Author Archive: Sundar Raghavan
IT professionals are dealing with a lot of cloud pressure these days. Your organization wants you to make the IT infrastructure more agile and “cloud like,” but without increasing your budget. Public cloud solutions provide scalable, on-demand resources that are cost effective. However, you have concerns around security, policy management and time commitment.
A hybrid cloud model, where you can augment your data center resources and policies with cloud resources, is being discussed as an attractive alternative. At Skytap, our enterprise and ISV customers who are considering hybrid clouds ask us a few important questions that should be considered by all under similar circumstances:
· What application workloads are best suited for the hybrid cloud model?
· What are the key requirements to deliver a hybrid cloud successfully?
· Most importantly, when is a hybrid cloud less than ideal?
We would like to share our perspectives on these key questions with the CloudConnect audience.
Ideal application workloads for hybrid clouds
CIOs and IT directors who we engage with describe their application workloads in terms of predictable workloads managed by IT, and dynamic workloads requested by users.
Predictable workloads such as ERP systems, mail systems, collaboration portals and contract management systems are typically well planned and managed by IT.
On the other hand, users typically create ad-hoc or dynamic workload requests such as environments for development and test, IT sandbox or POC projects. For example:
· A developer may want to create parallel dev/test environments with access to corporate apps and databases.
· An IT operations engineer may want to test clustering and fail-over scenarios between two locations.
These users require self-service capabilities that enable them to manage their own set-ups, teardowns, parallel work streams and remote team collaboration.
By carefully architecting a hybrid cloud solution, IT organizations can move these workloads to the cloud while maintaining full visibility and control.
Key requirements for successful hybrid cloud deployments
Our experience shows that there are five must-have requirements for a successful hybrid cloud deployment:
1. Self-Service User Interface – To cover the broad range of functional users in an enterprise, you need a self-service solution where users are empowered to manage their own environments. At the same time, IT owners need self-service admin tools to implement approved templates, security policies, VPN access, and budget control measures.
2. Secure Cloud Architecture – A hybrid solution must include various security measures including data center security, physical security, access security, virtual data center security, compute (virtual machine) security, network security, storage security and operations security. The data transport between the cloud and your data center must be secured with an IPsec VPN connection.
3. Configurable Role-Based User Access Control (UAC) – Enabling granular user access control (UAC) is a key requirement for enterprise adoption of hybrid cloud based solutions. Most cloud providers only offer a limited set of user access controls. Make sure the solution you evaluate offers a rich UAC model to set fine-grain permissions.
4. Cloud Policies, Quotas and Chargebacks – The ability to enforce enterprise IT policies with cost controls and chargeback billing to internal groups are key requirements for most IT organizations. Make sure the solution offers auto-suspend capabilities when resources are not in use to save costs.
5. Snapshots and Collaboration – Capability to snapshot an entire virtual data center is important to encapsulate enterprise applications and enable IT environments to be replicated accurately and quickly. In a hybrid cloud, the VPN connections and security policies that the applications use must also persist across snapshots. Snapshots are useful to save a ‘golden image’ for rapid deployment at a later date.
What workloads are not ideal for the hybrid cloud model?
Although a hybrid cloud model delivers user agility, cost savings and IT productivity, it is not a panacea for all applications and IT requirements. Here are some practical questions to assess the fit.
· Is your application architected to be efficient in terms of network traffic?
· Can your application run on virtualized environments?
· Do your users understand the nature of data and the applications they are authorized to use in the cloud?
· Does your application require access to graphic accelerators, audio and video controls?
· Does your application require access to specialized hardware or equipment?
While not all of these questions are showstoppers, it is important to ask and assess the fit so that you can be assured of success.
By paying close attention to key application, data, security and user requirements IT organizations can deploy a hybrid cloud solution and get the best of both worlds: scalable, cost effective cloud resources that are secure, configurable and policy compliant.
Cloud computing is one of the most innovative technologies of our time. The growth of Cloud Connect is testimonial to this phenomenon and I’m looking forward to my speaking engagement there at the Cloud Performance Summit.
The cloud model offers many benefits including access to new applications, on-demand resources and lower costs. These are valuable to all users. Yet, most of the discussions are centered on the technical underpinnings such as auto-scaling, load balancing, virtualization, APIs and firewalls that only IT users understand. This is surprising because Gartner research[i] shows that on an average only 6 percent of employees are IT users. For the cloud model to deliver its full potential, businesses should focus on the needs of other 94% of users – the functional users.
In other words, the cloud has to become usable for functional users. Let’s discuss what’s required to make that happen.
Who are functional users and how does the cloud model impact them?
Functional users in any business are end-users like you and me. They are professionals that work with customers to create products and services, and modify them to match changing business conditions. They include consultants, sales engineers, business analysts, application developers, test engineers and training managers.
A cloud model brings new levels of productivity for these users:
· Developers can create multiple parallel work streams without resource constraints
· Test engineers can run functional, performance and load tests simultaneously
· Sales engineers can engage prospects with compelling demos without lugging laptops around
· Training managers can avoid travel, teach remote students and provide hands-on learning
In our work with hundreds of customers at Skytap we have learned that for a cloud solution to be effective, it needs to meet a few “must have” requirements.
What are the key usability and control requirements for the cloud?
1. No application rewrites – Users want their existing applications to leverage the cloud model but do not want to wait for IT to rewrite them to fit the cloud.
2. No delays – Users want current purchasing, set-up and configuration delays to vanish. They love the central tenet of the cloud model – the cloud is ready to go when you are.
3. On-demand scalability – Users like the idea of scaling up and down based on business conditions. Users no longer buy into the idea of “let’s build it big and hope we use it all”.
4. Pay as you go - Gone are days of big upfront capital expenses. In general, users want to consume IT resources just as they do cell phone, cable and electricity. Pay for usage is surely becoming the most prevalent model for the future.
5. Visibility and control – Usability needs to be matched with the reality of running a business. Cloud leaders need visibility and control to manage the cloud usage without impacting user adoption.
Tips for selecting the right cloud solution
Selecting a cloud solution that balances usability and cloud management features is the key to success. The cloud model allows users to test drive a solution to assure that their specific needs are met. During the ‘test drive,’ users should ask (and get convincing answers for) the following:
Self-service solution – Are functional users empowered to create, manage and run their own cloud instances? How much training is required to get started?
Scalability – Does the cloud solution scale up and down easily? Can users export and scale existing environments?
Projects, Groups and Roles – Is the solution compatible for users to work in groups? Can users organize their cloud resources by project, manage user groups and limit access by role?
Publish and collaborate – Is it easy for users to invite other team members and collaborate? Can they granularly control member access?
Audit, reporting and chargebacks – Does the solution provide complete visibility into cloud operations? Can you align cloud usage to business outcomes and accurately allocate costs (chargeback) if necessary?
By asking and answering these questions, cloud users can be sure the solution meets the usability needs of functional users, and at the same time, is aligned with business goals. With the right solution, the cloud can deliver the tremendous IT agility, business productivity and user satisfaction to any business.
[i] Gartner – IT Metrics: IT Spending and Staffing Report, 2011