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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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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