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Analysis

New managed and automated paths to private clouds provide swifter adoption at lower risk
Dana Gardner By: Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst, Interarbor Solutions
Published: 28th October 2010
Copyright Interarbor Solutions © 2010
Logo for Interarbor Solutions

Businesses are looking to cloud-computing models to foster agility and improve time-to-market for new services. Yet attaining cloud benefits can founder without higher levels of unified server, data, network, storage, and applications management.

These typically disparate forms of management must now come together in new ways to mutually support a variety of different cloud approaches -- public, private, and hybrid. Without adoption of such Business Service Automation (BSA) capabilities, those deploying applications on private and hybrid clouds will almost certainly encounter increased complexity, higher risk, and stubborn cost structures.

This latest BriefingsDirect discussion therefore focuses on finding low-risk, high-reward paths to cloud computing by using increased automation and proven reference models for cloud management—and by breaking down traditional IT management silos. In doing so, the progression toward cloud benefits will come more quickly, at lower total cost, and with an ability to rapidly scale to even more applications and data.

We're here with two executives from HP Software & Solutions to learn more about what BSA is and why it's proving essential to managed and productive cloud computing adoption: Mark Shoemaker, Executive Program Manager for Cloud Computing in the Software & Solutions Group at HP, and Venkat Devraj, Chief Technology Officer for Application Automation, also in HP’s Software & Solutions Group. The discussion is moderated by BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Shoemaker: There is hardly a place we go that we don’t end up talking to our customers about cloud. Most of the enterprise customers we talk to are looking at private cloud, the internal cloud solution that they own, that they then provide to their business partners, whether that’s the development teams or other elements in their business. Most of them are looking to build on the virtualization work that they've already done.

They want to improve their productivity, definitely get better utilization out of what they have already got. They want IT to be your better partner in the business. What that means is to shorten the time that the business has to wait for the services.

Devraj: There is also an interesting micro trend that’s occurring. A lot of the application teams, end-user business teams, are getting increasingly sophisticated. They're learning about private cloud implementations. Consequently, they're demanding levels of service from IT that are difficult to provide without a private cloud.

For example, because of things like agile development methodologies, application teams are doing a lot more application deployments and code releases than ever before. It's not uncommon to see dozens of application releases for different applications happening during the same day.

IT operations are just bombarded with these requirements and requests, and they are just unable to keep up based on yesterday’s processes, which are relatively static. These application teams and business unit teams are quite influential.

They're even willing to fund specific initiatives to allow their teams to work in self-service mode, and IT ops are finding themselves in reactive mode. They have to support them, make their internal processes more fluid and dynamic, and leveraging technology that allows that kind of dynamism.

... The third-party companies, the cloud providers, the pure-play server enablers, have an unfair advantage. Because they were started relatively recently, in the last few years, they have the advantage of standardized platforms and delivery units.

They can say, "Okay, I'm going to deliver only Linux-based platforms, Windows-based platforms, or certain applications." When you look at the typical enterprise today, however, IT has a lot more to deliver.

There is a lot of prevailing heterogeneity in terms of multiple software platforms and versions. There is a lack of standardization. It's very difficult to talk about cloud and delivery within the enterprise in the same breath, when you look at these kinds of technical challenges.

As a result, IT is undergoing a lot of pressure—but they have to deliver given the kind of challenges that they face. That’s going to require a lot of education and access to the right kind of technology, training, and guidance.

Shoemaker: Just to add to Venkat’s comment, we're seeing the business driving IT and demanding that agility and that flexibility. We talk to a lot of our customers, where their own coworkers have taken corporate credit cards and gone out into the public cloud, procured space, and have begun developing outside of them. IT really has to get in front of this. They have to manage all this.

... The one thing that’s different about cloud is that it really is a supply chain. It’s the supply chain of IT technology that the business consumes. If you think about what a supply chain is, it’s something that’s got to be repeatable. It has to be governed, and it provides a baseline or foundation and building blocks to build those services that you can then customize on top of the business.

So, the farther up that you can go with your standard building blocks, the less difficult it is to manage and focus on the custom business-facing functions on the front-end.

To do this, cloud has helped us out in a lot of ways. One of the challenges IT has always had is to get the business to consume standards. Because of a lot of hype in the market, the business absolutely is convinced that they get it, and they want the business benefits that cloud offers.

Even if the business decides to go to a public cloud, they still have to consume those elements in a standard fashion. There's no way out of that.

Devraj: And yet, the software used by these enterprises tends to be disparate, heterogeneous, and requires a lot of domain knowledge to be able to manage, resulting in significant delays and bottlenecks associated with service delivery. Those processes just don’t scale in the cloud.

At Stratavia we had built a patented technology to manage and control varied software stacks, such as databases, web servers, application servers, and even well-known packaged applications, including Microsoft Exchange, Oracle E-Business Suite, and SAP.

The content that I talk about becomes an abstraction layer, where the customer, the end user, the people who consume the services, see a very easy to understand service catalog. They can click on it. They can choose some menu options, some values from a drop-down box, and then specify exactly what they need, and have the response come back in minutes and in hours, rather than days and weeks, as is traditionally the case.

For example, just at the database layer, within the enterprise, it's very common to see four or five different platforms in use, such as DB2, SQL Server, Oracle, and so on. By automating the operations management lifecycle around these layers, Stratavia has made it possible for the enterprise to deliver and manage these assets as a service within the context of the cloud.

As more and more of HP’s and Stratavia’s joint customers started seeing value in that capability, HP brought Stratavia into its BSA/Business Technology Optimization umbrella.

There's a big gap in IT today, which is IT/Ops Engineering or IT/Ops Architecture. That’s a big missing silo within IT/Ops. And a lot of the operators today that rely on scripts, command-line stuff, and point-and-click tools need to evolve themselves to more of an architect approach. They need more of taking stock of the big picture, and taking the tribal knowledge that they have in their heads and looking at the out-of-the-box content that HP provides and selecting the right content that corresponds to their tribal knowledge.

When they go into the cloud, the underlying management, things like compliance and governance, are not out of whack. They're able to successfully take that knowledge, put it in there, and then, in their new role as architects or engineering folks, they're able to watch, measure, and make modifications as appropriate.

So, the role that people play, that key subject matter experts play, is very crucial as part of walking before running with automation.

Gardner: Now that you have mentioned Stratavia, and for the benefit of our listeners and readers, HP has acquired Stratavia, and there was also quite a bit of related product and service news on Sept. 15 around BSA as the acquisition was unveiled.

Shoemaker: Obviously, the Stratavia acquisition was a huge, huge win for us, and puts us in a great position to help our customers transform their infrastructure. ... And several other things have happened in the last 60 days. We had VMworld, and we presented a cohesive strategy for infrastructure and even PaaS built on the BladeSystem Matrix hardware platform that we have, Converged Infrastructure. We've combined that with two other pieces and a piece of Cloud Service Automation (CSA) software.

CloudStart is a consulting and a professional services-led engagement capability where we come in and work with the customer to get that transformation process nailed, so we can quickly get them moving into the cloud benefits.

On the back end of that, there is another piece that we announced called Cloud Maps, which is really more knowledge, but in a different capacity, in that it offers downloadable templates, preconfigured applications, and best practices for sizing.

We see the Stratavia acquisition fueling this fire, because in the end, cloud is a solution, and a solution needs content, and content wins. Content is what the customer is able to consume and use day one, when the solution is in. So it's important. And we've done a lot there.

We now have a best-in-class content provider in Stratavia that’s come on board to help round out the capabilities and add more into what the customer can get out of our solutions in very quick order.

All that sits on a recently refreshed BSA portfolio, with significant enhancements and new capabilities across network, automations, servers, and storage, that really makes all this happen.

... Let's face it, a lot of the CIOs are looking at a data center that’s packed full of applications that they probably don’t feel as if they have got a good handle on. Now, cloud is coming into the picture, and they've got two things to do here.

Number one, they need to start applying those new business methodologies to IT around providing cloud and the things that go with that, but also they have got a transformation piece to go along. And that can be very daunting.

What we've done is looked at the experience of helping previous customers do that work and we have applied that into the CloudStart and Cloud Maps, CloudStart being the planning and the upfront work that you need to get done.

So, we're right there with you. You don’t have to read chapter one of the book.

Then, as we put the infrastructure in with CSA for Matrix in the frame, we're embedding some of the CSA software inside of the Blade Matrix frame. So you have a way to build infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and manage it through the platform throughout the lifecycle.

Then, on the back end of that, we have the preconfigured application templates. If I need a SQL Server image to put into the system, I can pull that from Cloud Maps, build it into a framework and offer that very quickly. I don’t have to go and figure out how to size for this piece or what golden template looks like for this application.

It's really about obtaining a running start into the cloud, and one that’s not going to leave you wanting in a year or two. You have to be careful. Cloud is a great enablement technology and a lot of people are looking at IaaS, but that’s the starting point for it, and then you have to manage everything that you put inside of that as well.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

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