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Confessions of a Cloud Skeptic

Posted by Rick Kilcoyne

2/2/16 2:22 PM

TL;DR Like many others, I used to believe Cloud was just a computer somewhere else. I've since come to the realization that Cloud is an application that abstracts and virtualizes the operational details of the servers, software, networks and storage required to deploy modern Internet-based applications. If Enterprise IT is to survive the onslaught of Cloud, they must adopt the same operational efficiencies as AWS and other public cloud providers.  This includes exposing IT as a Self-Service Application or Portal. Only then will they be able to stave off Shadow IT and offer their customers the ability to develop, deploy, and manage applications without the day-to-day involvement of IT Operations.

I freely admit it took me a while to come to terms with the term "Cloud". For years I used the infamous Visio cloud shape in my network diagrams.  Still, it was difficult to buy into "cloud" as a revolutionary new place where data could be stored centrally and transferred locally over high-speed Internet. "Cloud" became a term that I viewed as spin on the old: mainframe, client/server, web hosting, ASP, MSP, CSP.  In short, "cloud" was a new term for the same thing – my "stuff" is stored and running elsewhere. And yes, I admit to getting a kick out of watching Larry Ellison poke fun at Cloud Computing back in 2008. With his usual flair, Ellison pointed out that "Cloud Computing" covers everything we were already doing. In the late 2000’s, everything and anything in the computing industry was described as Cloud, Cloud-ready, or Cloud-enabled.

NoCloud.pngFor years I wholeheartedly agreed with anyone that claimed that “cloud” was just a marketing buzzword. With time, though, my attitude slowly shifted.  Cloud isn't necessarily a set of servers that live on a faraway network. A true cloud is a software application, complete with its own UI, API, user management, and a suite of opaque services. Virtualization at the server, network, and storage levels allow users to interact with abstractions that look and feel like physical systems. Cloud architecture is yet another example of Marc Andreessen's declaration that "Software is eating the World", only this time it's enterprise IT being served up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

With the right amount of vision and execution, enterprise IT stands to benefit from cloud computing.  But it will require them to provide users the ability to utilize resources on their own terms. This is a delicate balancing act:

  • Too many restrictions from IT will drive users into the arms of public cloud providers while fueling shadow IT.
  • Running a wide-open environment will come at the expense of security, reliability, and maintainability.

If enterprise IT is going to survive and thrive in the face of public cloud, they need to balance corporate governance needs against user self-service and operational agility that encompasses what the leading public cloud providers are already doing – certainly no easy task.

First this requires embracing the fact that service desks and request tickets are relics of IT past. Users (specifically developers) want fast, easy, and reliable access to IT resources and the freedom to experiment and innovate without the overhead of passing everything through IT operations (ITOps). With the new enterprise Cloud, developers and product teams become responsible for the deployment and management their own applications.  ITOps provides the platform for enterprise cloud applications (web-based or otherwise) which manages all the backing networks, systems, and storage. Unless a problem percolates up to the application level, users have little-to-no visibility into what's happening behind the scenes.

As a test of this model, think of AWS. Do you frequently file trouble tickets with AWS? Do you constantly hear about day-to-day operational difficulties at AWS? Do you find yourself waiting until some AWS team returns from lunch to get the servers or services you requested? If your enterprise IT team is embracing what I feel is the true meaning of "Cloud", then asking these same answers of your enterprise cloud should yield the same resounding "NO!"

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Topics: Public Cloud, Shadow IT, Self Service IT, Hybrid Cloud

Game of Clouds

Posted by Colin Thorp

6/22/15 2:37 PM

There is a war among the clouds, the public and private providers are fighting to see who will reign supreme.  Public vs Private, Public vs Public, and Private vs Private. It is chess match to see which vendor(s) will capture the largest share of the market.  This non-stop battle has made it  more challenging for the customer, the normal people, to make the best choice.

Large companies have ruled the land for years: VMware, Red Hat, and others have their stake in the ground. In recent years AWS, GCE, OpenStack and Azure have established control and are now eating away the edges of the market; corrupting the business models of traditional vendors. In a market that is redefining itself every year, how do you make the right choice? First you have to look at the state of the clouds:

Public

The public clouds are simple and easy to use. Public cloud’s destiny is manifested by pushing at our most basic needs: gain control, lower costs, increase speed, and deliver simplicity. However, public providers don’t want you to know how much you will owe them until after the fact, post billing. You don’t get locked in, but clearly the goal is to be the stickiest product that you use with their growing toolset.  The on-premise security you need might not be provided by a public cloud which creates a need for a private cloud with the ability to move between the clouds.

Private

The private/internal cloud providers will reel you in continually attack your budgets with their ever expanding set of services. Layering in so many different tools from their “suites” that you are never quite sure which tools you are using, which tools you have bought, or which you are being charged for. Be wary, these vendors lock customers in at the root level of your infrastructure to the point where you’ll have no choice, but to renew, renew, and renew. There are so many varying levels of integration between these tools that it becomes complex and hard to manage, forcing you to buy professional services. More professional services means more money, and the vicious cycle continues.

So who is the right choice?

The answer is a hybrid approach. For various reasons, maybe it is cost or security or ease of use or vendor lock-in, you will come to use a variety of these tools and they will continue to challenge one another. They will have tunnel vision with one goal in mind: how can we lock our customers in with an vendor specific set of products.  This makes none of them fit to rule the throne, so whose turn is it?

It is time for “choice” to be your weapon. Come above the clouds to be the broker, the king of clouds and give yourself the choice. Enough is enough with vendors ruling you! Take control of the clouds and manage them. Claim your place on the throne by putting the power of the clouds in the hands of your people so they can manage their own IT resources without getting caught up in the fog of vendor war.

So you want to sit on the throne?

To lay claim to the throne is to be the “broker of clouds” above the fray.  End users must be happy, if they aren’t happy you will know and hear about it. Users are ok with paying an IT team to be their broker as long as resources are delivered quickly and correctly. Users care that the job is done, not how you do it. Private and Public clouds have become a commodity, it is time to make the delivery of this commodity readily available. Waiting hours, days or weeks to get commodity resources is no longer sufficient.

When you look at what is preventing private and public clouds from being readily available, you see the following issues: complexity of multiple UIs, slow provisioning, IT overwhelmed with tickets, inability to track costs between clouds, and VM sprawl. IT is spending so much time servicing complexity that they can’t service their users. Solution? Simplicity.

Simplicity is the Vaccine for Complexity

Kings and Queens can’t do it on their own, they need an ally. A tool that reigns above the clouds; a Cloud Delivery Platform that provides you the nimbleness, flexibility, and agility that you need.  Give users a simple intuitive interface that eliminates multiple UIs and gives users the single portal that spans the entirety of your realm of clouds. If you are truly going to lead your users, public, and private clouds, then for every resource you need to know: Who owns it, What is it doing, Where is it, When does it expire, Why does it exist, and How much does it cost. CloudBolt is a vendor agnostic tool that is worthy of the title “Hand of the King/Queen.”

Conclusion

By this point if you’ve read this far you must be somewhat interested. Reach out, schedule a demo, and see how a cloud delivery platform like CloudBolt will put you on the path to the throne and bring the convenience of the clouds to all of your users.

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Topics: Public Cloud, IT Challenges, Cloud Management, Private Cloud, Self Service IT, Hybrid Cloud

App and Cloud Management, added Nebula Private Cloud with v4.6

Posted by Justin Nemmers

10/27/14 2:22 PM

In our latest release, we've continued enabling IT organizations that want to provision and manage their applications more effectively. CloudBolt v4.6 makes providing self-service IT access to applications easier than ever, regardless of whether that application resides on a single server, or is a complete end-to-end stack of servers deployed across several environments. Like never before, users can interactively request entire stacks with just a few clicks, and deploy those stacks into any one of the dozen or so supported cloud and virtualization platforms.

We haven’t stopped there, though. In addition to streamlining the application provisioning process, we’ve put a significant amount of effort into other areas of CloudBolt as well. 

Nebula

We're also proud to announce an all-new connector for Nebula Private Cloud environments.

Image: CloudBolt now supports Nebula Private Cloud

Image: Add Nebula Resource Handler in CloudBolt Cloud Manager

With this new connector, CloudBolt customers gain the ability to deploy into and manage servers, applications, and even entire services in Nebula-backed environments. Nebula private cloud customers using CloudBolt gain immediate access to all of CloudBolt's features in both new and existing environments:

  • Chargeback and Showback
  • Reporting
  • Governance
  • Automated provisioning and management
  • Lifecycle management
  • Software license management
  • And more

Service Catalog

Customers are using the CloudBolt Service Catalog to provide end users self-service access to entire application stacks for some time now. In v4.6, we've updated the service creation process to make it even more straightforward. Just as they can do for the single server ordering process, admins can alter how the service ordering process looks for different end users and deployment environments. End users can be prompted to enter specific information as necessary based on their desired target deployment environment. 

Once ordered by a user, CloudBolt’s built-in approval mechanism can be leveraged for additional validation before CloudBolt steps through any number of automated processes required for delivery of a fully functional application stack.

The end result is clear: CloudBolt administrators can quickly create new service offerings that are able to span any supported target environment. Regardless of your platform of choice, CloudBolt can deliver a complete stack to your end users, and in less time than you think. 

Active Directory Group Mapping

Are you using one or more AD environments to authenticate CloudBolt users? In v4.6, admins gain the ability to map AD groups to CloudBolt groups. This AD group mapping also works with multiple AD environments, so if you're using CloudBolt in a multi-tenant capacity, you can still pick-and-choose how auth is handled for each tenant. 

Orchestration Hooks

Orchestration Hooks enable IT administrators to automate every step needed to deliver IT resources and applications to end-users. Extending on this capability, we've added a new Orchestration Hook type that enables the execution of an arbitrary remote script.

Image: Add a hook for remote script execution

This further extends CloudBolt’s lead as the most powerful cross-platform application deployment and management platform, as it can now be seamlessly integrated into nearly any manually-scripted provisioning and management process. Reusing your existing IP has never been easier or faster. 

Connector Improvements

Discovering and importing current state from existing environments is a CloudBolt Cloud Management key strength. In v4.6, this is even more thorough, as we now also detect all disk information from VMware vCenter virtual machines as well as AWS AMI, and Microsoft Azure public cloud instaces. 

Have a lot of VMs? Users in environments with tens of thousands of VMs will be happy to learn that VM discovery and sync is more efficient and faster. 

Puppet Enterprise users can now also leverage multiple Puppet environments rather than the default "Production". This can further help customers simplify their IT environments. 

Get It Now

The CloudBolt Cloud Manager v4.6 is available today via the CloudBolt support portal. Our updates are just another feature, and take mere minutes to complete

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Topics: Public Cloud, VMware, Private Cloud, Upgrade, AWS, Puppet, azure, Nebula

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

CloudBolt Releases C2 v3.6.1

Posted by Justin Nemmers

3/8/13 4:03 PM

We're keeping busy over here at CloudBolt.  To prove it, our engineers have released C2 v3.6.1 with a bounty of new capabilities.

Amazon Web Services (AWS for the acronym-inclined) support continues to get better and better in C2.  We understand that many users will want to import the existing state of an AWS account, so now C2 will import a list of all the running virtual instances in a customer's AWS accounts.  

Happy that you're able to provision servers quicker than ever?  Want to brag about it?  C2 now presents users that ability to post a Facebook message bragging about how well your IT environment is run after they provsion a virtual machine using CloudBolt. Of course, administrators can toggle that feature on and off as needed/required.

What happens when something goes wrong with a VM deployment? v3.6.1 now gives you more information on the status of an order, and will tell you more about errors from the underlying virtualization or configuration management.

While we'd love to say that bugs never happen, the fact is that all software has bugs.  We grabbed our fly swatter and fixed a handful of issues in this release, including UI rendering fixes for Internet Explorer, situations where the remote console feature failed, and some corrected verbiage in various status messages.

Ready to upgrade?  Hit up our support portal (login required) for details.  Want to kick the tires?  Request a download now!

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Topics: Feature, Public Cloud, Development, Cloud Manager, Upgrade, Release Notes, AWS

CIOs Must Learn From Shadow IT

Posted by Justin Nemmers

2/12/13 2:18 PM

Michael Grant over at CloudScaling.com penned a pretty interesting article asking what CIOs can learn from Shadow IT.  Dave Linthicum came to a similar conclusion in a blog post back in August. I think that the most interesting part of the article is the claim that “Shadow IT is less a threat, but more of a positive force for changing the way IT is delivered in the enterprise.”

I’m not sure that many CIOs would tend to agree with that statement, if for no other reason that the risk to business be it real or perceived.  CIOs certainly see what can be done, but the implementation of a public cloud-like model often stands in juxtaposition from how their IT Organization was built to operate.  It’s not just a drastic change to the technology model, but also a groundbreaking adjustment to how the team operates on a day-to-day basis.  For that reason alone, it’s not as easy as just deciding to alter the resource provisioning and request model.  There are real tools that are needed, and few are able to effectively offer the needed capabilities without actually replacing existing technologies.

Shadow IT CIO IT Organizations
CIOs need to learn how to benefit from the decisions made by shadow IT.

As Michael correctly claims, strategic CIOs absolutely get that the opportunity for cloud computing lies not just with the technology, but also with the technology’s ability to enable IT organization transformation to be more responsive to the business. Organizations can even create new revenue opportunities.  Selecting the correct tools to enable this transformation is the key.

CIOs need to select the tools that allow them to both most fully leverage existing capabilities and expertise.  There is little value migrating away from proven technologies that organizations have already spent significant sums procuring and implementing.  Of course, I’m talking about a Cloud Manager here.  A good one needs to integrate with, not replace existing technology.  Once a Cloud Manager is deployed, CIOs will have the flexibility needed to make additional technology selections.  Want to implement OpenStack?  Want to pull in entire application stacks and present them as PaaS?  How about leveraging an updated configuration management/data center automation tool?  No sweat.  The right Cloud Manager helps CIOs get there.  

Finally, what I will agree with, however, is the notion that CIOs can learn from the delivery models of Public Cloud-based compute, in order to alter their way of doing business.  In fact, they have to.  IT organizations are under an amazing amount of pressure to perform.  Even in organizations that have effectively curtailed the usage of shadow IT, the IT organization just looks bad when it takes them three weeks (or more!) to deploy a server for use by someone in the business.

Linthicum sums it up pretty well: 

“I do not advocate that IT give up control and allow business units to adopt any old technology they want. However, IT needs to face reality: For the past three decades or so, corporate IT has been slow on the uptake around the use of productive new technologies." 

Cloud has the ability to drastically alter that model.  In a way, IT organizations can’t just get out of the way and let their users do whatever they want, but if they don’t learn from those cues, they’ll need to find other employment.

With an effective Cloud Manager, such as CloudBolt C2, CIOs can present the entirety of their virtualization resources as private cloud, and enable public cloud resource consumption as well, all while ensuring that IT management has control over governance, and total visibility into the cost impacts of various deployments.  For CIOs that wish to remain relevant, it’s a must.

 

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Topics: Customer, Public Cloud, Shadow IT, Agility, CIO

VM Sprawl’s Effects on the Processor/Performance Curve is Significant

Posted by Justin Nemmers

2/8/13 1:24 PM

Over at Information Week, Jim Ditmore discusses how advances in CPU power efficiency will eventually save businesses significant data center costs.

It’s certainly a compelling case, but there’s an assumption being made—that VM count will not grow at the same pace as the gains in hardware efficiency.

Many customers I speak with are certainly excited about the prospects of more efficient data centers, both in terms of CPU performance and efficiency.  One common problem they’re butting up against, however, is that of VM sprawl. Unused or under-utilized VMs in an environment have a significant impact on the overall efficiency numbers that an IT organization can expect to see.  If VM count increases at the same rate as the processor/efficiency curve, then the net result will be as it is now: the amount of required hardware to sustain the existing load will increase. 

To his credit, Jim comes close to calling this point out: 

“You'll have to employ best practices in capacity and performance management to get the most from your server and storage pools, but the long-term payoff is big. If you don't leverage these technologies and approaches, your future is the red and purple lines on the chart: ever-rising compute and data center costs over the coming years.”

efficiency power vm sprawl effects
Efficiency doesn't matter when VM Sprawl consumes additional capacity provided by more powerful and efficient CPUs.

But that’s still making the assumption that It organizations are well-prepared to effectively solve the issue of VM sprawl.  For many of the customers I work with, that’s a pretty big assumption.  IT Organizations are well aware of the impact of sprawl, but have few tools to effectively combat it in a reliable and consistent manner.  Additionally, the sustained effort required to maintain a neat-and-tidy virtualization environment (at least regarding sprawl) is often great, placing much pressure on an IT organization that’s likely already seen as lacking agility and responsiveness to the business.

The default solution, which of course is rife with issues, to this struggle is well known, and relatively easy:  Throw more hardware at the problem.  Or push workloads to the public cloud.  Either way, it’s just a Band-Aid, at best and does nothing to contain costs into the future.

The only way for IT organizations to benefit in an ongoing basis from the processor performance/efficiency curve is to effectively control sprawl in the virtual environment.

And how does one do that?  With a Cloud Manager like CloudBolt C2.

 

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Topics: Public Cloud, IT Challenges, Virtualization, Cloud Management, Agility, Hardware

Cloud Management, Vendor Impact of Software Licensing For the Cloud

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/29/13 4:19 PM

I provided some background into how cloud models—be they public or private—break both traditional software licensing models, but in some cases, the software licenses themselves.  Despite the growing pervasiveness of cloud-based compute, I was amazed that there are not just cloud-incompatible license agreements, but also some licenses actually prohibit the running of certain software in the cloud.

There’s a term that’s applicable here: BYOSL (Bring Your Own Software License).  Vendors who understand a cloud-centric IT model understand that you need to be able to use their software in cloud-centric models if that’s what your organization wants to do.  However, many large vendors (it won’t be hard to find which ones I’m talking about here) take specific steps to limit BYOSL (just to name a few I came across):

  • Require specific understanding of underlying hardware architectures or processor specifications
  • Require licensing based on the physical, not virtual host
  • Mandate customers run vendor-provided license tracking, further complicating multi-location or multi-environment installations
  • Prohibit software from being virtualized
  • Force purchase of higher-cost public cloud resources which rope in the underlying OS license regardless of customer license availability
  • Force purchase of “License Mobility” options in order to run software in public clouds

In short, software license management in the cloud is a mess.  What’s really odd is that those large vendors also claim to know about cloud.  My resulting questions to you are simple:

  • Are you relying on cloud strategy from a company that actively uses their software licensing to discourage or prevent you from moving to a more open cloud-centric IT model?
  •  Are they leveraging their licenses to force you down the path they want you to?

My subtext:  If you’re listening to intently to those large vendors, the answer to both is “yes”.  Proceed with caution if your primary cloud strategy comes from your hardware, middleware, database, or even OS vendor.

license management and cloud
Be sure to get the full story from vendors and how software licenses will work in the cloud.

In some cases, I can understand why these companies believe that licensing software based on the type of physical CPU, or the count of virtual CPUs, or even the type of cloud the application is running in.  However, more often than not, vendors are just trying to protect market share or revenue.  In other situations, perhaps there are other requirements, such as performance, or hardware that present troubles when run virtualized.  But that’s a support issue, not a licensing one.  Otherwise, their restrictions make little sense.

Vendor licenses that restrict where purchased software can and cannot run are incompatible with the current trajectory of IT.  Vendors need to understand that there is little fundamental difference between applications running on an Amazon EC2 instance in Virginia vs. a Google Compute instance in California, vs. a Rackspace instance in Texas vs. your own VMware-based vCenter cluster in your data center.  

Cloud management can help to solve this problem, too.  If software vendors are concerned about protecting revenue, they have no impetus to alter a license model in a way that will save customers money but be totally untraceable.  IT is absolutely heading toward usage-based accounting and costing of license usage, but currently, vendors possess no reliable way to effectively track that usage.  Cloud complicates that for them.  A vendor-agnostic tool that delivers accurate license usage counts in real-time ensures IT organizations remain compliant, and gives software vendors a little peace that they’re not missing out on revenue, but also provides IT organizations the tool necessary to much more effectively utilize software licenses. 

And for those software vendors that are behind the times?  They must adapt, or they’ll be (or rather, continue to be) pummeled out of existence.

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Topics: Public Cloud, IT Challenges, Management, Cloud Management, License Management