Private Cloud: VM Management is Just the Beginning
Cloud, cloud, cloud… that’s all we’re hearing today. Clearly we are at the pinnacle of the hype cycle when it comes to anything even remotely cloudy. However, many forget that “cloud” is not a verb. Cloud is really a computing end-state comprising the convergence of many components into an operationally significant, yet self-serviceable process. In and of itself, a cloud doesn’t solve IT problems or end world hunger, as many seem to believe. In reality, a cloud isn’t a relevant piece of anything until it is molded to meet a specific need—or in the case of enterprises, the many, widely varying specific needs of differing business units. Nowhere is this more evident than in businesses with private clouds and VM management. Simply creating a “VM vending machine” cloud that puts out the same VM stacks using the same processes doesn’t meet the broader requirements that are unique to each business unit.
Let’s be clear, there are certainly benefits to self-service VM management when properly fitted to the business need. However, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what cloud can really do. In order to broadly impact business and reach its full potential, private cloud needs to tackle the complexities inherent in wide-ranging business operations. If done right, private cloud can provide a personalized and automated self-service capability for any corporate process, from IT to HR to manufacturing to legal and beyond, helping boost efficiencies across the entire organization.
The Current State of Private Cloud: Why it’s Limiting
Most IT organizations are building private clouds for one purpose: to provide self-service automation of the VM lifecycle process. There are a number of permeations of “cloud” including Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service. While tactically they are different, they all have one major thing in common: they deal with a series of operations. Even private clouds built for VM management are really just automating a series of steps that previously were handled by a person or group of people who touched multiple systems, using various interfaces, routed approvals, and more, all under the auspices of business policy.
When you deconstruct the cloud down to a common denominator, it’s clear that the heart of the cloud is a set of operational processes defined by the ISV or developer (provision, manage, decommission), governed by explicit and pre-defined policy, and presented through a programmatic (REST, SOAP, etc.) interface, but mainly controlled through a self-service web application. Unfortunately, these capabilities are typically presented in a monolithic architecture where the logic, execution engine and presentation layers are all interlocked with each other, creating an inflexible platform. This means the customer is locked into the functionality and management philosophy prescribed by the vendor. It also means that any requests for new capabilities must run through the vendor, further delaying their availability.
By viewing the cloud through this lens, it becomes easy to see how monolithic approaches to cloud architecture and building from a primary focus on a subset of IT operations, specifically VM management, narrows the set of use cases in “traditional” private clouds and limits its ability to reach full potential.