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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

IT Usage Metering and CloudBolt C2

Posted by Justin Nemmers

6/24/13 11:17 AM

Is it Metering, Chargeback, or Showback?

At their core, utility metering (or just “metering”), showback and chargeback of virtualization or Cloud IT resources are the same idea. The difference is that with chargeback, a report is ingested into an invoicing system, and bills are generated for delivery to end-users. Showback cost reporting is chargeback, but without the last step of producing invoices. 

Reporting is at the Core

CloudBolt C2 collects all kinds of information about the environments it manages.  In order to get access to majority of this data, C2 comes embedded with a powerful (and open source) reporting engine—Jasper Reports—that enables administrators to generate and schedule reports on nearly anything of interest in the C2 database. Some examples are:

  • “What was the QA team’s usage in dollars, broken out by software and VM resources last month?”
  • “How many VMs, by group, have Oracle installed, but have not been turned on in 30 days?”
  • “What groups have VMs that have access to network X?”

All of these are relevant questions, which would be very hard to answer if the information was spread across multiple disparate systems. Furthermore, any reporting system needs to actually have data at the appropriate level of granularity.

How C2 Makes it Happen

With that background set, let’s talk for a minute about how this relates to metering and billing. As I said above, granularity is key here. CloudBolt C2 globally assigns allocation costs to several core compute components:

  • CPUs (physical and virtual)
  • Memory
  • Storage

C2 Global HW Rates Cloud IT Metering
Global Hardware Rate View

Next, C2 lists out *every* OS template that it knows about. This includes templates from every virt platform and cloud provider that C2 is managing.

C2 Global OS Template Rate Cloud IT MeteringGlobal OS Build (Template) Rate Editing

Most other platforms stop here. C2 takes it a step further. For those environments that have some flavor of Data Center Automation (DCA) tool like Puppet, Chef, HP Server Automation (the bits that used to be Opsware), we also allow administrators to globally set the per-application costs. For environments that lack a DCA tool, Administrators can assign the software costs to OS templates, so consumers will still be exposed to the impact of the software stack they have chosen.

C2 Global Application Rate Cloud IT Metering
Global Application Rate View
 

Because there’s a division between the hardware and software costs, Administrators have the ability to report on operating system, application or hardware costs, or any combination of the above, as well as the total cost incurred for each instance. This separation ends up being pretty important when you’re trying to make business decisions related to technology.  Additionally, we can track (and report on) this information no matter where the resource lives, in any environment C2 manages.

The Challenge of Multi-Cloud

Global rates work for environments that average IT costs across all aspects of their enterprise.  That’s a pretty unrealistic world-view, though. As I’ve said before, we have spent time in the data center.  Out of that experience comes the understanding that different environments have different costs not just for hardware, but often for software as well.  

To account for this, CloudBolt C2 administrators have the ability to override any of the above costs on a per-environment basis.  This means that C2 understands that your Production HA VMware-powered and HP SA managed environment can cost more for hardware, applications, and OS templates than your QA environment that uses Xen and older hardware, and is managed by a free installation of Puppet. 

C2 Environment Hardware Rate Cloud IT MeteringHardware rate override for an environment named “Seattle Prod DC”

We allow administrators to set per-environment costs for OS Templates, and, of course, Applications.

C2 Environment OS Template Rate Cloud IT MeteringApplication rate override for the Seattle Prod DC environment

Hours, Days, Weeks, or Years?

Not all allocation-based metering environments are created equal.  Does your organization use a metric other than a month?  What about models that rely on smaller increments?  C2 has the built-in ability to globally meter usage in hours, days, weeks, months, or years.  Organizations are free to choose the mechanism that makes the most sense for their Business.  Since C2 keeps the resource status accounting internally, but uses a reporting engine to generate the billing information, the IT organization owns the business decision of how best to account for the Business’ resource usage.  A billing report can be made to include all allocated resources, or just those that were used over the requested reporting interval.  Additionally, and if desired, all reports can be pro-rated based on how long the resource is actually powered on.

C2 Rate choices hour day week month year Cloud IT MeteringC2 can account for allocation by the hour, day, week, month, or year.

 

Showback Cost to End Users

Showing a user the cost impact of their request is an important step in gaining increased visibility over out-of-control IT costs in an enterprise.  This becomes even more important when an IT organization has implemented a hybrid cloud, as there can be significant additional operational expense from running unneeded or underused instances.  C2’s ability to show users the cost of their ordered resources is an important self-education tool that can effectively drive desired behavior.   End users and Administrators alike can both see the split between hardware and software cost for each instance or service requested.  As users make selections in their ordering window, the total price will automatically adjust based on the users’ selection.  For instance, in the following three diagrams, a user request (and perception) will change pretty rapidly when they see the cost of the database stack they chose.

C2 Self Service Showback pricing Rate Cloud IT Metering
A LAMP server selection by a member of the Bonds Group in the San Jose QA Lab environment costs $20.70/month.
 

C2 Self Service Showback pricing Rate Cloud IT MeteringA similar request, but selecting the SQL Server stack costs $174.70/month.

C2 Self Service Showback pricing Rate Cloud IT Metering
Another similar request, but selecting the Oracle/JAVA stack costs $557.20/month.

Once a user selects multiple systems for an order, they will have the chance to review their order before submitting for approval.  As part of the approval mechanism, approvers may be given the ability to edit existing orders before approving them, which provides a valuable mechanism to control costs.

C2 Order approval editing quota Self Service Rate Cloud IT MeteringOnce an order is submitted, the approver can be given the opportunity to edit the order before it’s approved.

The Path from Showback to Chargeback

One of my previous comments (http://info.cloudboltsoftware.com/blog/bid/306535/7-Takeaways-From-the-Red-Hat-Summit) about chargeback and showback is that due to internal resistance, few organizations are actually taking the step of producing invoices or decrementing funds from a budget.  Effective reporting is the first step in achieving true chargeback in an organization.  Only when IT organizations understand the true impact of a team, project, group, or line of businesses’ IT consumption can the Business itself make effective decisions around spend and focus of precious funds.  CloudBolt C2’s single pane-of-glass management coupled with the powerful built-in reporting goes beyond rate metering and actually enables Business-Driven IT.  The reporting engine makes getting the intelligence out of how an environment is being used possible no matter what your role in the organization. 

Thankfully, C2 can handle both use cases today.  Once C2 is implemented, IT Organizations can begin the process of using showback costs to drive user behavior, stamp out VM Sprawl, and further the push for true internal IT chargeback to business units.

Take-Away

Utility metering is an important part in recognizing where funds are being spent for access to IT infrastructure and applications.  An effective tool must not just do this for one platform, but unifying any number of platforms.  A granular metering infrastructure must separate the application cost from the hardware cost, which allows IT Administrators (and/or users) to piece together different variations of hardware and software to get the end capability needed.  All of this must be reportable in any format needed or desired.  Metering may be only one aspect of “the cloud”, but it’s an important one, and one, with CloudBolt C2, is built in, and integrated at every step of the way.

Want to learn more about how Utility Metering plays a part in Business-Driven IT? Bernd Harzog, the Cloud analyst at TheVirtualizationPractice.com recently wrote a paper that analyzes the various business impacts of next-generation cloud managers. 

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Topics: Feature, Consumability

VMware Lab Manager is going away and CloudBolt C2 can take over.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/24/13 6:11 PM

I happened to catch Brandon Butler’s article talking about the replacement choices customers have now that VMware’s Lab Manager product is being discontinued.  There has been no shortage of vendors to quickly put their hands up with claims such as “no net new costs” or offering new cloud service provider options to help those customers move to something new and better.  Some of these solutions still require you to upgrade from vCenter 4 to 5.  Others are overly complicated, or require you to use something different than vCenter-based virtualization altogether.

VMware Lab Manager discontinued
Your Lab Manager installation will be far less functional (or colorful) in a few months.

Beyond self-service provisioning, this is a great opportunity for a VMware Lab Manager customer to extend their capabilities while:

  • requiring a minimum of both effort and changes to their process
  • allowing the organization the option of utilizing public cloud resources 

Too good to be true?  Hardly!

For starters, CloudBolt Command and Control (C2) is amazingly easy to install and configure.  Download the virtual appliance, import it into your vCenter cluster (it even works on version 4!), and you’re off to the races.  With most installation and configurations taking less than 20 minutes, CloudBolt C2 can start deploying instances in your vCenter environment almost immediately.  Not only can your users easily provision their resources using CloudBolt C2’s self service interface, but you’ll get the easy ability to seamlessly use public cloud resources, if desired. 

CloudBolt C2 is much more capable than that, too…  but I’ll save the best for last after a recap, of course…

  • You have VMware Lab Manager
  • You have vCenter
  • You need to rapidly and repeatedly provision instances

Of course, CloudBolt C2 do all of that, but we’ve got a special treat.  CloudBolt C2 Virtualization Edition is free to use for up to 100 managed VMs.  I’m not even saying no net new cost.  I’m saying no cost.  How’s that for an option? 

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Topics: Management, Consumability, VMware, IT Organization, People

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

Better Leverage your IT Operations with a Cloud Management Platform

Posted by Justin Nemmers

12/17/12 2:10 PM

 

Call it what you'd like: Cloud Management Platform, Cloud Manager, or even a Virtualization Manager, but one fact remains-- technology that unifies the management and provisioning of your IT environment is here to stay.  If you're not already looking at one to help reduce I&O expenses, you should be. 

At a high level, Cloud Management Platforms such as CloudBolt Software's Command and Control (C2) provide a layer of management on top of existing virtual environments.  We drive a greater value from existing virtualization and data enter automation/configuration management tools by unifying the management and visibility.  A world-class Cloud Management Platform provides visibility and control of your IT environment mapped to your business via a single pane-of-glass.  That sort of cohesive internal management makes IT more agile and can lower costs.

Of course, we can't stop there.  In a recent Gartner poll, 47% of IT groups planned to have some type of hybrid cloud deployment by 2015-- so any reasonably capable Cloud Management Platform must also provide the same level of management and oversight over public cloud instances and deployments.

Together, these capabilities allow IT line of business owners to rapidly transform their organization into a more agile part service-provider and part cloud broker.

This, according to Gartner, is the likely path of successful IT organizations that are under a near-constant assault from public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace.  There is no area of business IT that is safe from this attack.  Public cloud vendors in the US and other countries are even now racing to stand up government-only environments, which meet the copious requirements—which often amount to pages of standards required to host many government applications.

Blue CloudBolt Cloud Manager Hero

Transformation must happen.

To me, the conclusion for any business leader in IT seems to be crystal clear:  transform or be transformed.  This is where effective cloud management comes into play.  By all reasonable accounts, you're either already virtualizing, or have virtualized most workloads capable of being hosted in this model.  The task does not end there.  You must transform your IT organization to be more agile-- more able to respond to the needs of the greater business in less time, and lower cost than the big public providers are able to accomplish.  The only path to this situation is effective cloud management.  

It's a little more complicated than just providing a self-service portal to your users.  There is still significant amounts of policy that need to be updated and adapted to a cloud-enteric world, be it private, public, or hybrid.  You need to continue to provide end-to-end life cycle management, and must be able to deliver the applications that end users need, while doing so in a manner that is controlled and well understood.  

Our recommendation?  Layer in a cloud management technology that will work with what you have in place today.  This way, you have the ability to adopt new technology and adjust your processes gradually, and as it makes sense, vs. the infrequently successful and high cost approach of large infrastructure deployment and vendor lock-in.  Gradually molding your business processes into a cloud-centric model produces a higher success rate, as it provides you the ability to gain immediate benefit: getting resources to users more rapidly, but while also allowing you to plan how best to further implement your newfound flexibility.  This approach solves many common needs:

  • Move dev/test to public cloud resources?  
  • Implement resource quotas? Modify approval processes?
  • Make more public cloud resources available as needed?
  • Implement charge or show-back accounting for resource consumption?   

Have a look at our Cloud Management Platform.  We think you'll find it not only has industry-leading capabilities, but will be easier to use and integrate into your existing processes than literally anything else out there, and at a CapEx and OpEx that cannot be beat by anyone in the industry.  But don't take our word for it-- download it for free and get started today.

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Topics: Corporate, Consumability, IT Challenges, Virtualization, People

Cloud is really a verb? Stop cloud washing.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

11/5/12 9:35 AM

There’s a new-ish term that I’ve been hearing a lot of lately:  Cloudwashing.  Have a product that has nothing to do with Cloud?  Need to make it sound fresh?  Just say it enables Cloud!  I’ll take this a step further, though.  There are a lot of vendors out there that are talking about cloud, but in my opinion, a great many of them are really using it as a verb:  

  • Cloud the issue
  • Cloud the truth
  • Cloud the judgment
  • Cloud a decision

CloudWashing Windows

Here’s an interesting challenge—the next time you’re talking with a vendor about cloud, why not ask them for their definition of just what cloud is?  Any vendor that can’t—or won’t—answer that question is likely hiding something. 

The reality is that while there may be an actual definition for the term, each organization’s perspective does allow some flexibility on what it means to really be “in the cloud.”

Here at CloudBolt, the formula is pretty simple.  For years we’ve see vendors tout that their ability to enable private cloud in your environment.  The truth is that very few of those pricey technologies really accomplished that.  WhyBecause those technologies did nothing to make internal resources more consumable.  If you have technology that your end users cannot directly request and consume at some level, with accountability, you may have great virtualization, but you don’t have a real cloud.

Our path is to make the resources visible, make the resources consumable, apply a generous helping of accountability and reporting, and start really recognizing the value offered by driving out costs from your environment.  When it comes to IT resources, it feels like vendors forget the S in IaaS.  Without the service, you just have Infrastructure.  And that's no different than how this has been done for decades.

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Topics: Cloudwashing, Consumability, IaaS