The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Sticking your toe in the water of cloud storage

Cloud ideas2.pngWhile I was at VMWorld, one of the vendors with an interesting product was: Panzura. I briefly talked with one of thier folks about their product that essentially looks to the local network like NAS, but is really a cache for cloud based storage.

 

“The NAS series of Quicksilver Cloud Storage Controllers have been tuned specifically to bring the benefits of local NAS to a globally-distributed enterprise.  Built upon the industry’s first true enterprise-class, cloud-integrated global file system and unified namespace, the Quicksilver NAS series allows any user to access the latest version of any file from any location at any time with little to no latency.  The Panzura Global Cloud Storage System supports Exabyte-level capacity, leverages cloud (public or private) economics, and is a seamless transition for anyone familiar with traditional NAS.”

 

This sort of abstraction can hide the complexities of a hybrid cloud while still providing many of the benefits. Currently they are working with HP's cloud storage team amoung others.

Computing as fuel for the enterprise engine. What is HP ConvergedCloud?

digital fuel.pngNormally in this blog I try not to get too HP product specific but instead focus on business and technology trends and their intersection, but people keep asking me foundational questions about HP’s ConvergedCloud offering.  Asking questions like: “What’s different about HP Converged Cloud and all the other IaaS offerings that are out there?”

 

HP Converged Cloud is a common architectural foundation supporting traditional IT and private, managed, and public clouds.   It has been defined so that enterprises can extend the power of the cloud across infrastructure, applications and information to provide:

  • ChoiceFinding the right solution for an organization through an open, standards-based (OpenStack) approach supporting multiple hypervisors, operating systems and development environments as well as a heterogeneous infrastructure and an extensible partner ecosystem.
  • Confidence – through a management and security solutions that spans information, applications and infrastructure.
  • Consistency – through a single common architecture.

 

So it is not quite the same as just a generic IaaS, since it enables the management of a hybrid cloud ecosystem. Not everything will be going to the cloud (anytime soon), so having a flexible mechanism to manage a diverse environment is an important part of increasing flexibility.

 

HP ConvergedCloud is built on principles of modularity with the various architectural layers constructed to interact by design.  To do this, it includes a variety of capabilities including:

1)      Converged IaaS layer

2)      Management and security layer

3)      Information and reporting layer

4)      A common portal – to provide a unifying experience to create and consume cloud services

 

So it enables more than just a platform for dropping in virtualized machines. HP ConvergedCloud should allow organizations to get an environment up quickly and hit the ground running.

 

There are so many interesting options available when you begin to look at computing resources as something other than hardware and more as fuel for the enterprise engine.

Interop takeaways

Cloud notice.pngLast week I was at Interop and I just saw that CIO magazine released a post titled 5 Key Interop 2012 Takeaways for CIOs and Other IT Pros. They were:

 

1)      Interoperability is making a comeback – it definitely is the case that as organizations move to a hybrid cloud infrastructure that interoperability issues develop. This is one of the reasons HP is focused on Converged Cloud.

2)      Security needs to be throughout the network, and that's no longer empty talk – I’ve been saying for a long time that security needs to permeate an organization’s architecture. If there is one thing we should have learned from the 1990s, it is that perimeter based security doesn’t work.

3)      Cloud infrastructure is becoming a commodity, but new services will help providers protect their profits – It amazed me the amount of time and space that was dedicated to cloud at Interop. There were a large number of providers and organizations selling enabling capabilities. Naturally all of them were talking about how different they are. One person’s commodity is another another’s core business.

4)      As resources move into the cloud, IT operations is forced to navigate in the dark – I don’t necessarily agree with this observation. There are numerous ways to provide greater visibility in the cloud. Granted few of them are free, but this is also an area HP has been focused on with Converged Cloud. It needs to look like one enterprise computing environment at the end of the day, regardless of where the bits are being twittled.

5)      DNS vulnerabilities are becoming too risky to ignore – this last one is something I’ve heard a great deal more about recently. DNS is definitely a vulnerable point in today’s Internet protocols. OpenDNS recently unveiled a secure DNS service for consumers (it runs on both windows and iOS). It’s interesting how many people are concerned about security… but don’t realize that their DNS requests are sent in the clear and that can allow quite a bit of information leakage. Of course if you always use a VPN your risk is minimized.

Are the underlying technology details a distraction for the CIO?

CIOs must set the technology strategy, so they can't afford to spend time on day to day technology buying and pricing decisions. Information week magazine had an interview with Ray Lane about the effect of technology shifts on the CIO role that was focused on this issue. One of the underlying aspects of cloud computing is that those technology decisions are offloaded onto the cloud provider and that is why the shift the relationship management is becoming so important, both external (vendor) relationship management as well as internal relationship management.

 

The CIO team needs to focus on the strategic job of using information and insight to run companies. "Today, the speed and the amount of information out there, the amount of information to be managed, the ability to compete with information, is just too important," Ray Lane said. This echoes some of the “IT World of Abundance” views I’ve expressed before.

 

One issue this brings up though is what happens when there is a tactical issue. You can’t worry about the 5 year vision, when your systems are down. Does a hybrid cloud increase the focus on strategic business value delivery or does managing the relationships place as much (or more) of a tactical burden as managing the actual hardware and software directly? For most organizations, their visibility into what is actually happening should go up, but it is something to be aware.

The service integrator coming to businesses near you

Technical Reach To BusinessOne of the trends that’s been going on for a number of years is adding flexibility to an organization’s capabilities through variable access to resources from a variety of organizations. This multi-sourcing turns a corporation into an Ecosystem of service providers and in-house teams. This is nothing new and IaaS, SaaS… are the latest examples of this trend.

 

Over the last decade as more work is outsourced, the oversight of the various service providers has become a specialized service area in itself – much like the prime contractor role for construction. It’s not just about the provisioning of services though; the focus is on the on-going orchestration of services as well. Many times the Service Integrator (SI) accepts the software/hardware from the service providers into production for the client as their representative. The SI role is a business process (BPO) that’s been outsourced. They need to have expertise and focus on centralized management, becoming the “process owners” standardizing operational processes and ensuring an enterprise architecture exists and is implemented.

 

As businesses move to adopt hybrid cloud computing approaches, the skills of these Service Integrators should start to shine, since they will be experts in the delivery of end-to-end solutions that consistently deliver value. The dynamic nature of cloud is going to require specialized expertise that organizations will need to determine if they want to develop in-house or purchase from others – the assumption that it will be in-house is no longer valid.

 

Selecting a service integrator that can orchestrate a hybrid delivery model is not going to be easy since they will need to manage:

  • Multiple providers – not just the people but integrate the systems and measures (KPIs) as well. For example, you can’t drop service requests between providers just because their systems haven’t ever talked to each other before.
  • Processes – The SI will need to have well defined (and automated) processes that can span organizations as well. They need rigor and flexibility – a tough combination to maintain.
  • Thinking strategically and acting quickly – Since the service integrator is in it for the long haul, spanning the contracts of the other service organizations, the SI will need to be measured with metrics that are more strategic in nature. Since they are coordinating the response of others, the operational metrics will be applied as well. The diversity of focus for these metrics can cause conflict, so communications across the Ecosystem will be a key to success.
  • Sourcing and operational issues – The SI is brought in to allow the client to focus on strategic business issues so the SI needs to handle the technical concerns. Trust is the foundation for this relationship. Knowing the status of the current situation as well as progress toward corporate goals will be a characteristic of the successful SI.
  • Service development, management, improvement and operations – The SI needs to take charge and be a trusted advisor to the client on performance and payments to all the service providers.

There is no doubt that large firms possess many of the capability necessary to run the service integrator function internally. Many desire to retain this vital function in-house because they want to control the governance and solutioning model. The question that needs to be answered is if the IT service integration is core to their business and where they want to spend their internal resources. As the corporate Ecosystem becomes more complex, more specialized skills will be required. Investing in creating and maintaining those skills and tools needs to be an active decision. This is becoming a specialized skill that will prove to be tricky for many organizations.

 

The conflicts mentioned previously between operational and strategic focus, measures and integration are opportunities for innovation in service integration. Service integration specialization will enable an increasing level of flexibility for many organizations. 3rd party providers are going to bring skills to the market (and your business) that may be out of reach internally. The build/buy decision starts with a  fundamental assessment into how well your current sourcing strategy supports your IT operating model and then looks deeper to figure out how well your IT operating model supports the business strategy. The decision is formidable but bringing in a third party will challenge your organization and your service providers in how they price their work, reconcile conflicts of interest and qualify their provider. The service Integration role will turn into a critical success factor for enabling a more flexible and highly integrated instant-on future.

 

Naturally service integration is an are HP has been working in for years.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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