Somewhere between the physical and the virtual
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Imagine the following movie clip playing at a datacenter near you…..an application owner comes to a web site that you as the datacenter administrator offers, simply specifies a few characteristics of their app – say it needs 99.9% availability, app data can’t leave the US & I need x compute/ y storage at peak demand. After that, all they need to do is click a self-service button titled “Deploy my app”. And voila…! In a few minutes time, their application is up and running in the “cloud” as an online service! You could argue the application owner couldn’t care less where the underlying infrastructure hosting the application runs as long as it meets their compliance/ SLA requirements and gracefully serves all the traffic that hits their web site by scaling on-demand. That is how Windows Azure works today. Out of Microsoft’s large globally distributed datacenters. Simple, no? Guess what, this level of simplicity and agility combined with a trusted level of infrastructure reliability is what all application owners in the enterprise are looking for.
Now, let’s come back to reality. If you’re an IT infrastructure guy, you’re saying “Hang on, I’m not sure it’s that simple. This doesn’t account for the custom requirements our business imposes on us. Think about all the unique hardware SKUs they want…how about dedicated patching windows….I could go on and on. Some application owners even want to be able to touch and see their datacenter servers! Combined with the security and process controls I have to be on top of, this is completely unrealistic!”
If yesterday’s demand of IT was “do it cheaper”, today’s business/ application owner demands “faster & simpler & cheaper” services. If you can’t, the business goes “Then please get out of my way. I am technology savvy enough to spin up a few cloud instances of my own! I use a variety of devices and online commerce web sites during my Sunday evenings at home – they work just fine and very simply at that. So I don’t want to walk in to office on Monday morning to go through all those complex IT change requests to deploy one small application on a virtual server – which then takes 4 to 6 weeks to spin up!” And then all of those shadow applications start popping up all over the place. As an IT guy, you don’t want that, do you?
So what is the solution to better align the “Service Consumer” (in this case the application owner) and “Service Provider” (in this case datacenter IT staff) needs in a way that mutually serves their objectives? So let’s introduce the concept of “IT as a Service”. This is all about delivering on-demand provisioning and scaling of services on shared hardware pools in a way that your business can consume in self-service mode. And pay for what they consume.
Cloud Computing all about standardized datacenter service delivery to enable IT as a Service. So, the cloud is the new shiny penny in this age old debate around aligning IT and the business.
Now, as much as us geeks like to think that technology is the cure to everything, I differ. IT as a Service is all about aligning these 2 guys – App owners and Datacenter Admins – in a manner that is aligned to business objectives. Simply put, the app owner specifies what the app needs while the datacenter admins figure out the underlying infrastructure – private clouds, public clouds, virtual or physical. So IT delivers services to the business – and it should be viewed as such across all people, process and technology decisions.
Now, we realize your business might be constrained by regulatory issues or data sovereignty issues and you might need dedicated infrastructure for your apps and services. With a private cloud, you get many of the above described benefits of public cloud computing (e.g. Windows Azure) —including shared resource pooling, self-service, scalability, and elasticity—with the additional control and customization available from dedicated resources.
I can almost hear you say, “All this is good. So where do I start my journey towards delivering IT as a Service? What is my end goal or destination, as it were?” In a utopian world, all applications and services will predominantly run on general purpose public cloud platforms like Windows Azure. But the reality of existing datacenter investments and customized applications mean most customers will eventually end up running hybrid environments i.e. a combination of physical, virtual, private and public cloud endpoints.
So how can Microsoft help you on his journey to IT as a Service with these hybrid environments?
Get this: The private cloud is within your reach today with your existing investments with Microsoft! Yes, you read it right. Think about the secure and well trusted platform that you run almost all of your datacenter apps and services on – Yes, Windows Server! Use our enterprise class virtualization technology built into Windows Server to virtualize your datacenter resources – storage, network and compute - and create shared resource pools for your private cloud – we’ve got a pretty good set of customers running Hyper-V in production deployments today! We are also committed to delivering a consistent set of management, identity and application development tools across all your datacenter environments – on-premises or off-premises, private or public, physical or virtual. Visual Studio, System Center and Active Directory anyone? You get it. Familiar. Well-understood. Plentiful skill-sets. Investing in these tool sets will ensure you are future proofed as cloud computing evolves. And then think about the workloads that run in your datacenter – Exchange, SharePoint – familiar again? Who makes these apps? So who can offer best of breed solutions to help you virtualize these tier 1 apps? I rest my case. So, think about your next tier 1 application workloads and put it on Hyper-V based private clouds – we are offering you our full breadth of partner ecosystem support to meet your unique requirements through our recently launched Hyper-V Cloud program. Hyper-V Cloud will allow you to accelerate your private cloud computing efforts – get in touch with your Microsoft account rep and/or your closest partner!
Now, you’ve turned your datacenter infrastructure into a resource pool.So what’s next? If you just keep on virtualizing without ensuring adequate process control, you will discover that your sponsorship willdisappear. Because, you’ve just multiplied the complexity in your IT environment with all of those self-provisioned virtual machines sprouting up all over the place like uncontrolled mice. You’ve got to have a virtualization-management solution that helps you manage your hypervisors – not to worry, System Center can manage Hyper-V and VMware. We’ve got you covered for your entire virtual infrastructure. You’ve also got to take a step back and say…let me simplify my datacenter management processes. How? By leveraging a set of industry standard service management processes. Preferably ITIL certified – right? Bingo! In comes System Center again with its end to end datacenter process automation solutions – Opalis and Service Manager - that orchestrate custom workflows helping you improve service reliability and reduce costs. Through all this, one thing to remember is your job as a datacenter admin is to optimize service delivery for your apps and services – that is where you will have the maximum impact since that is where the business derives value from. Who understands these apps the best – our competition stops at the VM – for them the app is a black box, but we absolutely live for the app. We understand tier 1 enterprise apps with in-depth packaged knowledge even as we continue to deeply invest in end to end application and transaction monitoring. Revisit our recent AVIcode acquisition that helps us do that. And to help your application owners consume these standardized services, we also announced the general availability of the Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal. Between our in-market System Center capabilities today combined with the System Center 2012 roadmap (RTMs next fall), you will see increased investments in areas like infrastructure fabric management, 360 degree monitoring and other private cloud like capabilities. Go here for a fun-filled hot-off-the-press 1 hour video from TechEd EMEA that drills down into the above described “app/service centric” datacenter management approach illustrated with some great demos plus details on the System Center 2012 roadmap.
Now you’ve built enough transformation in your on-premises datacenter while maximizing your existing investments! You are ready to leverage the full power of Cloud Computing by extending into the public cloud. Think overdraft scenarios like “Black Friday” if you’re a retailer or April 15th if you’re a tax management company or Super Bowl if you’re a Pizza place. You want to leverage public cloud resources – think Windows Azure – to supplement your on-premises capacity. To enable seamless mobility of applications and services between private and public clouds, you need common application/service models, identity models and management tools that will offer you consistent experiences. Microsoft understands cloud service application models better than any other company in the planet. We’re bringing in those app/service models to your datacenter with System Center 2012. Even today, we’re providing a single pane of glass management experience for applications deployed across on-premises and Windows Azure environments – check out our Windows Azure Application Monitoring Management Pack Release Candidate. Visual Studio is what you use (even today!) to build .Net apps that can run in Windows Azure or Windows Server environments. We also have common identity frameworks - Windows Azure App Fabric - that allow you to federate your on-premises Active Directory identities with cloud based LDAP directories like Windows Live ID, Facebook, Yahoo, Google etc. Did anyone say we are a closed cloud? Nothing could be farther from the truth! We’re also helping you bridge the gap between the private and public cloud with capabilities like the Windows Azure VM role & Server Application Virtualization that allow you to re-host or repackage your existing applications so they can run in Windows Azure.
Let's go back to where we started - the Application Owner and the Datacenter Admin - do you see how both of them will be thrilled now? So IT as a Service is about optimizing not only how services are delivered, it's also about simplifying and accelerating how services are consumed by your business. And that's how you impact your organization's top line and bottom line. Think about it. In today's economic environment, won't that be an awesome thing to pitch to your CIO?
And yes, this is all about the applications and services that you're responsible to deliver - yes, you need great infrastructure to run your apps on. But let's be laser focussed on the business value we're trying to bring in - Always. That way, you will always be a sought after IT professional.
Wow, that was quite a journey – wasn’t it? Yes, this is not a flip-the-switch-and-you're-there thing. But - at the end of it all, imagine yourself vacationing in Hawaii and drinking a cocktail while celebrating the amazing transformation that you would have impacted for your business!
So, are you ready to fasten your seatbelts? Microsoft is here to help you along the drive.
We’re not fully done yet. Watch this space for subsequent blogs that drill down on these above capabilities over the next few days. Till then, keep this conversation going!
Would love to hear your comments.
CheersAnant S. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Server and Cloud Platform Marketing Microsoft Corporation