Archive | Cloud Computing

Slight Transition

As many of you may know, since I joined NetApp I have been working almost exclusively on solutions around Zimbra and Octopus (Horizon Data), in the End User Computing space, and the work is not yet complete. However, as I work to finish those initiatives, I am starting the transition to a new focus area: Cloud.

I am really excited about this change, as it brings me more in tune with my areas of interest, especially around automation, scaling, and elasticity. Expect to see my content shift from the End User Computing space and toward the Cloud space in the coming months.

VMware’s version of Cloud is very interesting to me, but I will need to ramp up my expertise to get up to speed on all the material in that ecosystem. My hope is that we’ll learn together through this blog and other forms of media… 

If there’s any content you’re interested in seeing, ping me or leave a comment below.

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NetApp Insight 2012

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It’s getting closer to that time of year, when NetApp’s partners, pre- and post-sales engineers, and other employees gather for our annual technical conference, Insight. Last year the conference was held about 2 months after I joined NetApp, so I didn’t have the opportunity to attend. This year is a different story. Not only will I be attending, but I’ll be co-presenting a technical session, with Cedric Courteix. Our topic is “Mobile File Sharing and Synchronization Solutions with VMware and Citrix“.

You can guess that since my focus is exclusively on VMware technologies that I will be speaking on NetApp’s integrations and best practices for Horizon Data (formerly Project Octopus). I am excited for the potential of an on-premise, enterprise-ready and secure replacement for Dropbox and other services like it. I am also excited for the exclusive integrations we’ll be showing for both solutions at the conference this year. These will have mutual benefits for our partners and customers when these solutions are deployed on NetApp and can leverage NetApp’s unique technologies.

Now, comes my ask for you…

If you are attending the conference (or even if you aren’t, but reading this) what kind of content would you like to see covered? What burning questions do you want to have answered? What do you need to hear from NetApp to persuade you to start implementing these solutions for your customers?

I will undoubtedly be presenting this material in a more detailed form at VMware PEX as well as potentially VMworld next year. I would like to shape the content with what my readers are looking to hear.

Looking forward to your feedback and seeing some of you at the conference next month!

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Nicira – Some Thoughts…

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I have what I believe to be an interesting viewpoint on the Nicira acquisition by VMware. This is a very intriguing development especially because of the broad-reaching implications as we walk the path toward the Sofware-defined Data Center (SDDC).

I began thinking about how troublesome networking is in a virtual environment during a session by Howie Xu at VMworld 2010. I remember it vividly because it was one of the first sessions I attended at my first VMworld. Howie talked about the concept of a virtualized version of the Cisco supervisor engine that is the core of Cisco’s modular switches. At least that was what I took away from the talk, but it asked more questions than it answered.

This got me thinking about what this would look like in the context of VMware and server virtualization. The applications are virtualized on servers in a VMware vSphere cluster, but what about the network components?

As we know, today, you will typically have any number of switches, routers, firewalls, etc. in front of a vSphere cluster. The promise of a “software-defined data center” eliminates this, and more.

Imagine being able to take (2) uplinks of your choosing from the service provider’s switch in a datacenter and being able to plug them directly into the back of an ESXi server or blade chassis, etc. and be ready to go.

Think about this for a minute… The groundwork has been laid for that connection to be the same as if you were uplinking it to your router or switch. Those uplinks will be handled by the virtual supervisor (supplied by Nicira) in software. Once you have network connectivity from the outside, you only have two pieces left to form the basic infrastructure: Storage and Servers (VMs and vApps).

Storage already exists in virtual form, via virtual storage appliances. It’s only a matter of time before these can perform at speed, be completely hardware-agnostic, and be deployed in a cloud-automated fashion on the same hardware (rackmounts, blade servers or some yet-to-be-named appliance) as virtual machines can be deployed. At this point the orchestration is key and the industry is pretty close here as well, I believe.

Finally, we already know how VMs are deployed and sit in this underlying infrastructure. This is second nature to us now. They will happily continue to run side by side with the virtual supervisors and virtual storage appliances, with the proper control mechanisms.

Once you wrap around the management (enter DynamicOps) all of the dominoes fall into place. I seems like VMware is on the brink of actually saying that their SDDC story is now complete. It will be interesting to see how all of these components fit together into the VMware SDDC “stack”…

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Cloud Foundry

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Well it’s nearly a week since the announcement of VMware’s new Cloud Foundry service. The problems that Cloud Foundry is looking to solve are something that I have touched on briefly before. The technologies behind this PaaS are very much foreign and strange to those from a typical infrastructure background, but times are changing… we either adjust or get left behind.

Background

My perspective on this is a bit unique, although becoming a bit more common lately. I come from a background of not only technical support, but software support as well as SDK support, back when I was in the states. Since moving to Japan I seem to get involved with the “DevOps” duties and have done so at my current and previous positions over here. I have a good understanding for the developer methodology back to my college days and the computer science courses I took there.

That served as the basis for how I approached dealing with professional services consultants when I worked as an SDK support analyst. I got the chance to help developers troubleshoot their code and saw the hoops that they needed to jump through in order to work around bugs or develop non-existent functionality.

Fast forward to about 5-6 years ago working as a system administrator. I worked very closely with our much larger development team setting up version control, release management systems, and deploying servers with web frameworks to host code for application servers. And now at my current position, I use the experience I have had to help our developers deploy their projects more easily.

I mean as an administrator, this is not a headache that you want to have with everything else that can and does go wrong with the rest of the infrastructure. Happy developers = happy sys admins

What Cloud Foundry Is

Cloud Foundry is just another form of abstraction. We virtualization enthusiasts are very familiar with this terminology. We have been living with abstraction to the logical conclusion of IaaS in our world. Another layer of the modern IT stack is these new PaaS offerings. I actually could see this sort of offering as a potential outcome as soon as I was able to absorb the acquisition of SpringSource 1.5 years back. I remember having conversations with other bloggers about 6 months ago, contemplating how soon it would be before VMware would allow you to deploy code for application servers without caring about the underlying infrastructure.

I am not a web developer by any stretch, but I will say, I dabbled a bit a long time back. I do know developers and what they have to deal with everyday. I know that they want to code and design, not deal with infrastructure. It’s very rare that you find a developer that cares about infrastructure even in the slightest bit; it takes time away from their creative process.

That said, anything that can ease their path to release code more quickly and iterate more frequently and safely, is a win-win for both them and the infrastructure architects and administrators that support them and maintain their servers.

What Cloud Foundry is NOT

Cloud Foundry is not a replacement for IaaS or the architects and administrators thereof. It is not a replacement for all the private web and application servers that you have at your organization. Nor is it a platform that developers will move all projects to overnight. Cloud Foundry and other offerings that will come along to compete with it are also not a fad, just like cloud itself is not a fad… it is however a glimpse into one facet of the future of IT in the cloud era.

Conclusion

As you can see the lines between virtual and physical are graying just as are the lines between application servers and application frameworks and classic web frameworks and cloud frameworks. This is an opportunity for infrastructure specialists to further branch out and add value to their organizations, not a time to worry about getting left behind just doing basic infrastructure administration, but more architecting business solutions for IT problems.

Cloud Foundry is an example of an initiative that will get you more praise from the business side as well as from the development side of the house. This is a huge step in the evolution toward ITaaS or *aaS that is coming. Question is whether you maintain the status quo, or be part of the revolution…

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Cloudy Vision

I have wanted to post more articles about IT theory on this site. Unfortunately these types of posts take an especially long time to produce. Since none of us can really predict the future, a lot of what I state might end up being wrong, but that’s also part of the fun. I remember a writing project in AP history in high school where it was our goal to pick a topic and predict the future. I still remember it to this day. One thing I theorized was that music would be stored on microchips similar to RAM (didn’t know the detailed function of RAM at the time) which were placed in a small box that somehow output the audio to a stereo. I was off the mark by a bit, but only a bit.

Practical Cloud Applications

For me, the best way to think about the future possibilities of cloud platforms is to think about them from the aspect of an architect, specifically with a background in virtualization. From this perspective,  I can imagine several use cases where cloud platforms could serve extremely powerful and useful.

Example:

You have a web application service which serves 100,000 users. This service is comprised of 5 Apache/PHP web server VMs with a clustered MySQL back-end of 2 VMs. In front of the application are 2 virtual (global) load balancers which split the load across the web servers. Here’s where the fun begins… Overnight your product gets mentioned on a high profile late night television program and your traffic shoots up to 1,000,000 uniques.

It’s no problem because you at least planned for this situation by creating an account with a cloud service (IaaS) provider. Your SLA monitoring software notices the increased connections and some increasing latency in the site and automatically sends an API request to the cloud provider and provisions an additional 45 VMs across several of their datacenters (even possibly, based on the geolocation of the originating IPs, provisions more of the VMs in datacenters closer to the users). These VMs are automatically added into the load balancer configuration and can immediately start serving requests to the users.

Now you have the issue of possible reduced bandwidth to the database backend (which the monitoring system has proactively alerted you to) and the API again sends a request to the cloud provider to create a new cluster of 2 MySQL VMs. This is automatically added to the Apache/PHP configuration and can be used for queries. The data is replicated between these database servers and their counterparts in your datacenter in order to keep the data consistent, also in a fully-automated fashion. You are able to handle the load automatically without having to lift a finger when the unforeseen event happens. All you had to do was built intelligence into your system to allow the scalability to happen from the beginning.

This just one such example of how I can see the cloud being used for automated scaling of websites. To me, automation is one of the key benefits to using cloud services. The real challenge for cloud providers lies in creating an automation platform that can be used for a large percentage of use cases, so that there is less work by the end users of the cloud. I can see this being a differentiating factor between the current cloud providers out there.

Future Is Automated

There are, of course, many other ways to use automation in your hybrid cloud. A lot of the new software engineering related to cloud will revolve around this aspect of automation as this is a major factor in increasing the business agility of applications to scale beyond just the cost saving benefits inferred by cloud computing. With some level of standardization in the automation space, I think cloud adoption will start moving forward without the need for unique approaches, leading to greater compatibility and interoperability among cloud providers; a positive for everyone involved.

What are your thoughts? How do you scale applications in the cloud at your organization?

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