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Cloud Expo: Article

VCE: Driving the Velocity of Change in Cloud Computing

VCE's new specialized systems are key to de-risking mission critical application deployments

When you think Cloud, whether Private or Public, one of the key advantages that comes to mind is speed of deployment. All businesses crave the ability to simply go to a service portal, define their infrastructure requirements and immediately have a platform ready for their new application. Coupled with that you instantly have service level agreements that generally center on uptime and availability. So for example, instead of being a law firm that spends most of its budget on an in house IT department and datacenter, the Cloud provides an unavoidable opportunity for businesses to instead procure infrastructure as a service and consequently focus on delivering their key applications. But while the understanding of Cloud Computing and its benefits have matured within the industry, so too has the understanding that maybe what's currently being offered still isn't good enough for their mission critical applications. The reality is that there is still a need for a more focused and refined understanding of what the service level agreements should be and ultimately a more concerted approach towards the applications. So while neologisms such as speed, agility and flexibility remain synonymous with Cloud Computing, its success and maturity ultimately depend upon a new focal point, namely velocity.

Velocity bears a distinction from speed in that it's not just a measure of how fast an object travels but also in what direction that object moves. For example in a Public Cloud whether that be Amazon, Azure or Google no one can dispute the speed. Through only the clicks of a button you have a ready-made server that can immediately be used for testing and development purposes. But while it may be quick to deploy, how optimised is it for your particular environment, business or application requirements? With only generic forms the specific customization to a particular workload or business requirement fails to be achieved as optimization is sacrificed for the sake of speed. Service levels based on uptime and availability are not an adequate measure or guarantee for the successful deployment of an application. For example it would be considered ludicrous to purchase a laptop from a service provider that merely stipulates a guarantee that it will remain powered on even though it performs atrociously.

In the Private Cloud or traditional IT example, while the speed to deployment is not as quick as that of a public cloud, there are other scenarios where speed is being witnessed yet failing to produce the results required for a maturing Cloud market. Multiple infrastructure silos will constantly be seen to be hurrying around, busily firefighting and maintaining "the keeping the lights on culture" all at rapid speed. Yet while the focus should be on the applications that need to be delivered, being caught in the quagmire of the underlying infrastructure persistently takes precedent with IT admin having to constantly deal with interoperability issues, firmware upgrades, patches and multi-management panes of numerous components. Moreover service offerings such as Gold, Silver, Bronze or Platinum are more often than not centered around infrastructure metrics such as number of vCPUs, Storage RAID type, Memory etc. instead of application response times that are predictable and scalable to the end user's stipulated demands.

For Cloud to embrace the concept of velocity the consequence would be a focused and rigorous approach that has a direction aimed solely at the successful deployment of applications that in turn enable the business to quickly generate revenue. All the pieces of the jigsaw that go into attaining that quick and focused approach would require a mentality of velocity being adopted comprehensively from each silo of the infrastructure team while concurrently working in cohesion with the application team to deliver value to the business. This approach would also entail a focused methodology to application optimization and consequently a service level that measured and targeted its success based on application performance as opposed to just uptime and availability.

While some Cloud and service providers may claim that they already work in unison with a focus on applications, it is rarely the case behind the scenes as they too are caught in the challenge of traditional build it yourself IT. Indeed it's well known that some Cloud hosting providers are duping their end users with pseudo service portals where only the impression of an automated procedure for deploying their infrastructure is actually provided. Instead service portals that actually only populate a PDF of the requirements which are then printed out and sent to an offshore admin who in turn provisions the VM as quickly as possible are much closer to the truth. Additionally it's more than likely that your Private Cloud or service provider has a multi-tenant infrastructure with mixed workloads that sits behind the scenes as logical pools ready to be carved up for your future requirements. While this works for the majority of workloads and SMB applications, with more businesses looking to place more critical and demanding applications into their Private Cloud to attain the benefits of chargeback etc. they need an assurance of an application response time that is almost impossible to guarantee on a mixed workload infrastructure. As the Cloud market matures and the expectations that come with it with regards to application delivery and performance, such procedures and practices will only be suitable for certain markets and workloads.

So for velocity to take precedent within the Private Cloud, Cloud or even Infrastructure as a Service model and to fill this Cloud maturity void, infrastructure needs to be delivered with applications as their focal point. That consequently means a pre-integrated, pre-validated, pre-installed and application certified appliance that is standardized as a product and optimised to meet scalable demands and performance requirements. This is why the industry will soon start to see a new emergence of specialized systems specifically designed and built from inception for performance optimization of specific application workloads. By having applications pre-installed, certified and configured with both the application and infrastructure vendors working in cohesion, the ability for Private Cloud or service providers to predict, meet and propose application performance based service levels becomes a lot more feasible. Additionally such an approach would also be ideal for end users who just need a critical application rolled out immediately in house with minimum fuss and risk.

While there may be a number of such appliances or specialized systems that will emerge in the market for applications such as SAP HANA or Cisco Unified Communications the key is to ensure that they're standardized as well as optimised. This entails a converged infrastructure that rolls out as a single product and consequently has a single matrix upgrade for all of its component patches and firmware upgrades that subsequently also correspond with the application. Additionally it encompasses a single support model that includes not only the infrastructure but also the application. This in turn not only eliminates vendor finger pointing and prolonged troubleshooting but also acts as an assurance that responsibility of the application's performance is paramount regardless of the potential cause of the problem.

The demand for key applications to be monitored, optimised and rolled out with speed and velocity will be faced by not only Service providers and Private Cloud deployments but also internal IT departments who are struggling with their day to day firefighting exercises. To ensure success, IT admin will need a new breed of infrastructure or specialized systems that enables them to focus on delivering, optimizing and managing the application and consequently not needing to worry about the infrastructure that supports them. This is where the new Vblock specialized systems being offered by VCE come into play. Unlike other companies with huge portfolios of products, VCE have a single focal point, namely Vblocks. By now adopting that same approach of velocity that was instilled for the production of standardized Vblock models, end users can now reap the same rewards with new specialized systems that are application specific. Herein lies the key to Cloud maturity and ultimately the successful deployment of mission critical applications.

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