Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Mark Hoover, Stefan Bernbo

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.


@CloudExpo Stories
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, ...
The pace of innovation, vendor lock-in, production sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and managing risk… In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Dan Choquette, Founder of RackN, discussed how CIOs are challenged finding the balance of finding the right tools, technology and operational model that serves the business the best. He also discussed how clouds, open source software and infrastructure solutions have benefits but also drawbacks and how workload and operational portability between vendors an...
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
The speed of software changes in growing and large scale rapid-paced DevOps environments presents a challenge for continuous testing. Many organizations struggle to get this right. Practices that work for small scale continuous testing may not be sufficient as the requirements grow. In his session at DevOps Summit, Marc Hornbeek, Sr. Solutions Architect of DevOps continuous test solutions at Spirent Communications, explained the best practices of continuous testing at high scale, which is rele...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of D...
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...
"We're bringing out a new application monitoring system to the DevOps space. It manages large enterprise applications that are distributed throughout a node in many enterprises and we manage them as one collective," explained Kevin Barnes, President of eCube Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International 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 developm...
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at Logz.io, will explore the value of Kibana 4 for log analysis and will give a real live, hands-on tutorial on how to set up Kibana 4 and get the most out of Apache log files. He will examine three use cases: IT operations, business intelligence, and security and compliance. This is a hands-on session that will require participants to bring their own laptops, and we will provide the rest.
A look across the tech landscape at the disruptive technologies that are increasing in prominence and speculate as to which will be most impactful for communications – namely, AI and Cloud Computing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Curtis Peterson, VP of Operations at RingCentral, will highlight the current challenges of these transformative technologies and share strategies for preparing your organization for these changes. This “view from the top” will outline the latest trends and developm...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...