technologists) in the emerging cloud computing space? Don't think of cloud as a threat but as an opportunity to ratchet up your value to the business my evangelizing and encouraging their transition to the cloud. How? At the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference I addressed this issue in an Expo Theater presentation. Missed it? Now you haven't:
VMware today released an incremental upgrade to its core vSphere platform and took the opportunity to do some product repackaging and pricing actions - the latter being a big win for enterprise customers. The vSphere 4.1 enhancements focused on scalability to accommodate larger and larger virtual pools. The number of VMs per pool and number of hosts and VMs per instance of vCenter have been ratcheted up significantly, which will simplify large environments. The new network and storage I/O features and new memory compression and VMotion improvements will help customers pushing the upper limits of resource utilization. Storage vendors will laud the changes to vStorage too, which finally ends the conflict between what storage functions VMware performs versus what arrays do natively.
The company also telegraphed the end of life for ESX in favor of the more modern ESXi hypervisor architecture.
But for the majority of VMware shops the pricing changes are perhaps the most significant. It's been a longstanding pain that in order to use some of the key value add management features such as Site Recovery Manager and AppSpeed you had to license them across the full host even if you only wanted to apply that feature to a few VMs. This led to some unnatural behavior such as grouping business critical applications on the same host - cost optimization that trumps availability best practices. Thankfully that has now been corrected.
If you are an infrastructure service provider and partner of Microsoft you probably haven't been too pleased with the Redmond horde of late. Are they friend or foe? Sure, you can resell and host Windows Server and a plethora of Microsoft applications from your data centers. And if you're ambitious you can even use their Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit to build your own infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud. But Microsoft's own online services for the enterprise are off limits. Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Windows Azure, and SQL Azure are offerings that look a lot like a formidable competitor. Well partner centricity now rules the day when it comes to Azure.