Here Comes the Heterogeneous Distributed Enterprise Cloud

VMware’s purchase of DynamicOps signaled a major shift in both VMware’s strategy, and in the market for cloud management solutions. Previously VMware strategy (with vCloud Director) was focused mainly upon addressing development, test, pilot and training type use cases on its own vSphere platform. This relegated clouds to tactical and transient use cases which while important for many enterprise organizations, are not the bread and butter use cases that drive IT Operations day in and day out. Now here comes the enterprise cloud.

The Enterprise Cloud

For a quick preview of the significance of the change at VMware, here is a brief description of what VMware will be showing from a management perspective at VMworld:

“VMware will be showcasing tech previews of our new management suites, including DynamicOps, vCenter Operations and vFabric Application Management. More specifically, we’ll be showing the provisioning and management of IT services across heterogeneous environments – VMware-based private/public clouds, physical infrastructures, multiple hypervisors and AWS.”

The differences between the above statement and VMware’s previous management position could not be more pronounced. As we surmised upon the purchase of DynamicOps by VMware, VMware will not only maintain and enhance the heterogeneous nature of DynamicOps, other members of the management suite (vCenter Operations and vFabric Application Management) will apparently be following suite and become heterogeneous as well.

What this means is that Cloud Management has just taken a dramatic step up in sophistication and scope of applicability. Heterogeneity is just one aspect of what Cloud Management is all about now. Cloud Management now includes the following aspects:

  • Support for Multiple Hypervisors – this is table stakes in the new Cloud Management game. DynamicOps supports vSphere, Hyper-V, XenServer and KVM. This means that when a service catalog is presented to a user that the ordered service can be deployed on any of the supported hypervisor platforms.
  • Support for Public Cloud Platforms – DynamicOps span of management includes a public cloud computing platform like Amazon EC2. So when a user orders up a service, not only can they choose among multiple hypervisor platforms, they can also choose an external cloud like Amazon EC2.
  • Physical Resource Provisioning – All of this focus upon support for multiple hypervisors and clouds risks leaving out one important detail. The physical hardware often needs to be configured and provisioned as well to support service ordered by the end user. If you can use one produce to handle both physical provisioning and the provisioning of services in your cloud it may be highly advantageous to do so.
  • Workload Resource Guarantees – If you are going to run enterprise applications in your shared tenant cloud environment, then you had better be sure that they perform well for their end user constituents. This is an area that will ultimately require the integration of APM solutions with Cloud Management solutions. That has not happened yet, but what has happened is that resource reservations and guarantees have been built into enterprise class Cloud Management solutions. This means that at the time that the service is ordered, a resource utilization profile can be selected and the required resources are reserved for the application in question.
  • Enterprise Application Support – This is the most difficult of all of the new aspects of Cloud Management to do well, as it cuts across so many aspects of a Cloud Management solution. At the provisioning level, it is critical that all of the unique provisioning requirements for all of the VM’s are met and that their dependencies upon each other are met as well. The resources required by an enterprise application usually go well beyond just the virtual memory and CPU which are easily specified at the hypervisor layer. There are almost always high end databases involved, each of which usually has very specific storage and storage performance requirements. Encapsulating all of this into a workable framework or template is a huge challenge, and this truly is an ongoing frontier for all of the enterprise class Cloud Management vendors.
  • Cloud Execution Options – This is all about where does the cloud reside. Every vendor offers an on premise option where you install their software on top of the hypervisor platform. Some vendors support clouds that span the on premise virtualization environment and a public cloud like Amazon EC2. VirtuStream is unique in that they offer both an on premise option, and hosting in their own data centers.

 

Vendor Product Supported Virtualization
Platforms 
Supported Public Cloud
Platforms 
Physical Resource
Provisioning 
Workload Resource Guarantees  Enterprise Application
Support 
Cloud Execution Options
VMware DynamicOps vSphere, Hyper-V, XenServer, KVM Amazon EC2, vCloud Yes Yes Via application specific templates On premise, vCloud partner, Amazon EC2
Cloupia  Converged Infrastructure Solution
vSphere, Hyper-V, KVM Amazon, Rackspace, Terremark, Saavis, Tier3, vCloud NetApp Flexpod and EMC VSPEX No No On premise, vCloud partner, Amazon & Rackspace
FluidOps eCloud Manager  vSphere, vSphere, XenServer, Xen Open Source
 Amazon EC2, vCloud, CloudSwith, Azure NetApp FlexPod, VCE Vblock and EMC VSPEX Yes Extensive support for SAP and other enterprise applications On premise
VirtuStream XStream
vSphere, KVM, Red Hat KVM, CentOS, XenServer, PowerVM None NetApp, Flexpod, Cisco UCS, IBM Power, and EMC VPLEX Yes Extensive support for SAP and other enterprise applications
On premise, VirtuStream Cloud

 

A Hypervisor and Cloud Management is not all you Need

Building and operating an enterprise class cloud is a complex undertaking. The mix of applications is going to be very diverse, and some of those applications are going to be very demanding both in terms of performance requirements and how they are managed. You may find that some applications are currently being managed by legacy systems management agents – agents that for a variety of good reasons you may be reluctant to install in your virtualized data center or your cloud. Intigua has a intriguing solution to this problem – which is to apply application virtualization techniques to these agents so that they are more easily managed.

There is also a fundamental problem that arises when you bring multiple hypervisors to the table. Each of those hypervisors  comes with it own management console – which brings along a set of processes and formats unique to that hypervisor. Hotlink has addressed this issue by allowing you to use vCenter to manage all of those hypervisors, and use the vSphere standards in terms of templates, snapshots, and policies across the various hypervisor platforms.

The point is that while heterogeneity and complexity might end up being a realities in your enterprise cloud, you should strive to keep your management processes as consistent, leveraged and lean as they currently are in a clean vSphere only virtualization environment. Bringing in another hypervisor and a cloud management offering that supports N hypervisors and M public clouds may allow your cloud to put workloads in all of those places, but it does not implement leveraged and consistent management of this now very heterogeneous, distributed and complex environment.

Summary

Taking your cloud from a dev/test/pilot/training use case to a platform for business critical enterprise applications introduces significant new requirements that first generation cloud management platforms were not designed to meet. Elasticity and self-service are nice features, but these features alone fall far short of what is needed to provision and run enterprise applications in clouds. With the acquisition of DynamicOps, VMware has signaled that it understands this, and now has a product that is fully capable of supporting heterogeneous enterprise class clouds. We will likely now see a divergence in Cloud Management offerings with some (the list above) focusing upon these demanding use cases, and others (like Embotics) focusing upon addressing elasticity and self-service with the highest possible level of convenience and fastest time to value for the customer.

Bernd Harzog (318 Posts)

Bernd Harzog is the Analyst at The Virtualization Practice for Performance and Capacity Management and IT as a Service (Private Cloud). Bernd is also the CEO and founder of APM Experts a company that provides strategic marketing services to vendors in the virtualization performance management, and application performance management markets. Prior to these two companies, Bernd was the CEO of RTO Software, the VP Products at Netuitive, a General Manager at Xcellenet, and Research Director for Systems Software at Gartner Group. Bernd has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago.

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