Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

The Outside-In Battle for the Soul of the Cloud

The clouds that can best adapt to the demands of the workloads they are supporting will be best positioned for success

Whether they admit it or not, the emergence of public cloud providers has dramatically altered the playing field for hardware vendors of every type. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its competitors opened Pandora's box by introducing the world to a completely programmatic, scalable, evolving, and pay-as-you-go way to procure and utilize network, compute and storage resources on a global scale. They have disrupted many layers of the technology industry from the applications being written to the way companies interact with the infrastructure being used to support those applications.

Nowhere is this disruption easier to see than in the virtualization ecosystem. For the better part of the last decade, hypervisor companies like VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Red Hat worked hand-in-hand with hardware manufacturers like Cisco, NetApp, EMC, HP and Dell to define both the infrastructure foundation as well as the virtualized abstraction layer that sat underneath the entirety of the client/server era. These companies provided a direct link between the enterprise applications, the hypervisor and the hardware. They owned the traditional datacenter construct.

It's that construct, since rebranded as "private cloud," that is directly under attack by public cloud providers. I predict that this will be the battlefield for the heart and soul of enterprise IT for the next decade.

The response to the public cloud threat has been varied, and often reflects the ability of traditional companies to pivot and meet the challenge. Interestingly, erstwhile competitors Microsoft and VMware reacted similarly. This is because they were both uniquely positioned to create a software-defined solution to the problem.

For both companies, the response started with existing enterprise workloads. One of the largest challenges of the AWS public cloud is the fact that getting workloads, and especially data, into and out of an enterprise environment can be both technically challenging and expensive. Most workloads running on an enterprise-virtualized platform today can't be easily ported into AWS and this increases the cost and risk of any migration. As companies with extensive and hard-won experience running mission-critical enterprise workloads, Microsoft and VMware came to much the same conclusion: build a public cloud using their existing platform and allow customers and developers to leverage all of the investment they've made in their own data centers as they selectively move workloads outside of their own data centers. Thus, Microsoft Azure and VMware vCHS were born. Both are clouds that customers can move workloads to without the need to rewrite or re-architect them. They can also be licensed using existing agreements and can be managed by existing staff and tools.

Unfortunately, the traditional data center infrastructure is now the weak link in this new software-defined world. In each of the public clouds referenced, the focus has been on the abstraction layer and how it interacts with the end users. What's missing is how the abstraction layer and the applications and tools that sit on top of it interact with the infrastructure directly.

There have been attempts at hardware-based offloading, especially with regards to storage. VAAI is a good example of VMware trying to create a way to let enterprise storage arrays handle the tasks they are good at without requiring the direct involvement of the hypervisor. But even there it's a rudimentary exchange at best: the hypervisor asks "can you do this task instead of me?" and the array responds. If the answer is yes, the hypervisor waits for the task to complete; if the answer is no, the hypervisor does the task itself. This relationship isn't dynamic, and is ignorant of the reason for and context behind the task in the first place.

In summary, we have an outside force, AWS and public cloud, being the primary catalyst driving change into the enterprise, yet very little of that change is happening below the cloud management or hypervisor layer. Why is that? Why is it important that the infrastructure layer become more of an asset to the rest of the stack? What would that look like? Let's dig in.

The question of why is actually pretty simple: it's really, really hard to take legacy hardware architecture and retrofit it into something agile and programmatic. In some cases, it's just a new concept that requires a hardware refresh (like Cisco UCS and its take on XML-defined BIOS policies), but in many cases, especially around storage, it requires a complete reimagining of the platform. It's no coincidence that most of the innovation in this agile infrastructure space is being done by startups who have no legacy customers, technical debt or margins to deal with.

Why is it important? While the best hardware is boring hardware, it's still a critical part to providing a flexible, reliable and high-performance foundation to handle applications that matter to enterprises. There are times where the best way to handle the demands of an application or, more important, multiple applications at once is in hardware. This is true at the network layer, where the manipulation of packets benefits from proximity to processing resources; the compute layer, where apps can benefit from having specialized GPU resources to handle unique requirements; and most especially at the storage layer.

Storage services can have the most dramatic impact on workload performance, yet are often implemented in such a way that they have no direct relationship with those workloads. Services like compression, deduplication and quality-of-service are usually "on or off" features when it comes to storage arrays. Best case, a storage administrator will create a volume or LUN, choose the features that need to be enabled, and then a virtualization admin will map that volume to a data store. Perhaps the virtualization team will create manual storage profiles that define the features offered by that data store, but placing and migrating VMs remains a manual process, and they will not have the ability to map application policy equally across the hypervisor and hardware layers. (Of course, it's not impossible to create programmatic, hypervisor-aware infrastructure, but it is pretty hard.)

Enterprises have come to expect some fundamental features from the public cloud space: simple architecture, linear scaling, API availability and granular application of services. These features allow an infrastructure to respond to the increased requirements of a workload natively, without the overhead of a bolt-on orchestration engine. They provide the ability for the hypervisor to be both a northbound and southbound policy enforcer. They enable the Next-Generation Data Center, one in which the hardware, the hypervisor and the application all play an integrated, coordinated role in providing the performance and availability demanded by the enterprise.

No matter where your workloads run, the rise of public cloud has ushered in an era of computing defined by a seamless, programmatic experience. The old, monolithic infrastructure of yesterday's client/server wave is giving way to a more agile, more responsive, more services-rich and more scalable cloud-based model. The battle for the enterprise soul is beginning and, inside or outside the firewall, the clouds that can best adapt to the demands of the workloads they are supporting will be best positioned for success.

More Stories By Jeramiah Dooley

Jeramiah Dooley joined the SolidFire team as a Cloud Architect on the Technology Solutions team. Prior to SolidFire he was most recently at VCE and before that Peak 10. You can check out his Virtualization for Service Providers blog or follow him on twitter @jdooley_clt.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abil...
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
Extreme Computing is the ability to leverage highly performant infrastructure and software to accelerate Big Data, machine learning, HPC, and Enterprise applications. High IOPS Storage, low-latency networks, in-memory databases, GPUs and other parallel accelerators are being used to achieve faster results and help businesses make better decisions. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at NVIDIA, focused on some of the unique ways extreme computing is...
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
With over 720 million Internet users and 40–50% CAGR, the Chinese Cloud Computing market has been booming. When talking about cloud computing, what are the Chinese users of cloud thinking about? What is the most powerful force that can push them to make the buying decision? How to tap into them? In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yu Hao, CEO and co-founder of SpeedyCloud, answered these questions and discussed the results of SpeedyCloud’s survey.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
Actian Corporation has announced the latest version of the Actian Vector in Hadoop (VectorH) database, generally available at the end of July. VectorH is based on the same query engine that powers Actian Vector, which recently doubled the TPC-H benchmark record for non-clustered systems at the 3000GB scale factor (see tpc.org/3323). The ability to easily ingest information from different data sources and rapidly develop queries to make better business decisions is becoming increasingly importan...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Kubernetes, Docker and containers are changing the world, and how companies are deploying their software and running their infrastructure. With the shift in how applications are built and deployed, new challenges must be solved. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at19th Cloud Expo, Sebastian Scheele, co-founder of Loodse, will discuss the implications of containerized applications/infrastructures and their impact on the enterprise. In a real world example based on Kubernetes, he will show how to ...
Traditional on-premises data centers have long been the domain of modern data platforms like Apache Hadoop, meaning companies who build their business on public cloud were challenged to run Big Data processing and analytics at scale. But recent advancements in Hadoop performance, security, and most importantly cloud-native integrations, are giving organizations the ability to truly gain value from all their data. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, David Tishgart, Director of Product Marketing ...
As the world moves toward more DevOps and Microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The Microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. Serverless computing is revolutionizing computing. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Raghav...
SYS-CON Events announced today Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.