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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2013 Server Virtualization Predictions: Driving Value Above And Beyond The Hypervisor

Now that we’ve been back from the holidays for a month, I’d like to round out the 2013 predictions season with a look at the year ahead in server virtualization. If you’re like me (or this New York Times columnist), you’ll agree that a little procrastination can sometimes be a good thing to help collect and organize your plans for the year ahead. (Did you buy that rationalization?)

We’re now more than a decade into the era of widespread x86 server virtualization. Hypervisors are certainly a mature (if not peaceful) technology category, and the consolidation benefits of virtualization are now uncontestable. 77% of you will be using virtualization by the end of this year, and you’re running as many as 6 out of 10 workloads in virtual machines. With such strong penetration, what’s left? In our view: plenty. It’s time to ask your virtual infrastructure, “What have you done for me lately?”

With that question in mind, I asked my colleagues on the I&O team to help me predict what the year ahead will hold. Here are the trends in 2013 you should track closely:

  1. Consolidation savings won’t be enough to justify further virtualization. For most I&O pros, the easy workloads are already virtualized. Looking ahead at 2013, what’s left are the complex business-critical applications the business can’t run without (high-performance databases, ERP, and collaboration top the list). You won’t virtualize these to save on hardware; you’ll do it to make them mobile, so they can be moved, protected, and duplicated easily. You’ll have to explain how virtualizing these apps will make them faster, safer, and more reliable—then prove it.
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Are you thinking like a business pro? In the cloud era, you should be.

It's not controversial that business success today depends more than ever on IT performance. Business processes and IT operations are highly interdependent and tightly linked. Alignment between the two is no longer an option—it’s a requirement to stay competitive. Your business customers won’t succeed in today’s dynamic economy without IT behind them, but business customers care about outcomes, not technologies. The more you can think like they do, the better your relationship will be, the better your outcomes will be, and frankly, the better your future job prospects will be.

Forrester calls the evolution of IT from a provider of technologies to a broker of business services the “IT to BT (business technology) transformation.” Key to this shift is rethinking IT’s role in the enterprise and, in particular, rethinking current IT processes and the tools used to support them. Many IT organizations have improved workload, application release, run-book, data transfer, and virtual machine management processes, to name a few, through automation—yet still fail to deliver the agility and responsiveness their business customers demand.

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EMC And VMware Carve Out Pivotal: Good News For I&O Pros And The Virtualization Market

So what does VMware and EMC’s announcement of the new Pivotal Initiative mean for I&O leaders? Put simply, it means the leading virtualization vendor is staying focused on the data center — and that’s good news. As many wise men have said, the best strategy comes from knowing what NOT to do. In this case, that means NOT shifting focus too fast and too far afield to the cloud.

I think this is a great move, and makes all kinds of sense to protect VMware’s relationship with its core buyer, maintain focus on the datacenter, and lay the foundation for the vendor’s software-defined data center strategy. This move helps to end the cloud-washing that’s confused customers for years: There’s a lot of work left to do to virtualize the entire data center stack, from compute to storage and network and apps, and the easy apps, by now, have mostly been virtualized. The remaining workloads enterprises seek to virtualize are much harder: They don’t naturally benefit from consolidation savings, they are highly performance sensitive, and they are much more complex.

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VMworld 2012: Back To The Future (Of The Datacenter): A Management Odyssey

I had a great time, as always, at VMworld last week. My seventh time was busier than ever. If I had to summarize my gut feeling about this year, it was VMware’s return to the future of the datacenter. Yes, there was plenty of cloud-ness, but the main thrust of VMware’s message was: there’s a lot left to virtualize, encapsulate, and mobilize in the datacenter, and we’re the best company to help you do it…whether or not you’re heading for the clouds. The cloud isn’t everything, nor should it be. It’s one of many paths to a more efficient, responsive, and available IT infrastructure. Companies aren’t going from datacenters and managed services to the cloud in one monolithic transition. They’re looking at everything from their virtualized workloads to their big databases to their productivity apps and asking two questions: Can I run them cheaper, faster, and better in-house first? And, when will it make more sense to run them in my or someone else’s cloud? Part of that decision is cost — will cloud save money?

A bigger question, though, is: Who decides? Will application teams and app developers go to the cloud themselves, without waiting for IT? In many cases, they already are. Or will today’s virtualization admins lead the way? VMware’s betting on both, and it used VMworld this year to arm its core audience —VMware admins — with a strategy. My colleague Glenn O’Donnell calls VMware’s core audience the Illuminati (heh), and VMworld is certainly designed for them.

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Learn How To Be Service-Driven By Watching The Clouds: Case Study Preview

I’ve been speaking to more and more clients lately who are not just saving money with cloud computing — they’re using the principles of the cloud to completely transform how they source, build, and deliver all IT services. Savvy I&O leaders should look beyond the per-hour savings promised by the cloud to the core tenets of cloud computing itself. How do the public clouds do it? Why can’t you?

Well, you can. You can transform your IT operating model from that of widget-provider to a true service-oriented business partner. Forrester writes extensively about how to make the IT to BT (business technology) transition. I recently spoke at length with the IT management team at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) about their multi-year IT transformation to what they call “everything-as-a-service.” I was put in touch with them by one of their primary suppliers, cloud service management and automation vendor ServiceMesh.

We’ll be publishing a complete case study soon, but I wanted to share some of the basics here because they outline a strategy anyone can achieve, regardless of your current level of cloud maturity. The bank started by establishing six core tenets to be enforced across all I&O services moving forward, whether hosted internally or externally. These guiding principles neatly summarize the core value dimensions of cloud computing itself:

  • Pay as you go. Business customers only pay for products and services actually used, on a metered, charge-back basis, under flexible service agreements, as opposed to fixed-term contracts.
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Cloud Computing By The Numbers: Understanding The True Cost Of Cloud Services

With VMworld in full swing this week and Microsoft’s cloud-centered Windows Server 2012 launching soon after, your options for technology to build and deploy enterprise clouds is about to expand significantly. Meanwhile, Amazon continues to drop prices faster than your local Wal-Mart, introduce new cloud compute and storage services almost monthly, and has already gobbled up a trillion objects in S3. Is it time to start moving your workloads to the cloud?

Forrsights surveys show that companies are indeed moving to the cloud, primarily for speed and lower costs — but are the savings really there? The answer might not be obvious. Are you heavily virtualized already? Have you moved up the virtualization value chain beyond server consolidation to using virtual machines for better disaster recovery, less downtime, automated configuration management, and the like? Do you have a virtual-first policy and actively share resources across business units? If you run a mature virtual environment today, your internal infrastructure costs might already be competitive with the cloud.

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VMware Doubles Down On Heterogeneity With Nicira Acquisition, Steers Course To The Software Defined Datacenter

Following on the heels of a very busy couple of weeks, VMware announced its acquisition of Nicira yesterday. This comes after the virtualization leader bought DynamicOps, then followed that with a management shakeup, which James Staten wrote about yesterday. Taken together, this flurry of activity is designed to make a strong statement: VMware wants to lead the way to the software-defined datacenter. In this brave new world, not only are compute workloads created, managed, and reclaimed automatically (through server virtualization), but their accompanying network, storage, security, and related components are as well.  

At the core of the software-defined datacenter is an abstracted and pooled set of shared resources. But the secret sauce is in the automation that slices up and allocates those shared resources on-demand, without manual tinkering. This is how the largest public clouds work today, but it’s not how the bulk of large enterprise datacenters work. VMware recognizes that and has been extending its reach beyond the compute stack for a while.

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