In my last blog someone suggested that in the future I compare and contrast HP BladeSystem Matrix and Vblock. As I thought through this I again found that we were looking at apples and oranges. HP BladeSystem Matrix is a showcase of how HP Converged Infrastructure addresses the problem of IT complexity. The focus for HP BladeSystem Matrix is really about enabling shared services, Private Cloud and even Public Cloud environments. In order to facilitate these environments HP BladeSystem Matrix was designed from the ground up to focus on applications. BladeSystem Matrix is able to automatically provision and manage the entire infrastructure needed for an application. This differs dramatically from Vblock because Vblock does not deliver a application service catalog, a self service provisioning portal, pushbutton/automated provisioning of all the infrastructure needed for an application (servers, VMs, networks, storage, operating systems, and applications), and resource pool management (capacity planning, optimization, HA capabilities and DR capabilities). This is simply not the focus for Vblock.
The best way to explain this is to really discuss this in the context of what is happening in the marketplace around Private Cloud and Cloud.
I get a lot of questions these days around Private Cloud especially from IT executives. You see, their business units have been inundated with the Public Cloud value proposition which promises agility, self service, and low cost. However as the IT organization explores the usage of Public Cloud they discover that if they move their infrastructure and applications to the Public Cloud they then have to deal with new problems including security, compliance, reliability, and even service provider viability (I have seen some Public Cloud offerings cancelled and the clients given only a few days to find a new place to get their service).
IT executives are also worried that Public Cloud will turn into a ‘shadow IT’ situation. I.e.. their business units contract with cloud providers resulting in infrastructure and applications being deployed without the knowledge of the IT org. They fear that this again will turn into a situation where eventually the management and integration of these external islands of infrastructure and applications will get too much for the business units and they toss the cloud contracts over the fence and then ask IT to integrate it with their internal IT run applications, handle security and compliance, etc. This a déjà vue to them as they found this happened before when business units bought infrastructure and put it under desks and in closets and after a period of time handed it to the IT org to care for. They had to deal with an explosion of applications, infrastructure, complexity and cost.
To get ahead of the game, many IT execs are looking at Private Cloud. They feel that if they can build out an environment that has the benefits of Public Cloud without the drawbacks it will be attractive to their business units and they can mitigate or even eliminate the drawbacks.
These IT execs regularly ask me how to best proceed. I tell them they need to implement four things in order to be successful.
- Standardized Services - Private Cloud delivers highly automated deployment and management of services so those services need to be ‘cookie cutter’ standard. And the business units must accept standardized services as well. If the business units are looking for custom infrastructure or applications then they need traditional IT. They would not be able to go to a Public Cloud either.
- Pay-Per-Use Services – Each service should have a price associated with it be it per hour, per user, etc. This way the business unit can clearly see the value and their return on investment. I will say that I have seen Private Cloud implementations without an active billing system but the IT org should at least publish the costs associated with services so the business unit has this knowledge.
- Self-Service – The business unit should be able to log onto a self service portal, see a catalog of services available for them to automatically deploy/purchase. The catalog should show the associated costs of those services.
- Multi-Tenancy – Cloud relies on shared infrastructure. Thus business unit must be willing to share resources with other business units and applications.
Now comes the hard part, building out a Private Cloud is not simple. One needs to:
- deploy infrastructure that is electronically changeable i.e. virtualized networks, virtualized storage, etc
- build out automated scripts and workflows that are designed to deploy and maintain this infrastructure and applications
- build a self service portal for the business units to log into and see the list of available standard applications and their costs
- build out a billing/chargeback system
Most IT execs tell me they don’t have years or the staff to build out their own Private Cloud. They are looking for a way to jumpstart their Private Cloud implementation allowing them to get down to the business of placing their core applications to the service catalog and offering these applications and service catalog to their business units as soon as possible.
This is where BladeSystem Matrix shines. Let’s look at each of the attributes of a Private Cloud and see how BladeSystem Matrix addresses these needs.
- Standardized Services – BladeSystem Matrix provides a “Visio-like” editor that is used to define each service including all the infrastructure and the configuration of that infrastructure and application. It allows the IT organization to define the networks, storage, servers, virtual machines, operating system, and even the applications needed and their configuration. We have even worked with many ISVs to provide a sample library of services (e.g.. Exchange, Oracle RAC, SAP, and many more)
- Pay-Per-Use Services. Each service defined in BladeSystem Matrix can have a cost associated with it and we even included a set of Cloud APIs that allow BladeSystem Matrix to be integrated with a customer’s billing or chargeback system.
- Self-Service. BladeSystem Matrix includes a self service portal which is designed for business unit personal to log into and see the list of services they are allowed to purchase and deploy. From this portal a service can be selected and within minutes it can be deployed via built in via built-in automation technology.
- Multi-Tenancy – The resources within BladeSystem Matrix are treated as a pool of resources. Multiple business units can be given access to the self service portal showing each a unique set of services that they are authorized to deploy and manage. Services can be dynamically scaled up, scaled back, hibernated or deleted pulling and returning resources from the ‘free resource pool”. BladeSystem Matrix even provides capacity planning and optimization tools to manage the active resource pool ensuring the maximum utilization of the resources yet still ensuring service levels are met. It even provides high availability and disaster recovery of the services via redundancy and site to site failover.
We do not purport to call BladeSystem Matrix a “cloud in a Box” but in my opinion it is closer to a turnkey Private Cloud than anything I have seen in the market. The reason I do not call it a cloud in a box’ though is because our customers do need to populate the service catalog with services that are unique to their needs, integrate with their billing/chargeback system, integrate it into their existing IT processes, etc. We certainly make this as easy as possible via APIs and workflows but there is work that must be done before you have an active Private Cloud. While it is not a ‘cloud in a box’ I certainly see it at the backbone for robust Private Cloud or even Public Cloud implementations. By implementing a Private Cloud using BladeSystem Matrix it will most certainly accelerate the time it takes an IT org to implement a Private Cloud by months or even years.