In 2011, VMware IT embarked on an effort to transform their processes for application deployment. Similar to most IT shops, VMware IT regularly prioritizes projects to a) enhance business value and b) lower operating (efficiency, effectiveness, etc.) and capital expenditures. For VMware IT, there is also the opportunity to showcase how VMware technology can impact VMware customers. For example, VMware’s own hardware consolidation from virtualization has resulted in an infrastructure that is 97% virtualized and a significant cost savings. With VMware’s products for cloud infrastructure and application management, the IT team saw an opportunity to automate cloud provisioning.
(Note: There is a follow-up post to this article titled Q&A w/VMware IT: Reducing Provisioning Time by 90% and Costs by 30%)
The Business Case for Automated Cloud Provisioning
As the IT organization reviewed projects, costs, and processes, the team realized several important areas for improvement related to VMware’s own technology. There were a significant number of places across IT, R&D, sales engineering, and other departments where:
- Applications were regularly provisioned across development, test, demo, and other environments,
- Application workloads and deployments were managed in an ongoing manner
- Application and infrastructure teams were constantly balancing the speed and agility of “getting things done” to improve business results while meeting compliance, security, and resource constraints.
In reviewing these process areas across hundreds of application instances, several potential provisioning-related improvements were identified as target business goals:
- Reduced cycle time and operating costs
- Improved security, compliance, and risk management
- Increased service levels to internal customers
- Reduced capital and operating expenditures by operating a private cloud with hybrid capabilities.
With these business goals process improvements in mind, VMware IT began to define a project known as “Fred” – a multi-phased approach to fully automate provisioning into VMware’s private cloud.
The table below outlines the “previous current state” and “now current state” achieved by undergoing phase 1 of project Fred:
The Process of Supporting Full Lifecycle Deployment Today
As one of the key trends in information technology (notably highlighted everywhere in the media by terms like “big data”), the capture and use of information continues to grow. With that hard-to-argue trend in mind, provisioning becomes a lynchpin. Adding new software, expanding data stores, and increasing system usage often triggers a very disjointed process in most IT departments. The normal process adopted often resembles VMware’s previous process (see below diagram of a typical provisioning process workflow):
- One or more request tickets are filed for the network, storage, and server teams. These tickets capture the type of app, location, SLA, connectivity, back-up, monitoring needs, etc.
- Architecture is reviewed with business and functional requirements as well as projections for needed computing and storage.
- Approval processes of various types begin across management of infrastructure, security, operations, data centers, applications and more.
- Meetings and emails ensue, finance and purchasing produce POs, and the hardware procurement process begins.
- Across various functional areas such as databases, applications and servers, hardware is set-up, management and security software is installed, VMs are allocated, applications are installed, network connectivity is tested, and more.
- Iterative rounds of security, compliance, and risk management efforts occur.
- Finally, the original request is tested and approved.
This process can take anywhere from 3 days to 8 weeks in most organizations, and the busiest IT departments may not be able to start for weeks. As application usage and analysis grows, more computing, storage, and network is needed, and some derivative of the provisioning process takes place each time. For development, integration, scaling, and testing intensive programs, the volume of environments also increases the use of provisioning services.
Current situation: Example of complex workflow with many steps. Takes 3 days-8 weeks.
Tomorrow’s Process with Self-Service Cloud Provisioning
VMware IT began looking at the provisioning process in a much simpler way as they studied it through the lens of a public cloud infrastructure company – when a purchase is made from an online public cloud catalog, the purchaser (almost) immediately receives log-in credentials for their environment. In VMware’s planned private cloud scenario:
- A Service Manager, Release Manager or developer chooses from an online catalog of predefined infrastructure and business applications and submits a request.
- The request is routed for approval and approved.
- The infrastructure, business application workloads are automatically provisioned.
- The requestor receives a notification of availability.
The simplicity, standardization, and automation supported in this process also supported the expected business outcomes mentioned above.
Automated Private Cloud Provisioning Functionality and Scope
There were several pieces of functionality used within the overall solution architecture to support a completely automated (i.e. “no human intervention”) provisioning process for dozens of applications:
- Base OS images, virtual images, patch-sets, core JDKs, etcetera were built using VMStudio and made available inside infrastructure catalogs within vCloud Director.
- vCloud Director was used to manage cloud organizations and automatically provision their respective catalogs of infrastructure images and components.
- vFabric Application Director modeled configuration of middleware applications and components (JAR, SQL, etc.) as blueprints, made the blueprints available within predefined catalogs, and automatically installed the applications and components in a specified order.
- VMware Service Delivery Manager provides the self-service catalog to make requests for application environments.
- vCenter Orchestratorprovides additional workflows to automate tasks across technology platforms. The architecture included workflow for:
- Human-interface approvals and notifications
- Integrating with vCloud Director and vFabric Application Director
- Passing information through REST, AQMP, SOAP, SSH calls for DNS provisioning, load balance provisioning, source code retrieval, and more.
For Phase 1 of the project (2 months), the automated provisioning solution was applied to two applications in the portfolio – the SOA Suite and MyVMware Portals. Phases 2 and 3 continue to prioritize and address technologies such as:
- Oracle ERP
- Oracle Middleware
- MySQL, Oracle, and MS SQL Databases
- Change Point Business Portfolio Management
- Jive Community
- Trillium Data Quality
- Digital Rights Management
- Email, Calendar, and Groupware
- iLog Business Rule Software
- And more…
The Results to Date for VMware’s Cloud Provisioning Approach
While the project continues to envelop additional applications in the VMware IT portfolio, benefits can easily be measured by comparing the cycle time of work done yesterday versus today: