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
Aspose.Total for .NET is the most complete package of all file format APIs for .NET as offered by Aspose. It empowers developers to create, edit, render, print and convert between a wide range of popular document formats within any .NET, C#, ASP.NET and VB.NET applications. Aspose compiles all .NET APIs on a daily basis to ensure that it contains the most up to date versions of each of Aspose .NET APIs. If a new .NET API or a new version of existing APIs is released during the subscription peri...
Security, data privacy, reliability, and regulatory compliance are critical factors when evaluating whether to move business applications from in-house, client-hosted environments to a cloud platform. Quality assurance plays a vital role in ensuring that the appropriate level of risk assessment, verification, and validation takes place to ensure business continuity during the migration to a new cloud platform.
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 ...
Ovum, a leading technology analyst firm, has published an in-depth report, Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a DevOps Release Management Solution, 2016–17. The report focuses on the automation aspects of DevOps, Release Management and compares solutions from the leading vendors.
Continuous testing helps bridge the gap between developing quickly and maintaining high quality products. But to implement continuous testing, CTOs must take a strategic approach to building a testing infrastructure and toolset that empowers their team to move fast. Download our guide to laying the groundwork for a scalable continuous testing strategy.
Adding public cloud resources to an existing application can be a daunting process. The tools that you currently use to manage the software and hardware outside the cloud aren’t always the best tools to efficiently grow into the cloud. All of the major configuration management tools have cloud orchestration plugins that can be leveraged, but there are also cloud-native tools that can dramatically improve the efficiency of managing your application lifecycle. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, 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. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Qosmos has announced new milestones in the detection of encrypted traffic and in protocol signature coverage. Qosmos latest software can accurately classify traffic encrypted with SSL/TLS (e.g., Google, Facebook, WhatsApp), P2P traffic (e.g., BitTorrent, MuTorrent, Vuze), and Skype, while preserving the privacy of communication content. These new classification techniques mean that traffic optimization, policy enforcement, and user experience are largely unaffected by encryption. In respect wit...
StackIQ has announced the release of Stacki 3.2. Stacki is an easy-to-use Linux server provisioning tool. Stacki 3.2 delivers new capabilities that simplify the automation and integration of site-specific requirements. StackIQ is the commercial entity behind this open source bare metal provisioning tool. Since the release of Stacki in June of 2015, the Stacki core team has been focused on making the Community Edition meet the needs of members of the community, adding features and value, while ...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
SYS-CON Events announced today the Kubernetes and Google Container Engine Workshop, being held November 3, 2016, in conjunction with @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This workshop led by Sebastian Scheele introduces participants to Kubernetes and Google Container Engine (GKE). Through a combination of instructor-led presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on labs, students learn the key concepts and practices for deploying and maintainin...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
ReadyTalk has expanded the capabilities of the FoxDen collaboration platform announced late last year to include FoxDen Connect, an in-room video collaboration experience that launches with a single touch. With FoxDen Connect, users can now not only engage in HD video conferencing between iOS and Android mobile devices or Chrome browsers, but also set up in-person meeting rooms for video interactions. A host’s mobile device automatically recognizes the presence of a meeting room via beacon tech...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
Deploying applications in hybrid cloud environments is hard work. Your team spends most of the time maintaining your infrastructure, configuring dev/test and production environments, and deploying applications across environments – which can be both time consuming and error prone. But what if you could automate provisioning and deployment to deliver error free environments faster? What could you do with your free time?