What, me worry? How to enjoy the full promise of cloud computing
Wes Simonds 120000EFD6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  simonds tivoli cloud goodman computing provisioning marvin service-management ibm smartcloud wes foundation monitoring
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Every retail manager is familiar with the idea of the Return Browser. By this I mean the guy who keeps coming back to check out something he obviously likes -- a car, a guitar, a flat-panel TV -- but just... can't... quite... justify. A similar situation seems to me to apply inside certain organizations as they ponder moving to cloud architectures.
But still they ponder.
It's an understandable doubt they feel. The promise of cloud computing is, they are afraid, not going to be realized in reality -- at least in their case.
They correctly see that a cloud is going to be a much more dynamic infrastructure, meaning in part that it will be harder to predict exactly what it will do in any given context. You need to think through all the major ramifications very carefully before making such a deep commitment. (And if you happen to see a parallel to marriage here, I won't tell you you're wrong).
This, I think, is a big part of what makes IBM SmartCloud Provisioning and IBM SmartCloud Monitoring so attractive. The value proposition they offer isn't just post-deployment -- although that's enormous -- but pre-deployment, too.
By offering organizations substantially enhanced power to determine and optimize how a private cloud will fulfill workloads, these solutions also inspire confidence that maybe cloud computing really can live up to the hype.
Provision and monitor your way to peace of mind -- and incredible business value
When I spoke with Marvin Goodman, Product Manager for IBM Tivoli Software, he also seemed to see things along these lines.
Actually, one of the points he made was that even when the cloud is already up and running, much the same kinds of questions will still apply as new workloads are added to it from the more conventional infrastructure -- or somebody proposes said addition.
In that scenario, in fact, a double set of worries may apply.
‘Physical to virtual migration plans are a daunting challenge for both application owners and cloud administrators,’ said Goodman. ‘The application owners are under pressure to meet deadlines for the virtualization of their workloads, but face uncertainty about the ability of the cloud to service their customers. Meanwhile, cloud administrators have to quickly respond to requests from those application owners, and be able to determine, with confidence, that addition of those workloads is feasible, and won't affect the performance of existing workloads.’
Fortunately, what SmartCloud Provisioning and Monitoring offers is directly applicable to both sets of worries.
Consider: both the application owners and cloud administrators are bound to like the idea that in the cloud, new virtual servers will be created and provisioned with absolutely mind-boggling speed based on business requirements (thousands of servers per hour, if need be). And once those servers are up and running, workloads can be assigned and distributed across them -- meaning that applications should indeed perform as expected, and that the cloud will simply have taken on another role with ease.
They're also going to like the idea that the cloud's assets and resources are continually and automatically monitored over time to verify that they're performing up to target levels -- or if they aren't, notifications will be sent, steps will be taken and a fix will be made. Because when things are about to take a turn for the worse, the sooner you know about it and the more comprehensive your insight, the better.
‘When application owners surrender their workloads to cloud administrators, they lose the visibility into performance they've been accustomed to. Their application is now sharing server resources with lots of other workloads, many of which they know nothing about. So they're uncertain about how their applications will perform in the cloud,’ said Goodman. ‘SmartCloud Monitoring allows cloud administrators to provide assurances that workloads are, indeed, running smoothly in the cloud. It can also leverage performance data to optimize those workloads and their placement to simultaneously maximize performance and capacity.’
Instead of dynamically generated virtual servers and unpredictable resource allocation being something to worry about, in other words, they are simply strengths to rely on -- strengths the cloud was supposed to have in the first place.
Future-proofed clouds generate more rain over time
Of course, not even a cloud runs on magic; ultimately there is a limit to what it can accomplish given a finite set of resources. The question is: where's that limit, and how accurately can you establish it in advance?
If you're a cloud administrator of the type Goodman is talking about, capacity planning and management is a pretty big deal for exactly these reasons. Which, no doubt, is why capacity management is one of SmartCloud Monitoring's great selling points.
‘Customers trying to grow the maturity of their virtual environments into robust private clouds often grapple with the pressure to add more and more workloads to the environment, at a pace that far exceeds the growth of their cloud budget,’ said Goodman. ‘SmartCloud Monitoring's capacity analytics and planning unlock hidden capacity in the existing infrastructure by freeing up resources through virtual machine 'right-sizing' and optimization.’
So rather than always buying new storage for new workloads, you can often just improve the way you're using existing storage.
Instead of always working harder, you work smarter. Indeed, this gets right to the heart of what IBM has in mind when it talks about Smarter Computing. Maybe you really do need more/new resources or maybe you don't; why not establish as clearly as possible which situation applies, and respond accordingly? It all goes straight to the point of making sure clouds will live up to their original promise.
And if you're really going to design a cloud to be the best possible IT service delivery platform -- the one that really is as optimized as it can be -- you should probably try to future-proof your cloud to ensure it will support change of many kinds: change in workloads, certainly, but also change in critical resources and assets.
For instance, consider all those server images -- the complete software snapshots needed to create virtual servers dynamically. For many organizations, image management is a huge hassle because (a) there are way too many images, (b) more show up all the time and (c) it's not very clear what's inside them.
SmartCloud Provisioning, fortunately, includes some nifty features directly aimed at these issues. Looking for a specific image that needs a security patch, and all virtual servers based on it? You can easily conduct a search along those lines. Or suppose you're trying to drum up the closest possible match to a target image – that, too, is a straightforward matter. This also means it's easy to discover and eliminate duplicate images, consolidate libraries down to the essentials and in short, knock the bullet point titled ‘Image Sprawl’ right off your Fix Now! list.
Along similarly future-proofed lines, note that SmartCloud Monitoring offers support not for just one hypervisor, but for many. Ergo, if you want to add different hypervisors to your cloud over time, you can just go ahead and do it, and rest assured that the IBM solution has got your back.
Goodman sees this particular instance of future-proofing as a serious advantage.
‘IT departments want to be able to choose hypervisor technologies based on cost-benefit analysis, and not feel compelled to stay with a particular vendor just because they've become reliant on its management tools,’ he said. ‘As a management solution that crosses different hypervisor platforms, and indeed physical platforms as well, SmartCloud Monitoring allows customers to maintain tool continuity as they move workloads from one virtualization platform to another, focusing directly on availability, performance and total cost of ownership.’
So with all that in mind, let me ask you this:
When it comes to private clouds... what, really, are you so worried about?
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Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.