by Zaher Haydar
The IT industry has embarked on the Cloud journey just over a decade ago. The foundation for this journey has arguably started with the virtualization of the compute layer, a technology which was made mainstream with solutions from VMware (an EMC Federation company.) The following couple years along the cloud journey were needed to have virtualization reach a maturity point that makes it enterprise-ready at all levels of service criticality. This was achieved towards the beginning of the current decade, with VMware vSphere releases 4.x and 5.x, which supported increasingly larger number of host processors, larger number of VM’s (Virtual Machines,) larger memory sizes, etc. in addition to introducing critical features such as VAAI and VASA API’s for infrastructure integration, Fault Tolerance, High Availability, and loads more.. Building on the success of virtualization of the compute layer, the focus moved to virtualizing the network and the storage layers, which led to new concepts such as SDN (Software-Defined Network,) SDS (Software-Defined Storage) and eventually SDDC (Software-Defined DC.)
An important parallel journey was happening at the infrastructure level and was key to the wide adoption of virtualization technologies and is essential to building next generation SDDC’s. The first aspect of this infrastructure transformation was the standardization on x86 processors and related hardware building blocks. For virtualization to flourish it was necessary to have a standard architecture that enables full inter-operability. The combined effect of x86 and virtualization drove required CAPEX continuously down. The second aspect of the infrastructure transformation was the realization that implementing and managing the compute, network and storage layers independently is not necessarily the easiest or the most efficient from cost and availability angles. This has led to the creations of systems designed and operated as CI (Converged Infrastructure.) The Vblock is a very successful CI example from VCE (an EMC Federation company) where compute, network, and storage are all designed, built, implemented and maintained as a single uniform DC building block. There are few variations of CI such as VSPEX from EMC that offers a Reference Architecture CI model and VSPEX Blue from EMC that offers a Hyper-CI model. These various CI offerings tackle the OPEX side of the IT budget pushing it further down. Needless to say that Vblock, VSPEX and VSPEX Blue are built around x86 architectures and are designed to run virtualization technologies from VMware or equivalent.
Virtualization and Converged Infrastructure have become essential ingredients and natural pre-requisites for successfully building the Cloud, whether Private, Public or Hybrid. After standardization on x86 and pooling of resources leveraging CI and virtualization, organizations need automation in order to achieve ITaaS. This is the current phase we are in today. More and more organizations and IT departments have now achieved high-levels of virtualization in their DC’s and have started exploring re-platforming business and mission critical applications such as Oracle and SAP onto x86 and virtualizing these. Next, organizations are looking at automating most of the routine IT tasks and offering these as a service.
This includes allocating hardware resources to certain applications, provisioning some new applications or services, and managing these for the duration of their life-cycles in the DC, including accurate reporting and mapping of resources and costs to related consumers. To complete the picture, users/consumers of IT now ask for an advanced portal through which to pick what they need from a well-defined service catalog, and have these services/resources available for their usage within very short lead times.
Since some of the services or resources might not be readily available through internal IT procurement channels, IT departments are putting in place provisions to be able to dynamically and selectively procure some of these from Public CSP’s (Cloud Service Providers.) In this model, the IT department plays the role of a CSB (Cloud Service Broker) making sure that their consumers are not reaching out to CSP’s directly and outside their control. EMC has put together a well-defined EHC (EMC Hybrid Cloud) model with all the necessary underlying integration and automation components to enable organization to achieve ITaaS either within a fully Private setup or under a Hybrid deployment. With EHC, it’s now possible for IT decisions makers to plan for and procure a cloud-based IT delivery and consumption model that meets their business requirements. All necessary controls and visibility measures are kept in place, without guess work and without having to compromise with the public route.