OpenStack Matures With Havana: Good-Enough Monitoring & Orchestration

What’s our advice to those building out an internal cloud management practice? Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to revamp all of your IT management processes Day 1. Cloud’s not supposed to make things harder, remember. Keep three things in mind from the outset and you have the foundation for a cloud management practice: monitor, standardize, and automate.

What you monitor in your cloud dictates what you can manage, of course, so focus first on monitoring what you can control. In a private cloud, that means monitoring the compute, storage, and network resources you’re delivering as a service. In a public cloud, instrument your apps first. Then you need to standardize on a reasonable set of app and infrastructure templates you’ll offer to your cloud consumers. And finally you’ll need to automate the way you build instances of those templates on demand. These are the basics: monitor what you control, offer standardized services from a catalog, and automate how you deliver them.

This week’s OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong comes on the heels of the latest OpenStack release, called Havana. Havana includes two fully integrated projects that have been baking for a while, Ceilometer (monitoring and metering) and Heat (orchestration). These two enterprise-focused features aim to make it easier to build a real production-quality cloud on top of the OpenStack open source cloud building platform.

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CSC Buys ServiceMesh for Hybrid Cloud Management

The independent ISV market for cloud automation software got smaller today with CSC’s announcement that it will acquire ServiceMesh. I’ve been predicting a take-out of ServiceMesh with my inquiry customers for months, but this was faster than I expected. In short, CSC has picked up one of the few independent hybrid/multi-cloud management vendors. The buy makes sense for several reasons:

CSC needs a unified service catalog, orchestration, and governance platform to pull together its successful and growing cloud business and enable faster enterprise cloud migrations to its multiple cloud offerings (public, virtual private, private). The enterprise evolution to cloud is step-wise – some apps, some infrastructure, and some business units – and buyers need a partner to help decide which makes the most sense to migrate first, and how. CSC can combine its strong managed services capabilities and IT management tools expertise with the application lifecycle (DevOps) focus of ServiceMesh to reach a powerful cloud buyer: the app owner and developer. Apps are where the cloud action is.

CSC wants to maintain some degree of cloud neutrality, and ServiceMesh has built its reputation as a cloud-neutral governance and orchestration platform. ServiceMesh focuses first on applications and services, and leaves infrastructure management to the cloud providers. CSC gains a neutral multi-cloud (read hybrid) orchestration suite and ServiceMesh gets the ability to scale on the back of CSC’s global services footprint. I’ve been waiting for some new marquee customers for the ServiceMesh Agility platform and hope the partnership will bear fruit quickly.

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Breaking Down VMworld 2013: Barcelona Cloud Management Update

We recently published our Quick Take report Breaking Down VMworld 2013, covering the San Francisco show. In that doc we talked about the need for VMware to consolidate and clarify its cloud and virtualization management stack. Since Barcelona has become the venue for VMware management announcements, did VMware deliver this week? The short answer is “yes, stay tuned.” While most press reports focused on the Desktone buy and the expansion of vCloud Hybrid Service to Europe, I was watching for some direction on cloud management and like what I’ve heard so far.

Cloud management tools today tend to offer too much or too little, and that makes cloud either too expensive or too hard. Cloud managers have to either roll their own with evolving open-source management tools, or buy into a Frankenstack of cloudy infrastructure and app management tools with overlapping features, too many interfaces, and (often) several ways to automate the same workflow. Finding that happy middle ground – packaged cloud management stacks, well-integrated, easy to buy and easy to use – must be the goal for those vendors who want to both make money off cloud management and make cloud easier for enterprise I&O buyers.

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Cloud Management In A Hybrid Cloud World

It's inevitable that the future look of enterprise IT will be a hybrid mix of on- and off-premises services. 45% of companies rely on at least one Software-as-a-Service application today, and a third of companies are already using some form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service at Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, GoGrid, and the like.

While your particular mix of cloud and cloud-like services will vary, it's unlikely that any I&O pro will be primarily focused on configuring server, storage, and network devices as a core competency in the long run. The hybrid IT infrastructure is well underway, so you can either ignore it, try to contain it, or embrace it.

Those first two options are off the table – the cloud ship has sailed. So how do you embrace it? First, don’t be thrown off by that “hybrid” moniker. Forrester defines hybrid cloud as a cloud service connected to any other corporate resource. That means most companies are actually hybrid today; if you have at least one SaaS app connected to anything in your data center, you're hybrid.

Second, you should start to plan for the impact of hybrid cloud on your role and on your current IT operations. In a hybrid world, you’ll still own some of your IT resources but you won’t own a growing portion of them. You might not even be the person responsible for sourcing cloud services, but whether it’s your business units or developers bringing cloud services into your company, I&O will ultimately be responsible for managing them. No matter where it runs, your application is yours after all.

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VMware Targets I&O Buyers With Hybrid Cloud Service

VMware pulled back the curtain on its vCloud Hybrid Service today. The concept of a hybrid cloud isn't new, but there are as many definitions of it as there are for cloud itself. Indeed, the beauty of cloud really is in the eye of the beholder, and it's important to align beauty with its beholders. Forrester defines hybrid cloud as a cloud service connected to any other corporate resource. That means most enterprises are hybrid today - if you have at least one SaaS app connected to anything in your data center, you're hybrid.

Today, VMware set out its definition of hybrid: An extension of the virtualized corporate data center. The beholders here are the infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams who've spent years virtualizing and optimizing a range of corporate apps. These pros haven't been the main drivers of public cloud in the enterprise so far; business-unit-aligned developers have. And the tension between the two is growing. Developers want to build faster, deploy quickly, and forget about infrastructure management, so they start with public cloud: cheap, fast, and easy. But I&O teams want to drive more value and efficiency from existing infrastructure by selectively moving apps (or the scalable parts of apps) off premises to take advantage of cloud’s elasticity and pay-per-use economics. They look at cloud as an extension of the corporate data center, and the vCloud Hybrid Service is designed for them first. Both perspectives make sense and both approaches to cloud can drive value.

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Dell Grabs Enstratius in Cloud Management Land Grab

Dell just picked up Enstratius for an undisclosed amount today, making the cloud management vendor the latest well-known cloud controller to get snapped up by a big infrastructure or OS vendor. Dell will add Enstratius cloud management capabilities to its existing management suite for converged and cloudy infrastructure, which includes element manager and configuration automator Active System Manager (ASM, the re-named assets acquired with Gale Technologies in November), Quest Foglight performance monitoring, and (maybe) what’s still around from Scalent and DynamicOps.

This is a good move for Dell, but it doesn’t exactly clarify where all these management capabilities will fall out. The current ASM product seems to be a combo of code from the original Scalent acquisition upgraded with the GaleForce product; regardless of what’s in it, though, what it does is discover, configure and deploy physical and virtual converged infrastructure components. A private cloud automation platform, basically. Like all private cloud management stacks, it does rapid template-based provisioning and workflow orchestration. But it doesn’t provision apps or provision to public or open-source cloud stacks. That’s where Enstratius comes in.

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Managing Application Performance In The Cloud Is A DevOps Team Effort

As businesses get serious about the cloud, developers are bringing more business-critical transaction data to cloud-resident web and mobile apps. Indeed, web and mobile apps that drive systems of engagement (how you interact with your customers and partners) are the reason why many companies look to the cloud in the first place. Public clouds offer the speed and agility developers want, plus the development tools they need. Once you’ve built a killer web or mobile app in the cloud and it’s in production, driving real revenue, who’s responsible for making sure it performs?

It’s a team effort. Developers have to think about performance management as they build, and IT operations teams need to design application monitoring and management into their cloud deployment processes up front. Why? Because there’s no time to do it later. You won’t have time to implement a new app monitoring solution for each new cloud app before you need to get it out to users. And once it’s out there, you need to be tracking user experience immediately.

In traditional IT, one of the reasons we could get away with limited insight into application performance was because we usually overprovisioned resources to make sure we didn’t have to worry about it. It’s easier to have excess capacity than to solve tricky performance problems – problems you might only see once in a while.

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OpenStack Summit Report: Real Customers Building Better Products Faster With Open-Source Cloud

At the OpenStack Summit in Portland last week, the open-source cloud platform got real, to echo Forrester’s cloud team predictions for 2013. At the busy gathering attended by over 2,400, suits mingled effortlessly with hoodies and deep-tech design committee meetings were sandwiched between marquee-name customers sharing success stories. Three core themes drove the show, as outlined by Jonathan Bryce in the opening keynote: the OpenStack technology platform has matured, the ecosystem is vibrant, and the global user footprint now includes enterprise customers doing real business.

The show followed on the heels of the Grizzly release, the 7th release of the OpenStack platform. Along with stronger support for VMware and Microsoft hypervisors, Grizzly widens block storage options and includes 10+ new enterprise storage platform drivers and workload-based scheduling. A wide range of new network plugins expand the platform’s software-defined networking options and a sexier Dashboard to access, provision and automate resources.

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VMware Announces New Hybrid Cloud Service

So VMware is not afraid of the public cloud after all. With the announcement of a forthcoming (later in 2013) VMware vCloud Hybrid Service, the virtualization leader reboots its cloud message for the enterprise. VMware will offer its own public cloud infrastructure service built on the same technology stack it offers to vCloud Datacenter service provider partners. That includes the vSphere foundation and the vCloud Director (with vCloud Connector) multi-tenancy and on-boarding tools, plus vCloud Networking and Security. VMware will add on a new public-focused portal and additional provisioning tools, and promises to share those capabilities with service providers as well, but it's not yet clear how and where VMware will differentiate and compete. If VMware offers better access controls and financial management tools, for example, than its partners, on the same platform, why would the partners not look to an open source alternative? That’s certainly a risk.

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Virtual Reality Check: The Need For Holistic Monitoring

Last week I had the pleasure of talking to a large group of I&O pros about monitoring their growing virtual environments. It was a lively webinar conversation sponsored by Splunk and you can check it out here. We talked about how traditional monitoring approaches can fail in large-scale virtual environments because of the number of metrics to monitor, uncertainty about what metrics matter the most, and lack of expertise in setting reasonable thresholds for alerts and alarms. I discussed how this can lead to a “virtualization big data” problem and gave pointers on leveraging analytics to help tackle it.

My approach was inspired by a recent report published by my colleagues Glenn O’Donnell and JP Garbani, “Turn Big Data Inward With IT Analytics.” Their insightful overview of the IT analytics market shows how you should be putting the intelligence of analytics to work for you. If you’re struggling to monitor and manage your IT infrastructure complexity today, how will you handle tomorrow’s additional complexity? This report clearly makes the case for IT analytics as the way forward.

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