Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strides toward internal clouds & more efficient data centers

While I was attending a recent Tier-1 conference of hosted service providers, the question arose of how to build a cloud infrastructure like what Amazon, Google and other 'big guns' already have? Cloud computing was looking great, and IT managers all wanted a piece of it.

Then, at a recent Cloud Computing conference in Mountain View, a number of CIO panelists (especially one representing the state of California) treated the cloud with caution: What of security, SLA control, vendor lock-in and auditability? Cloud computing was still looking nascent.

The solution is the "great taste, less filling" answer -- IT orgs that already own data centers, that want the economic benefits of clouds, but wouldn't outsource a thing to a cloud, can now build an "internal cloud" or a "private cloud". (Whether the words used to
describe it are Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Hardware-as-a-Service, or Utility Computing, these are simply infrastructures that has properties of "elasticity" and "self-healing," while adapting to user demand to preserve service levels)

As Dan Kusnetzky recently pointed out, such environments can "continue to scan the environment to manage events based upon time, occurrence of specific events, capacity considerations and ongoing workload demands" and adjust as-needed."

Well, Cassatt announced today software that does just that. It's the 5.2 release of Active Response. It's capable of transforming existing hetergeneous infrastructures into ones that act "Amazon EC2-like" to build an "internal compute cloud" behind existing firewalls. Whether the environments are Windows, Sun, Linux or IBM platforms. Whether they contain VMs from VMware, Citrix or Parallels. Regardless of networking gear from Cisco, Extreme, Force 10 and others. And, regardess of whether there is a need to manage physical apps, virtual apps, or *both* at the same time (you can even go from P to V and back again on-the-fly).

These details all matter because of a fallacious assumption the industry is making, one that's being proliferated by leading VM vendors: That all IT problems will all be solved IF you virtualize 100% of your infrastructure, and IF you use that vendor's technology. It's not true; rather, IT has to PLAN for managing physical and virtual apps from the same console. IT has to PLAN to manage VMs from differing vendors at the same time.

Scott Lowe observed similar issues in his recent article on the Challenges of cloud computing -

"What about moving resources from one cloud computing environment to another environment? Is it possible to move resources from one cloud to another, like from an internal cloud to an external cloud? What if the clouds are built on different underlying technologies? This doesn't even begin to address the practical and technological concerns around security or privacy that come into play when discussing external clouds interacting with internal ones.

"Given that virtualization typically plays a significant role in cloud computing environments, the interoperability of hypervisors and guest virtual machines (VMs) will be a key factor in the acceptance of widespread cloud computing. Will organizations be able to make a VMware ESX-powered internal cloud work properly with a Xen-powered external cloud, or vice versa?

The ability to build a utility-computing style "internal cloud" is now very real. Check out the Cassatt website, or download a new white paper on internal clouds, and how they generate efficiency and agility-- without the hobbling effects of using an external cloud. I can attest to its quality :)

There's also Steve Oberlin's, Cassatt's Chief Scientist, overview video of the product.

Finally, consider registering for a joint webcast he's doing with James Staten of Forrester Research on November 20th. They'll also be covering cloud computing, internal cloud technologies, and the overall impact on data center efficiency.

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