Q&A with Andrew Hillier of CiRBA - Page 2

Andrew Hillier (Profile)
Thursday, February 16th 2012

In order to host cloud workloads in an efficient and low-risk way, the equivalent of a brain is needed. Like a human brain, it must aggregate and correlate information regarding the configuration and operation of the components in the system, in order to maintain a certain level of “situational awareness.” But this alone is not sufficient, as it provides visibility, but not action, and is reactive, not proactive. To safely, reliably and proactively manage cloud environments there are two equally critical inputs that are required:

  • Cloud management policies
  • Future capacity bookings

Cloud management policies are the rules, constraints and preferences that govern the relationship between capacity and the workloads that run on it. Future bookings allow an organization to attain a level of predictive analysis, which is essential to proactive management and automation.

VSM: What impact do policies have on management? Why are they so important?

AH: Cloud management policies are the rules, constraints and preferences that govern the relationship between capacity and the workloads that run on it. These policies are critical to cloud management and affect everything from utilization levels to resource overcommit, technical compatibilities and business rules. Interestingly, most of these considerations have existed for quite some time in IT environments, but there was less of a need to formalize them into a true policy until now. This is mainly because physical environments are not flexible enough to warrant it, and early virtual environments have targeted the “low hanging fruit,” typically at the departmental level, which tends to be comparatively simple to manage. But a cloud with no policy is not viable, as it by definition hosts disparate applications from different business groups, each having different performance, availability and security requirements. Throwing these together randomly is a recipe for failure and can lead to many performance, compliance and efficiency issues. Additionally, for companies that want to gain efficiency through automation, ensuring policies are in place is essential.

VSM: Are these challenges unique to private clouds or do they also apply to other types of environments?

AH: All environments are governed by policies, either formally or informally. Service levels, regulatory requirements, and a variety of other elements all play a role in determining how much resources a workload gets and where it should be hosted. Before virtualization ruled the data center, you could make these placement and allocation decisions once and then re-examine them very infrequently – sometimes even just once a year. Virtualization and cloud models have accelerated decision making and increased the frequency, such that people now have to make these decisions on a weekly or even daily basis. This kind of responsiveness and speed of decision making means policy considerations need to be factored into the analytics that determine action. Clouds tend to be even more complex when infrastructure is shared across operating divisions or entire organizations, a case that is much less common in virtual environments, which still tend to operate in silos to reduce complexity.