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Cloud Brokers: Don’t Buy One, Use a Cloud Manager to Be One

Posted by John Menkart

9/18/13 2:25 PM

“Private clouds will become hybrid, and enterprise IT organizations will move beyond the role of hosting and managing IT capability to becoming brokers of IT sourcing - delivered in many ways.” wrote Thomas Bittman , VP Distinguished Gartner Analyst for the upcoming Gartner Webinar: Hybrid Clouds and Hybrid IT: The Next Frontier, Date: 03 October 2013.

The IT world is abuzz with the term “Cloud Broker”. Seemingly every vendor wants your enterprise to buy “their Cloud Broker”. The fact that they are so anxious to sell a Cloud Broker is in fact proof they don’t fully understand the meaning of the term.

Become or Purchase a Cloud Broker/Provider

Today’s enterprise IT organizations are struggling to remain in control of internal and external IT resources being consumed by their business. These IT Organizations face a triple challenge in that they must:

  1. For security and accountability reasons, gain control of IT resources being provisioned and consumed by the Lines of Business, regardless of those resources being delivered from an internal community cloud, or public clouds like AWS, Verizon/Terremark or Rackspace.
  2. Be more oriented towards the Lines of Business in the enterprise. Hand waving in response to direct questions like; ‘What is the cost associated with IT support for our engineering group?’ Or, ‘How much are we spending monthly on that customer service application for finance?’ is no longer acceptable. IT Organizations have to deliver real answers.
  3. Be orders of magnitude faster and more responsive in providing access to internal IT resources. The speed and agility required to keep Lines of Business happy with their IT groups is well beyond the capabilities of most IT shops, and requires a level of IT automation found in a minority of organizations today.

Addressing all of these challenges requires that IT organizations implement a solution that manages IT resources in a unified way, regardless of whether the resources are deployed internally, or externally in one or more public clouds. The managed resources need to be controlled and reported on in a business context-sensitive way. Finally the solution needs to allow resources to be provisioned rapidly (and in a self service manner) and effectively retired in an accountable and orderly fashion, regardless of location or type of environment in which they reside.

When an IT organization addresses these challenges and functions in this manner, the IT organization itself has become both a Cloud Broker, as well as a provider for its customers. Merely purchasing a Cloud Broker alone ignores the significant role IT Organizations must play in the governance of their environments, and thus, Enterprise IT risks irrelevance if they merely purchase a Cloud Broker vs. becoming a broker/provider.


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Topics: Public Cloud, IT Challenges, Private Cloud, John

Cloud Managers: When Free Isn’t

Posted by John Menkart

9/9/13 12:41 PM

Recently a number of large IT vendors have begun bundling their cloud management software with their existing product suites. This results in the appearance that the vendors’ cloud management technology is free, or near free, and thus appears to have a significant price advantage over other technologies such as CloudBolt C2 that offers real value to customers.

vendor solution suite cash cow
Is that "free" product really just a loss leader for the cash cow solution suite?

VMware, CA, IBM, HP and others have jumped onto this bandwagon to incent customers (any customers) to adopt their proprietary Cloud Management Platform. My question is: why would a company give customers something for free that is valuable and takes resources to develop, maintain, and support?  The answer is that they wouldn’t.

We all know the adage of “there is no free lunch”. So what is the reason the apparent price of these supposed solutions is so low, or even as a free line item on your quote?

1)   You get what you pay for. If a product has little actual value, and as a result companies are unlikely to pony up cash post-evaluation, then giving the product license for free makes the overall expenditure look like a better deal. It also distracts the customer from looking too closely at the product, and from realizing that license cost is the tip of the cost iceberg. The time to implementation and functional use of the products combined with the resources consumed during the implementation process will likely dwarf the initial acquisition cost.

2)   Vendor Lock In. Cloud computing by its nature is intended to provide customers significant choice. It can free customers from an unhappy marriage with their vendors and enable adoption of best of breed technologies across the board. Despite this, many large vendors are using their free or low-cost cloud managers to lock-in customers to their larger solution suite. In short, the Will VMware work as hard to support alternative to vCenter hypervisors in vCAC? Will BMC ever make supporting Puppet, Chef or HP SA as easy and feature rich as the support for BMC BladeLogic? Any reasonably savvy customer intuitively knows the answer to these questions. The fact is: free products are loss leaders. They’re meant to drive revenue from other products and make it difficult if not impossible to switch to alternatives once deployed. As a result, they all have a significant bias toward the rest of the vendor’s solution suite.

The next time your vendor rep tells you that their solution is just as good as CloudBolt C2 and free (or nearly), think about why they are so anxious to avoid having their product scrutinized in comparison to C2. Look closely, and understand their motivation, or you could be accepting a free tool only to be forced to feed the cash cow that is all of the other vendor’s products.

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Topics: John, Vendors, Puppet

Cloud Management Solution Suite vs. the Best of Breed

Posted by John Menkart

8/27/13 2:14 PM

Listen to the large enterprise IT vendors for long enough, and you will hear that ‘best of breed’ solutions are a thing of the past. ‘The time when customers requiring a solution to a specific IT need should go out and seek the most capable tool and implement it in their environment has come and gone”, they say. These myopic and self-centered vendors will rail on and on about how;  “yes there was a time when best of breed IT solutions were a great path forward, but that was before ‘we’ insert your favorite large monolithic software vendor here bought up all the best solutions and marketed them as a family of products already pre-integrated for our customers.”  They will go on to say that “IT is so complicated and confusing that our customers should just buy all our products (and only our products) and all their problems will be solved!”

solution sets drag along over complicated
A solution suite has a lot of drag-along. It might seem simple, at first glance, but reality sets in quickly.

These same large vendors talk behind their customer’s backs about gaining a bigger share of the customer’s wallet—as if all of the more money they extract from their customers imparts more benefit the customer will accrue. (There is certainly benefit to the vendor when they have a stranglehold on the customer’s IT budget, but certainly much the opposite for the customer.) These vendors’ strategies are clearly to ignore the reality of the marketplace and where true innovation is happening, and to use any means necessary to convince customers that IT is easy if these customers “standardize” on their particular solution suite. “Don’t consider products from any other vendors  (large or small)”, they will preach. “Your IT environment will only support your business needs by sending all of your IT budget my way and exclusively locking yourselves in to our products.”

The Reality Versus the Hot Air

The reality of today’s dynamic markets is that standardization on a single vendor suite as being proposed by the large vendors is an impossibility for the modern enterprise.

hot air from cloud solution vendors
Vendors are quick to tell you that unifying environments is as easy as selecting all of their tools.  Tired of the hot air?

As companies merge and consolidate more rapidly, it is a certainty that the resulting entities will have a varied range of hardware and software solutions performing similar functions. Wholesale replacement of this technology to achieve homogeneity would be constant and costly while offering no real business benefit.

At the same time, the pace of technology change is rapid and uneven. An example is the recent innovation around network virtualization. The advent of network virtualization and Software Defined Networking (SDN) enables enterprises to examine how they might take advantage of this emerging technology to revolutionize data center architectures, not to mention ease the move to cloud-based technologies. Given that SDN technology is in its early stages, it is far from clear what implementation or vendor will emerge the leader in the space. Despite VMWare’s VMWorld 2013 announcement at about their NSX product (the bits that used to be Nicira), to date, nearly all of the larger vendors haven’t even developed a strategy much less a realistic product offering in this critical technical segment.

Independent Vendor Solutions and the Best of Breed Advantage

If standardization on a single vendor, and surrender of your IT budget is a non-starter, what does a successful approach look like, then?

The IT market today, perhaps more than ever before, presents a great range of best of breed technologies to select from. The fact is that most large vendors are working so hard to obscure this point. And they’re succeeding. The prospect of Cloud has the ability to give the choice and power back to the customer.

Cloud is much more than a way to provision and manage IT resources. The correct cloud manager enables enterprises to unify a heterogeneous environment (Hardware, Software private cloud and public cloud) to take advantage of best of breed solutions and increase the agility of the IT department to incorporate new and disruptive solutions. An independent cloud management tool can’t afford to be limited (or biased) in its support for internally deployed IT technologies (be they hardware  or software) or in its support for various private or public cloud resources.

Why does vendor independence matter?  Because an independent cloud platform is not beholden to making one IT technology or tool (or suite of tools) look or function better than any other. A truly independent and advanced cloud platform takes it cue from the market and supports those underlying tools and technologies demanded by the market and it’s customers.

In light of these requirements, examine the existing cloud management options, and you will find an independent vendor will provide significant advantage to your enterprise. Adoption of the proper independent solution makes best of breed technology easy to implement in your environment and provides a degree of agility and efficiency superior to standardizing on any single vendor.

Implement an independent cloud manager, and regain the power to chose the best of breed solution for each of your enterprise IT problems.

Want to learn more about what CloudBolt can do in your IT environment, regardless of your underlying technology choices or platform selection?  We'd love to show you.

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Topics: Software Defined Network, John, Vendors

The 5 Cloud Management Vendor Categories: Where Does Your Vendor Fit?

Posted by John Menkart

4/8/13 3:51 PM

With Cloud Managers assuming such a critical role for IT groups, it is easy to understand why every existing IT vendor wants to supply a Cloud Manager that favors their core products in the roll out of an enterprise private/hybrid Cloud.

cloud manager chose wisely
Where does your Cloud Manager fit amonngst the available choices?

The Gartner Group has studied private/hybrid cloud management extensively and has summarized the space as having five (5) categories of vendors with ‘solutions’ for Cloud Management, as described by Gartner in their research note titled “Cloud Management Platform Vendor Landscape” Published 5 September 2012:

1) Traditional IT Operations Management Vendors

This segment of the Cloud Manager market includes vendors whose primary focus for management has been targeted at traditional physical and virtual infrastructures.  (BMC, HP SW, IBM, CA and others)

2) Infrastructure Stack Vendors

In this segment of the Cloud Management market are providers of the virtual infrastructure resources (Citrix Systems [Citrix], Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat and VMware) —the hypervisor and basic virtualization management. While some of these vendors offer some multiplatform (hypervisor or OS) capability, their expertise and deep integration are for their own platforms.

3) Fabric Based Infrastructure Vendors

Most hardware infrastructure vendors offer cloud management software, which enables them to sell private and hybrid cloud solutions and not just the features and benefits of their hardware. (HP, IBM, Cisco, etc.). Think wholly contained racks of equipment that include storage, compute, network, and software, sold in pre-integrated chunks.

4) Open Source

These projects or vendors provide an open-source-based abstraction layer for resource management. They provide basic CMP functionality and generally provide a northbound API so that other vendors/independent software vendors (ISVs) can develop and build enriched CMP capabilities.

5) Best-of-Breed Point Solutions Vendors

The point solution Cloud Management vendors, which include mostly smaller Cloud Management companies, potentially are able to introduce innovation to the market. This is primarily because these vendors don't have legacy products that have to be integrated to build their solution.


Examining these categories some concerns about vendor motivations and the resulting limits placed on customers adopting some of these solutions arise.

The first three categories of vendors have a clear mission to maintain and advance the dependency that IT organizations have on their core technology.  A primary reason for adopting Cloud Management is enabling flexibility for future IT choices, yet selection of a Cloud Management solution from vendors in categories 1 through 3 have effect of restricting choice and flexibility for the customer due to biased technology support.

In order to gain full functionality from the offering, all the vendors in these three categories mandate use of a suite of software and/or hardware from the vendors’ own portfolio. These requirements will hamper the organization that adopts a Cloud Management solution.  Rather than being free over time to adopt new technologies like Network Virtualization, IT organizations will be limited to continuing to feed their ‘Cloud Management” vendor large sums of the IT budget for software and hardware, ensuring they are now ‘locked-in” as a result of a biased Cloud Management approach. These large vendors have a term for what they are trying to achieve with the customer. It’s ‘share of wallet’.  Any vendor looking for more share of your wallet is not going to make it easy or flexible for your enterprise to adopt products or technologies that they do not provide.

Gartner views the fourth category (open source) with promise noting: These solutions “provide basic Cloud Management functionality and generally provide a northbound API so that other vendors/independent software vendors (ISVs) can develop and build enriched CMP capabilities.”

The options in this category are tools like OpenStack, CloudStack and Eucalyptus.  The level of immaturity of the technologies in this space are the reason Gartner sees the need for an API so other more refined and mature Cloud Managers can abstract the users from these specific tools. By avoiding direct use of the cloud frameworks’ UI, the organization can use a more complete Cloud Manager to integrate the Cloud pilots undertaken with Open Source tools using only a broader cloud approach by the overall enterprise.

The additional concern with respect to these open source frameworks is that they are developed as a monolithic technology stack and bring unique technology such as server virtualization and configuration management. Rather than being truly vendor and technology agnostic, they represent a considerable integration effort and encourage costly rip and replace.

So that leaves only one category of Cloud Management vendor that doesn’t approach the IT organizations’ problem as an opportunity to ‘lock-in’ the customer, or is not too immature to deliver organizational value today.

The “Point Solutions” category is one where real unbiased solutions will be able to emerge. Like CloudBolt, other vendors in this category must deliver value in their own right. The products must account for heterogeneous resources in an IT environment and must stand on their own when considered as a solution.

The range of vendors offering independent solutions for cloud management is extensive and the solutions are diverse. From products limited to organizations using only virtualization to full-on enterprise offerings like CloudBolt Command & Control (C2) that cohesively manage and coordinate hardware provisioning, virtual servers, virtual networking, configuration and automation (HPSA, Chef, Puppet, etc.).

I am sure I speak for all the point solutions vendors when I suggest that; “selection of a Cloud Management solution must be made with eyes wide open with respect to each vendors’ desired outcome. Increased “Share of Wallet” is not a technical objective.  Only when your Cloud Management vendor is fully aligned with your organizations will you be able to deliver to the enterprise the desired technical and business flexibility.”

Want to learn more about CloudBolt C2? Download our Product Overview! 

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Topics: Management, Cloud Manager, Gartner, John, Challenges, Vendors

A Dispatch from a CloudBolt Partner at 11,000 feet (literally).

Posted by John Menkart

3/22/13 12:34 PM

We here at CloudBolt are very selective in the services partners that we are willing to work with. We only chose to partner with channel partners who have an outstanding track record of the highest possible level of customer satisfaction in delivery of solutions and services.  Our strategy is considerably different from most of our competitors—large and small—as their "can they fog a mirror?" approach to vetting a channel partner only causes more issues in the long run, but that is the subject of a blog post on its own. 

CloudFrontGroup Mackay CloudBolt 11000 feetJohn Mackay at the top of Mt. Superior in the Wasatch range, Utah.

The CloudFront Group is one such partner that is a leading solutions integrator focused on the US Federal market.  John Mackay, The CloudFront Group’s CEO, is just an incredibly customer-focused solutions provider.  He and his team support their customers and partners with a take-no-prisoners approach focused on satisfaction.

John approaches all aspects of his life with equal zeal. He is an incredible athlete, and if he had time, I am certain would be a regular contender in the X-Games. Whether it's mountain biking where a mountain goat would be afraid to tread, wake boarding at top speed while performing aerial acrobatics or snowboarding in an avalanche zone, John is flat-out full-time. 

This week John went snowboarding in Utah. Not just any kind of snowboarding, mind you. He took a helicopter ride to the top of Mt Superior. He is a big fan of CloudBolt and embeds the platform in his solutions to maintain configuration and resource control.  When he was preparing for the trip he mentioned that he wanted to brand his snowboard with the CloudBolt logo so along with John, CloudBolt could be at the top of the world at 11,000" above sea level.

I am pleased to report that the trip went off without a hitch. The group carved up the fresh snow (where no man has gone before) with abandon; John on his CloudBolt-branded board.  Just to prove it, here is a picture of John on the peak of the mountain with his CloudBolt-branded board.   "Watch out Red Bull!  Here comes John Mackay and CloudBolt."

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Topics: Customer, Partner, John, Services

Cloud Managers Will Change IT Forever

Posted by John Menkart

2/20/13 10:37 AM

In numerous conversations with customers and analysts it has become clear that a consensus across the industry is that Cloud Managers are as game changing for IT as server and network virtualization themselves.  Among those looking longer term at the promise of Cloud Computing (Public, Private and Hybrid), it is clear that the Cloud Manager will become the keystone of value.  Many people’s opinion is that Cloud Managers are the initiator of next major wave of change in IT environments.  How?  Well let’s look to the past to predict the future.

Proprietary Everything

Back in the early 80’s, general purpose computers were first spreading across the business environment. These systems were in the form of fully-proprietary Mainframes, Minicomputers. The hardware (CPU, Memory, Storage, etc.), Operating Systems and any even any available software were all from the specific computer manufacturer (vendors included DEC, Prime, Harris, IBM, HP, DG amongst others).  Businesses couldn’t even acquire compilers for their systems from a third party.  They were only available from the system’s manufacturer.

Commodity OS leads to Commodity Hardware

Agility and maturity of IT environments step 1

The advent of broad interest and adoption of Unix started a sea change in the IT world.  As more hardware vendors supported Unix it became easier to migrate from one vendor’s system to another.  Additionally, vendors began building their systems based on commodity x86-compatible microprocessors as opposed to building proprietary CPU architectures optimized around their proprietary OS.

Architecture-compatible hardware not only accelerated the move to commodity OS (Unix, Linux and Windows), but in turn, increased pressure on vendors to fully commoditize server hardware.  The resulting commoditization of hardware systems steeply drove down prices.  To this day, server hardware largely remains a commodity.

Virtualization Commoditizes Servers


Agility and maturity of IT environments step 2

Despite less expensive commodity operating systems and commodity hardware, modernizing enterprise IT organizations were still spending large sums on new server hardware in order to accommodate the rapidly growing demand of new applications.  In large part, IT organizations had a problem taking full advantage of the hardware resources they are spending on.  Server utilization become a real issue.  Procurement of servers still took a considerable amount of time due to organizational processes.  Every new server required a significant amount of effort to purchase, rack and stack, and eventually deploy.  Power and cooling requirements became a significant concern.  The integration of storage, networking, and software deployment and maintenance still caused considerable delays into workflows that are reliant on new hardware systems.

Server virtualization arrives commercially in the late 1990’s and starts getting considerable traction in the mid 2000’s.  Virtualization of the underlying physical hardware provides an answer to the thorny utilization issue by enabling multiple individual server workloads that have low individual utilization to be consolidated on a single physical server.  Virtualization also provides a limited  solution for the  the procurement problem, and helps with the power and cooling issues posed by rampant hardware server growth. Areas of networking, storage, and application management remain disjointed, and typically still require similar times to effectively implement as before the advent of virtualization thus becoming a major impediment to flexibility in the enterprise IT shops.

Now we find ourselves in 2013.  Most enterprise IT shops have implemented some level of virtualization. All of the SaaS and Cloud-based service providers have standardized on virtualization. Virtual servers can be created rapidly and at no perceived cost other than associated licenses, so VM Servers are essentially a commodity, although the market share for the underlying (enabling) technology is clearly in VMware’s favor at this point.

The problem with these commodity VM servers is that making them fully available for use still hinges on integrating them with other parts of the IT environment that are far from commodity and complex to configure.  The VM’s dependency on network, automation tools, storage, etc. hinder the speed and flexibility of the IT group to configure and provide rapid access to these resources for the business.

Network Virtualization arrives

A huge pain point in flexibly deploying applications and workloads is the result of networking technology still being largely based on the physical configuration of network hardware devices across the enterprise. The typical enterprise network is both complex and fragile, which is a condition that dos not encourage rapid change in the network layer to accommodate business or mission application requirements. An inflexible network which is available is always preferred to a network that failed because of unintended consequences of a configuration change.

In much the same way as Server Virtualization abstracted the server from the underlying hardware, Network virtualization completely abstracts the logical network from the physical network.  Using network virtualization it is now possible to free the network configuration from the physical devices, enabling rapid deployment of new, and more efficient management of existing virtual networks.  Rapid adoption of network virtualization technology in the future is all but guaranteed.

Commoditizing all IT resources and compute


Agility and maturity of IT environments step 3

With both network and server virtualization, we are closer than ever to the real benefit of 'Cloud Computing': the promise of  fully commoditized IT resources and compute.  To get there, however, we need to coordinate and abstract the management and control the modern enterprises’ internal IT resources and compute resources being consumed in external public cloud providers.

To enable rapid and flexible coordination of the IT resources, the management of those enterprise application resources must be abstracted from the underlying tools.  The specific technologies (server virt, network virt, automation, storage, public cloud provider, etc.) involved are viewed as commodity, and can be exchanged or deprecated without negatively affecting the business capabilities of the enterprise IT. Additionally this abstraction allows the IT organization to flexibly adopt new and emerging technologies to add functionality and capability without exposing the business to the often sharp edges leading edge technology.

The necessary resource abstraction and control is the domain of the not just the virtualization manager-- but really the Cloud Manager. In short, the Cloud Manager commoditizes compute by commoditizing the IT resources across the enterprise and beyond.

With such an important role it is no wonder that every vendor wants to pitch a solution in this space. The orientation or bias of the various vendors’ approaches in developing a Cloud Manager for enterprise IT will play a critical role in the ultimate success of the products and customers that implement them.

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Topics: Network Virtualization, IT Challenges, Virtualization, Cloud Manager, John, Enterprise, IT Organization, Agility, Compute, Hardware