You're Not Yet A Cloud - Get On The Path Today

James Staten

 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:

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The Convergence Of IT Automation Solutions

Jean-Pierre Garbani

We are sometimes so focused on details that we forget to think clearly. Nothing new there; it’s still a story about trees and forest. A few years ago, this was clearly the case when I met with one of the first vendors of run book automation. My first thought was that it was very similar to workload automation, but I let myself be convinced that it was so different that it was obviously another product family. Taking a step back last year, I started thinking that in fact these two forms of automation complemented each other. In “Market Overview: Workload Automation, Q3 2009,” I wrote that “executing complex asynchronous applications requires server capacity. The availability of virtualization and server provisioning, one of the key features of today’s IT process [run book] automation, can join forces with workload automation to deliver a seamless execution of tasks, without taxing IT administrators with complex modifications of pre-established plans.”In June of this year, UC4 announced a new feature of its workload automation solution, by which virtual machines or extension to virtual machines can be provisioned automatically when the scheduler detects a performance issue (see my June 30 blog post “Just-In-Time Capacity”). This was a first sign of convergence. But there is more.

Automation is about processes. As soon as we can describe a process using a workflow diagram and a description of the operation to be performed by each step of the diagram, we can implement the software to automate it (as we do in any application or other forms of software development). Automation is but a variation of software that uses pre-developed operations adapted to specific process implementations.

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Standardize Interfaces, Not Technology

Jean-Pierre Garbani

Infrastructure diversity is one important component of many IT infrastructures’ complexity. Even at a time when organizations are standardizing on x86 hardware, they often maintain separate support groups by types of operating systems. In the meantime, we see even more technology diversity developing in a relentless pursuit of performance, and ironically, simplification. This begs a simple question: Should we, for the sake of operational efficiency, standardize at the lowest possible level, e.g., the computing platform, or at a much higher level, e.g., the user interface?

In the past months, I think a clear answer was provided by the mainframe world. One key element that actually limits mainframe expansion in some data centers is the perception from higher levels of management that the mainframe is a complex-to-operate and obsolete platform, too radically different from the Linux and Windows operating systems. This comes from the fact that most mainframe management solutions use an explicit interface for configuration and deployment that requires a detailed knowledge of the mainframe specificity. Mastering it requires skills and experience that unfortunately do not seem to be taught in most computer science classes. Because mainframe education is lacking, the issue seems to be more acute than in other IT segments. This eventually would condemn the mainframe when all the baby boomers decide that they would rather golf in Florida.

 This whole perception was shattered to pieces by two major announcements. The most recent one is the new IBM zEnterprise platform, which regroups a mix of hardware and software platforms under a single administration interface. In doing this, IBM provides a solution that actually abstracts the platforms’ diversity and removes the need for different administrators versed in the vagaries of the different operating systems.

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How Much Infrastructure Integration Should You Allow?

James Staten

 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.

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As Cloud Platforms Battle For Credibility, OpenStack Is Pretty Solid

James Staten

It seems every few weeks yet another company announces a cloud computing infrastructure platform. I'm not talking about public clouds but the underlying software which can turn a virtualized infrastructure into an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) — whether public or private.

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VMware Embraces Per-VM Pricing - About Time

James Staten

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. 

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I Want My Own Azure — If You're Big You Got It!

James Staten

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.

At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. today, Microsoft announced the Windows Azure platform appliance program that will let large service providers (and very large enterprises) bring this PaaS platform (plus SQL Azure)  into their own data centers. This move is powerful for both Redmond and its service provider partners.

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What BigFix Adds To IBM’s Portfolio Of Green IT Products And Services

Doug Washburn

Today, IBM announced its acquisition of BigFix, an established client and security management suite vendor. Beyond gaining BigFix’s core competencies in securing and managing client devices and servers, the acquisition adds PC power management* to IBM’s already broad portfolio of green IT products and services.

So why is PC power management important to IBM customers?

While IBM already offers its customers energy-efficient servers and their “Tivoli Monitoring for Energy Management” software for the data center, bigger opportunities for savings exist across distributed IT assets, like PCs, monitors, phones, and printers. In fact, Forrester finds that distributed IT assets consume 55% of IT’s total energy footprint versus only 45% in the data center. And the extent of these savings can add up. For example, BigFix cites a large US public school district with 80,000 PCs saving $2.1 million in annual energy costs (or $26 per PC per year) using BigFix’s Power Management software.

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Windows Intune Gives A Glimpse At Microsoft’s Licensing Future

Christopher Voce

With Microsoft's fiscal year end coming to a close today, I wanted to spend some time focusing on future licensing direction. Windows Intune is a significant offering from Microsoft that blends cloud-based management, on-premises tools  from the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), and Windows – as a subscription service. Let’s put Intune aside for a moment.

Like all software vendors, Microsoft is keen on pulling customers into an annuity relationship for their offerings – a dependable revenue stream that isn’t as vulnerable to things like economic downturns or anything that might delay a purchase. When Microsoft first introduced the Software Assurance (SA) program, it was primarily just upgrade rights –  while a license was covered under SA, you had rights to deploy any new versions that came out during that time. Over the years Microsoft has refined the program, adding different benefits to incent customers into the program – but the primary focus of value has remained upgrade rights. Unlike other vendors, Microsoft included security patches and updates as part of a license, so their “software maintenance” program has always been something a little different.

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Does Your CEO Care About Green IT? Not If You’re Stuck In The Data Center

Doug Washburn

To quote Forrester’s CEO and Founder, George Colony, during his keynote at Forrester’s IT Forum EMEA event: “CEOs only care about two things: revenue growth and profitability.” How should we interpret this? CEOs do care about green if it is able to drive revenues, reduce costs and mitigate risks — all of which are essential ingredients in delivering long-term profits and shareholder value.

Evidence is mounting around CEOs' rising interest in corporate sustainability initiatives. For example, the United Nations Global Compact-Accenture CEO Survey 2010 published in June finds that 54% of CEOs globally view sustainability as “very important” to the future success of their businesses. And the Economist Intelligence Unit backs this up by finding that companies that rated their green efforts most highly over the past three years "saw annual average profit increases of 16% and share price growth of 45%, whereas those that ranked themselves worst reported growth of 7% and 12% respectively."

So does your CEO care about green IT?

Not without some convincing. And here’s why: While your CEO might care about green, they may not necessarily care about IT. As an indicator of this, Forrester found that only 16% of the world’s largest companies mention green IT in their annual reports. And as a result, CEOs are most likely unaware of IT’s role in enabling their company's green ambitions. The good news, however, is that IT is playing an increasingly central role in planning and executing companywide green strategies which will lead to C-level visibility.

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