Next-Generation Private Cloud

A new generation of private cloud environments is being created now, ones where all the management is done via SaaS. This way, the heavy lifting is done by others, and you inherit an IT as a Service environment ready for you to add new workloads without worrying too much about upgrades, management constructs, or even, in some cases, security controls. It is all done for you. For many companies, this is one way to transform to an on-premises cloud and then to a hybrid cloud. There is a growing list of players; however, the first out the door are ZeroStack, Platform9, and SkySecure from Skyport Systems.

Each of these companies has a unique view of a private cloud. Platform9, for example, takes your existing virtual environments and layers OpenStack for management within its SaaS. ZeroStack works on bare-metal servers—generally from them, but others are supportedand Skyport Systems sends you its SkySecure server, which has some very unique, highly secure hardware in use (more on that later). Yet, these systems all have one thing in common. They work by using a SaaS as the management layerthe deployment layerand therefore provide IT as a  Service. The goal is to define the services you wish to support and just move out of the way as others deploy what they need to get their jobs done.

The IT role does not disappear, but parts of that role now move to the SaaS provider.

Managing Management

ZeroStack, Platform9, and Skyport Systems all manage the management for you. ZeroStack and Skyport will patch your systems, patch the management stack, and maintain all that for you without IT’s intervention, unless of course you need that intervention for application planning. In that case, your IT staff become part of the workflow to move workloads between systems as necessary, or to approve. Platform9 manages the OpenStack environment for its customers. This one-time science experiment that often failed in production has people who develop OpenStack managing the management stack that is used to deploy workloads, etc.

Upgrading a management stack is often painful and time consuming; due to potential downtime, it rarely happens in a reasonable amount of time. These companies take that worry out of IT’s hands, leaving IT to concentrate on the applications and their support once more.

Leveraging the Cloud

These solutions leverage a secure SaaS portal to access and manage the physical resources, which implies the SaaS portal is reachable by IT staff no matter where they reside or what trip they are on. If IT cannot handle the work, you can even call the companies and they will help you out. This sort of managed SaaS is growing and allows for a larger degree of flexibility. However, with flexibility comes the need to add in a bit more security to ensure only the right people are accessing the SaaS. This can be added by using tools like Microsoft’s Adallom, Imperva Skyfence, Netskope, and a host of other transparent and physical proxy solutions. Skyport Systems benefits from these tools but also has built within it a different security model. Management and workloads within the hypervisor actually run on different processors, or different makes and models. This way, if you attack one, you cannot reach the other, as the hardware will not let you. Escaping the VM through management becomes even more difficult than it is already—more likely improbable.

By leveraging a SaaS for management, you can begin or continue your existing transformation to a hybrid cloud.

Private to Hybrid Cloud

ZeroStack and Skyport Systems install a copy of either KVM or Xen as the base hypervisor. Platform9, on the other hand, will work with multiple existing hypervisors. Granted, it cannot yet combine them into one OpenStack cloud, but you can manage each environment from within Platform9. Platform9 is poised to bridge to public clouds. Any of these systems can bridge to hybrid clouds with a bit of scripting using Puppet or Chef, but at the moment, that is up to IT to deliver. Will there be more official bridges to the cloud outside of what VMware currently provides? We must wait and see.

Closing Thoughts

Doing more with less is the current mantra of IT and IT transformation. However, intelligently doing more with less is the best approach. These three companies are removing management of management from IT’s hands while allowing IT to manage the systems from anywhere. This is the ultimate in flexibility.

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