Is your company is trying to change? Trying to update from a legacy architecture? Are your applications tightly coupled? Written on outdated systems? Would you like to take advantage of newer application capabilities on state of the art infrastructure?
Skip the nonsense…
Why would you bother trying to update your legacy infrastructure? Why would you even look at trying to build a private cloud from scratch?
Take a lesson from Africa… Over the past 10-15 years, the world has watched while countries like Nigeria and Kenya have experienced an enormous increase in connectivity and access to the internet through cell phone technology. Arguably, there was an existing physical telephone infrastructure, but it was rigid, required people to go to one of the few places there was a phone, and subsequently access to telephones and internet was limited to a very few… exposure to the connected world didn’t exist.
Enter the cell phone…
According to CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/13/world/africa/mobile-phones-change-africa/index.html), a little more than a decade ago there were only 100,000 phone lines in Nigeria, but today Nigeria has close to 100 million subscribers. Cell phones have revolutionized life in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, providing access to online banking and the ability to move money around, access to the internet and new forms of entertainment, communications capabilities for huge waves of activism and critically required disaster management.
They didn’t bother trying to expand on the existing rigid POTS network, they skipped right over that step and went straight to cell towers. Yes, I am sure I am vastly oversimplifying the reality of this shift for those countries, but there is a lesson to be learned.
The VCE Company trumpets much the same message, albeit just for datacenter infrastructure. why would you even bother trying to build your own private cloud? The underlying components (servers, networking, and storage) are well understood, every single vendor has a highly reference-able installation base, the institutional knowledge required to operate those infrastructure domains has been baked into our organizations over the past couple decades… Why build it yourself? We all (at least 99.999% of us) just buy a car from a dealer, rather than building it ourselves. Why? Because we want to DRIVE the car… we have companies that can BUILD the car far more reliably and efficiently than any of use could. Hence the Vblock.
The Same is True for PaaS and ITaaS
Many IT organizations today are trying very hard to overcome the organizational challenges of figuring out how to operate in a cloud business model, where it’s all about service delivery, rather than project deadlines. They see the cloud model as a strategic differentiator, rightly so, for becoming / remaining more relevant to the business. Along with a cloud operating model, there is a whole slew of technology that can be put in place to enable the infrastructure to become agile enough to match a cloud operational model, but again I ask the question…. Why would you bother?
If your goal is IT as a Service (ITaaS), the first thing you should be asking yourself is whether or not that is REALLY your goal… Is your business trying to become more agile and competitive? Are they trying to bring new applications to market faster? The answer from many of my customers is a resounding YES. If so, then you probably need to skip ITaaS and move straight to Platform as a Service (PaaS). Developers want to write and deploy their applications, not have to monkey around with operating systems and software revisions.
Yes, it is true that some companies offer a suite of products designed to help you BUILD a PaaS, such as VMware vCloud Automation Center WITH vFabric Data Director AND vFabric Application Director… AND vCloud Director….
…AND vCloud Networking and Security (or soon, NSX)…
… AND vCenter Orchestrator…
did I forget anything? Or right, … AND PUPPET… AND ViPR, et cetera.
You get the picture. Don’t mistake me – these are very cool technologies that solve some very difficult, real-world challenges. But I have to ask myself – if my customer is working towards PaaS, do I really want to ask them to try to stand all this up? Or would I rather point them towards a pre-built solution that gives them everything they need?
Have you seen the updates on Pivotal CF (Cloud Foundry)? CloudFoundry comes prebuilt with all the automation, application services, etc., that a group of developers needs to start coding, and without all the pain of setting up the infrastructure and the software stack necessary to do so. If you prefer to run it in-house, with the recent announcement made (see link above), if can all be run in your private datacenter.
I personally believe the future of the datacenter is going to look a lot like the following:
- lots of commodity compute nodes
- lots of commodity networking nodes
- no shared storage arrays / NAS devices
- storage capacity provided by a shared cluster of commodity servers with captured direct-attached storage (DAS) – think ScaleIO / VMware vSAN
- storage performance provided by host-based SSD (PCIE or SAS-based) in the above compute cluster
- higher level services (resiliency, redundancy, load-balancing, etc) will be built into the application(s) themselves, rather than relying on expensive, purpose-built infrastructure…
If your goal is to move to the next generation of applications, then do it – don’t bother trying to build legacy infrastructure for next-generation applications. Build the infrastructure that matches the operational model of the applications.
Of course, there are always exceptions…
All of my customers have client-server applications that were written sometime over the past 20 years (or more) that still provide tons of value to the business, and they are not going to just ditch those apps. So, legacy infrastructure models will persist for a while, perhaps a long while, perhaps indefinitely. I am not so naive to believe that many companies will be able to make this kind of a leap easily.
But to those that do – be bold and embrace the change! With great courage comes great results!