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Bernard Sanders

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CloudBolt Software Announces Revolutionary CloudGoat Product

Posted by Bernard Sanders

4/1/16 6:28 PM

CloudBolt Software announced today the release of a new product in its portfolio - CloudGoat. For five years, CloudBolt's award-winning, cornerstone product has enabled its customers to achieve hybrid cloud management and self-service provisioning, turning their existing datacenters into a cloud provider, providing IaaS and PaaS. The new product is an exciting foray into the new field of GaaS (Goat as a Service).

Bernard Sanders, CTO of CloudBolt Software emphasized that CloudBolt has been lauded for its ability to manage brownfield (pre-existing) environments to the same level that it can manage greenfield (newly built) environments. This new CloudGoat product offering now allows enterprise IT departments to turn actual green fields into actual brown fields. Just as it has done with its flagship CloudBolt product, the company will be making CloudGoat available for download free of charge (trial licenses cover up to 25 VMs/goats), and expect that this product will also be recognized as the best in its class (though it is unclear at this time what class that is).

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Topics: Consumability, Cloud, Services

On Cloud Management Platforms and Interchangeable Parts

Posted by Bernard Sanders

3/11/16 7:37 AM

"A little piece of advice. You see an Agent, you do what we do. Run. You run your a** off."
Cypher, The Matrix

If you are evaluating Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs), make sure to consider whether the solution requires an agent on the VMs it manages.  This is important because your CMP should provide visibility and manageability across all servers, not just the ones it built itself.  CMPs that require an agent for full management greatly inhibit your ability to on-board previously-existing (aka “brownfield”) servers.  Consider the challenge of getting root/Administrator access to all VMs across all environments and installing software on them.  Also, test what happens when people provision VMs outside of the CMP by going straight to vCenter, AWS, etc.  Will the tool automatically discover and manage them, or will an administrator need to manually install agents first?  Also consider which OS versions the agent is supported on, how quickly new agent versions are released to support new OS versions, and what the upgrade process is for existing agents.
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Inclusion of an agent makes a CMP more like a monitoring or configuration management system.  It blurs an important line between monitoring and operations.  Agent installation and inter-process communications also raise legitimate security concerns.  By contrast, a product designed as a manager-of-managers gets all the information it needs through the APIs of each virtualization system, public cloud, and configuration manager.   The CMP automatically discovers and manages VMs built with other tools in exactly the same way as servers it builds.  All systems are equal.

This was our design philosophy for CloudBolt.  We recognized that enterprise datacenters have a plethora of pre-existing interfaces and tools.  Rather than supplanting or requiring changes to existing operational standards, we complement and integrate with them.  Our approach enables IT architects to choose the best set of tools for each specific function.

I would go so far as to say that if a product uses agents, it is not a CMP.  A management ecosystem should be comprised of interchangeable parts and components that respect their boundaries, and integrate with each other over published, documented APIs.  Administrators should be able to swap out any particular monitoring (or backup, virtualization, or even CMP) solution for another as requirements change or better versions come along, all without affecting other functional areas.  This is central to CloudBolt's approach, and it’s one of the reasons it is consistently ranked highest amongst CMPs.

Download CloudBoltand see for yourself.

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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, Implementation, CloudBolt

Reflections on CliQr's Acquisition by Cisco

Posted by Bernard Sanders

3/1/16 9:47 PM

Today, Cisco announced its intent to acquire CliQr, for a reported $260M.  This acquisition validates the importance that Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs) play in enterprise IT shops, forming the foundation of a hybrid cloud strategy. 

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What prompted this move on CliQr’s part?  Perhaps they were feeling the heat from the likes of CloudBolt and decided it was time to retreat to safety.  In head-to-head engagements, CloudBolt consistently beats CliQr (and all other solutions) in technical evaluations of hybrid cloud managers / CMPs.  This includes evaluations from individual enterprise companies that have done their own product bake-offs (such as GE, Williams-Sonoma, Blackboard, and Waste Management), industry awards such as the Modern Infrastructure Impact Award for best CMP, and a number of analyst and third-party comparisons.

People frequently remark on CloudBolt's unparalleled simplicity, flexibility, and extensibility.  They’re also impressed with the breadth and depth of our integration with virtualization technologies, public clouds, configuration managers (such as Puppet and Chef), and various technologies & tools including Infoblox, ServiceNow, Slack, HP OO, Docker, vRealize Orchestrator, and many others.

It's unclear what effect CliQr's acquisition will have on their product roadmap and current customers.  Much of the value of CMPs comes from vendor neutrality - their non-partisan ability to integrate with the vast range of IT systems from all vendors.  It will be interesting to see if CliQr will maintain this kind of neutrality.  Will they, for instance, invest in integration with technologies that are competitive to Cisco's offerings such as VMware's NSX?

In the meantime, CloudBolt will continue to lead the way in hybrid / multi-cloud management and to drive IT transformation forward.

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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, Hybrid Cloud

Introducing the Cloud Supply Chain Validator, integrated with C2 v4.0

Posted by Bernard Sanders

7/22/13 7:30 AM

Modern IT environments are subjects of constant change, and thus are likely to be incapacitated by unexpected effects of one of these alterations. Storage, network, server configuration, passwords, DNS, VM templates, and applications are modified frequently, and any of these changes could have ripple effects that are not caught by traditional monitoring solutions.

Traditional monitoring systems are great for ensuring that any one specific infrastructure component is healthy, but they typically do not/can not cover the end-to-end use case that IT consumers depend on every day. In this way, traditional monitoring can be thought of as unit testing for your data center. Unit tests are vital, but they are not a substitute for functional tests that ensure that all the individual components work together to fulfill end-users’ needs.

Enter C2’s Cloud Supply Chain Validation (CSCV). This feature, new in C2 v4.0, empowers CloudBolt customers with a new way to test the end-to-end processes that are most sensitive to environmental change. CSCV ships with a set of tests that can be run on demand or on a schedule, the most prominent among them being a provision and decommission test. This test, run nightly by default, executes a series of provisioning orders, decommissioning each server that was built as it goes. C2 admins decide how many tests they want run each night and for each one they provide an environment, group, OS build, and any other provisioning parameters that may be needed for that environment. If the tests fail, the admin is notified and can act proactively to resolve the situation.

C2 Cloud Supply Chain Validator
The CSCV test configuration

Provisioning is the ideal workflow to test the health of infrastructure, because it is so far reaching. Fully automated provisioning will hit the network, storage, virtualization systems, public cloud providers, and potentially DNS, asset tracking systems, monitoring, backup, hostname reservation systems, change management systems, and any other infrastructure that CloudBolt has been configured to interact with via its orchestration hooks and external orchestrators. Knowing that provisioning is healthy, administrators can have confidence that the bulk of their systems are behaving properly and able to interact with each other as expected.

C2 Screenshot Cloud Supply Chain Validator
Run and view CSCV test results directly from C2.

At any time, administrators can check the health of the tests in C2’s web interface, drill down into results, and kick off ad-hoc runs of the tests. The end result of Cloud Supply Chain Validation is that the owners of the IT infrastructure will find out about breakages and have the opportunity to resolve them well before users encounter the problem when they urgently need the system to work. Admins and end consumers of IT both gain increased confidence in the state of their systems and can sleep a little better at night.

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Topics: Innovation, Feature, Bernard

The Language Behind CloudBolt C2 - a Powerful Combination

Posted by Bernard Sanders

2/4/13 8:23 AM

A couple of us were speaking to an industry analyst the other day who was asking about our technology stack when he remarked:

The selection of Python and Django three years ago was either truly visionary or borderline crazy, but it’s exactly what you would choose if you were to start today.” – Bernd Harzog, The Virtualization Practice

I’d like to take the credit associated with the visionary part of that statement, but the truth is that Python has been a solid, logical choice for enterprise development longer than it usually gets credit for.   Python has been used for years at the core of intensive, production systems by everyone from Google to NASA, and it has performed admirably under the pressure.

Some might say that the choice of a back-end technology should be irrelevant to consumers of a product, but the fact is that a language, though unseen by end users, makes a huge impact on their experience.  A language should inspire a development team to deliver functionality quickly and reliably and allow engineers to focus simultaneously on the dual goals of robust architecture and an excellent end user experience.  In a similar way to how dogs and their owners tend to start looking like one another after years together, programmers’ thought patterns and behaviors are influenced by the attributes of the language and framework they use every day.  For example:

  • C programmers think overwhelmingly in computer science terms, at the expense of user experience.
  • .Net teams tend to think excessively graphically, at the expense of creating architectures that are not as interoperable and ready for integration and scale as they should be.
  • Perl encourages developers to think of the most obfuscated way of accomplishing a task, rather than the most transparent.

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Just as dogs and their owners begin to look alike, developers begin to think in their "native" language (photos courtesy of Cesar)

In contrast to other options, Python influences programmers to constantly consider extensibility, simplicity of design, ease of installation/management, and the principle of least surprise, all through the example that it sets.  It does this while enabling more rapid and responsive development than any other language I have used. 

Though CloudBolt C2 was introduced later than some other cloud management systems, we have seen it leapfrog other solutions and gain acknowledgement as being easier to install, more flexible and scalable, and sporting a cleaner and simpler user interface than other products in the space.  There are several factors that enabled us to surpass other solutions, but at the core of these is the Python programming language.

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Topics: Feature, Bernard, Development, Innovation, Enterprise

CloudBolt C2 & VMware (Nicira) network virt: Why it's a big deal

Posted by Bernard Sanders

1/2/13 1:33 PM

In an enterprise organization without virtualization technology, the creation and configuration of new networks requires a network engineering team to manually configure network devices. The process is often difficult and arduous as a lengthy troubleshooting process ensues between network engineers and the server team when the network does not function as expected.  The advent of server virtualization has added the virtualization administrator to this process to make the new network available within the hypervisor. The process is sufficiently cumbersome enough that IT administrators aggressively avoid the activity, and instead reuse and overload existing networks to the detriment of the end users of IT. 

Avoiding the creation of new networks impacts development and quality assurance more adversely than production as it causes pre-production environments to drift from production. That creates unexpected environmental problems when applications are promoted to production (e.g., hours after the site goes down, “ah, it doesn’t work when service X is not on the same subnet!”).

Messy Network No Virtualization

The level of difficulty of a technical procedure should not dictate the processes undertaken. Technology should act as a catalyst of change, rather than an inhibitor.  VMware network virtualization (The bits they purchased from Nicira, which was formerly NVP, or Network Virtualization Platform) moves the state of technology forward by abstracting the network from the underlying hardware, and eliminates dependency on high-end networking hardware and specialists trained in the configuration of proprietary hardware. 

This advancement provides an opportunity and a challenge: 

  • The opportunity is to move the task of configuring networking closer to the groups that need the networking. 
  • The challenge is to expose this functionality in a way that is simple enough that the average consumer of IT can take advantage of it. 

CloudBolt C2 solves this challenge for an array of technology, including network virtualization, and is currently the only CMP with network virtualization management capabilities.

Combined with network virtualization, CloudBolt C2 provides an exceedingly simple web interface that IT consumers can use to request new virtual networks as well as servers.  C2 guides these requests through an approval process and then takes action on them, taking care of communication with more complex back-end systems like VMware network virtualization, server virtualization, and configuration management systems. The level of integration between C2 and network virtualization is unequaled in the industry. The CloudBolt C2 Enterprise edition enables features such as adding fine-grained permission controls around the creation and deletion of virtual networks, granting end users the ability to save a composite network-server order as an “application” for rapid re-deployment of complex services, and gathering network utilization data from Nicira to incorporate into C2’s cost-tracking system.

The end result is that users can easily create entire labs and data center environments in minutes with just a few graphically-driven choices.  Not only does this accelerate and automate existing tasks facing IT organization, it also enables them to work in ways that were heretofore impractical or impossible, granting end users an unsurpassed level of self-sufficiency.

 

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Topics: Consumability, Network, Nicira, Software Defined Network, Network Virtualization

OpenStack has gaps. CloudBolt C2 fills them.

Posted by Bernard Sanders

10/31/12 9:23 AM

Cloud Computing is a dynamic market space and the next hot technology changes frequently.  At this point, OpenStack is garnering an impressive level of excitement as the leading open source cloud framework, but organizations compelled by its promise still struggle to deploy and realize its potential in production environments. 

Aside from questions of its maturity (which are widely discussed elsewhere), there are three areas where OpenStack does not provide what IT shops need:

  1. A powerful, flexible UI – Horizon (OpenStack’s UI) is functional and clean, but extremely basic.  More critically, personalization and customization of the UI requires that IT shops hire Python-Django experts to write their own models, views, and templates to change the user experience.  This is both a costly effort and a distraction from the core goals of the IT organizations.
  2. Features that provide high-level business value – if your organization wants to keep track of the cost incurred by different business units, manage pools of software licenses for applications deployed, report on resource usage over time for different organizations, or assign quotas to organizations, allowing them to subdivide that quota amongst child organizations, these are all custom engineering efforts on top of OpenStack.
  3. A unifying layer over disparate technologies – today’s IT shops are rarely homogenous in their use of any class of technology.  A shop may have multiple virtualization technologies (ex. VMware & Xen), multiple config management/server automation technologies (ex. Chef & BladeLogic), as well as physical & virtual environments, public and private clouds, and even different distributions/implementations of OpenStack.  Rather than expose users to a mind-boggling plethora of technologies to work with, a single top-layer is needed to coordinate between these technologies and abstract these into a unified, self-service portal for requesting & managing resources and reporting on their usage.  This unifying layer prevents lock-in to any one of the technologies below it, allowing IT shops the liberty of switching between technologies without impacting end users.

Some distributions of OpenStack seek to solve a subset of the problems above, but they introduce additional lock-in and risk – what if you chose an OpenStack distribution that turns out to not be the winner of that race?   This mistake would impact all IT users unless there was a layer above for users to interact with.

OpenStack Horizon ScreenShot

OpenStack is a strong technology with a bold future, but it is most powerful when paired with a technology like CloudBolt C2, which fills in all the gaps above, provides the functionality and simplicity that IT shops need, and integrates tightly with OpenStack (as well as other cloud frameworks, virtualization technologies, and config management products).  At CloudBolt, we believe that great flexibility and power do not inherently need to expose great complexity to the end user.  This philosophy is evident in the user experience of CloudBolt C2, and in the elated feedback we receive from our customers.

 

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