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Tag Archives: Infrastructure as a Service

Moving Beyond Infrastructure as a Service to Platform as a Service

Brian MartinezBy Brian Martinez

What's Next - PaaSMy VMware colleague Josh Miller recently explored how companies are extending a DevOps model into their infrastructure organizations and what can be done to speed that essential transition.

I want to talk about the step after that. Where do you go after achieving infrastructure-as-a-service?

Here’s how I think of it. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) focuses on deploying infrastructure as quickly as possible and wrapping a service-oriented approach around it. That’s essential. But infrastructure in itself doesn’t add direct value to a business. Applications do that. In more and more industries the first company to release that new killer app is the one that wins or at least draws the most value.

So, while it’s essential that you deliver infrastructure quickly, it’s worth lies in helping deploy applications faster, build services around those applications, and speed time to market.

So you have IaaS, what’s next?  Enter the concept of the platform as a service (PaaS). PaaS can be realized in a variety of ways. It might be through second generation platforms such as database-as-a-service or middleware-as-a-service. Or it could be via third generation platforms based on unstructured PaaS like containers (think Docker) or structured PaaS (think Pivotal Cloud Foundry).

The flexibility you have in terms of options here is significant and your strategy should be based on the needs of your developers.   Many times we see strategies built around a tool name instead of the outcomes needed from that tool.  Listening to the developer’s needs should help determine what the requirements are.  Then build backwards from there.  Often we you won’t end up with the same tooling then you thought you would.

All the approaches to PaaS, though, share a key feature: they are driven by both a holistic and a life-cycle view of IT. In other words, it’s dangerous to view any IT function today as either separate from any other, or as a one-time deal. Instead, we need to be thinking of everything as connected and at the same time being constantly iterated and improved.

Work from that perspective and it’s easier to navigate the often daunting array of options you have when it comes to PaaS.

Certainly, as you move along this path, it’s very possible to end up with multiple, small cloud-native apps deployed on multiple platforms spread across multiple different data sets – so be aware of the lifecycle.

One other note: there are so many different tools coming to market so quickly in this space that what you pick now may not be what you use in a couple of years. A lot of our customers are nervous about that. So it’s worth remembering that these tools are designed so that you can move your code, and the work that you’re doing with the code, to whatever platform is best suited to deliver it to your customer.

The bottom line: Encourage your customers to try things out so they can create DevOps learning experiences.  Be responsive in enabling developers to access new tools, while setting the right boundaries on how they can use those tools (think service definition) and where they bring them to bear.  Approaching PaaS with a unified culture of continuous iteration and improvement will enable your developers with the tools they need to move fast, without losing the control and stability essential to IT operations.

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Brian Martinez is a Strategist with VMware Advisory Services and is based in New York.

How DevOps is Changing Infrastructure and Providing Business Value

Josh MillerBy Josh Miller

Infrastucture Building Business ValueInfrastructure organizations are feeling more pressured than ever to innovate. They are being pushed by business unit leads and application teams to deliver on their part of software toolchain stacks at a faster pace. They are increasingly expected to be flexible and agile in how they operate and manage the platforms they engineer.

Despite this, many infrastructure groups still focus primarily on the delivery of physical hardware platforms rather than viewing their roles from a more holistic, ready-to-consume service perspective. In my opinion, that unwillingness to grow beyond engineering physical infrastructure, no longer a key differentiator within IT systems, is the single most limiting hurdle that infrastructure practices face today.

In this blog post I want to delve a little further into what I’m seeing in the field when it comes to changing infrastructure consumption models. I then suggest what I believe needs to happen for more companies to realize the tremendous advantages that a DevOps approach to infrastructure can bring.

Infrastructure Evolution

When I’m out performing assessments, I’m seeing companies at three stages:

  • While many customers are pushing at the boundaries of compute virtualization and often do have highly virtualized compute environments, the majority of VMware customers are still not taking advantage of the benefits that storage and network virtualization technologies offer in terms of abstracting, pooling, and creating the potential for automation of provisioning and management. In contrast, the most progressive infrastructure leaders respond to the needs of IT stakeholders by virtualizing the entirety of their physical infrastructure (compute, storage, and network). Doing so  adds a layer of software-defined abstraction across the board rather than in the singular silo of compute. Completing the final steps of the virtualization journey that began over a decade ago, then, is really the first step to becoming a DevOps-driven infrastructure practice.
  • With the foundation of virtualized compute, storage, and network platforms in place, the next step is to develop a service orientation. Infrastructure teams that are at this point package infrastructure capabilities into fully-defined services, enabling more advanced consumption models such as self-service consumption of infrastructure services (IaaS, PaaS, etc.). The services are exposed via portal-based user interfaces or via standardized APIs.
  • The final and perhaps the most important change that infrastructure leaders drive is bridging the gap between applications and operations teams that developed over the past few decades. They are creating cross-functional teams that include all of the skills required to deliver an end-to-end infrastructure service to market in a standardized, iterative fashion.

By initiating and driving these three key changes, infrastructure leads are opening the door for their practitioners to apply best practice DevOps principles. Examples include continuous integration and deployment and automated delivery of infrastructure services and capabilities.

Key Benefits of DevOps Approach

Consider an example of the very real benefits that the approach can bring: one of our clients adopted a DevOps-oriented, agile approach to development and reduced the delivery cycle for infrastructure services from months to weeks almost immediately upon completing the transition. This resulted in deploying more functionality to the newly developed cloud infrastructure platform during each four-week delivery cycle than they had delivered in the previous year’s worth of development. Application developers immediately recognized the effects of this change and the organization’s CTO significantly increased the team’s budget for the next financial year. The intent of that budget was to accelerate the deployment and adoption of private and public cloud services across IT.

Stories like this suggest where infrastructure organizations should increase focus in the future: moving towards fully embracing DevOps not so much as sequence of particular steps to take in a specific order, but as guiding the organization’s culture.

DevOps is not, after all, a prescriptive framework. It’s much more a way of doing things – “a culture, movement or practice that emphasizes the collaboration and communication of both software developers and other information-technology (IT) professionals while automating the process of software delivery and infrastructure changes,” to quote Wikipedia’s pretty good definition.

Easing the Shift for Infrastructure Teams

What I’m also seeing is that DevOps isn’t an easy shift for infrastructure teams. Fear of change and a lack of exposure to DevOps concepts and practices are very hard to overcome. The territorial boundaries developed by operations over years, operating in silos, become comfort zones that are not easily penetrated. Operations employees, like anyone else, are susceptible to a general feeling of hopelessness, thanks to the fact that they are usually buried in existing work (break/fix, project enablement, etc.) and have no time to spare for true innovation.

Infrastructure teams, therefore, need assistance. However, help they need is not usually what they think they need, for example just another tool, application, or quick fix. What is needed are targeted initiatives that jumpstart more holistic change across all the fronts of people, process, and technology. Further they need ongoing mentoring and coaching to usher change from the initial stages of incubation to full adoption across the entirety of their organizations.

The payoff is tremendous. Successful DevOps transformations empower infrastructure organizations to deliver each release more robustly and better aligned to customers’ needs. When those needs change, they’re not stuck in a long delivery cycle, but can instead reprioritize and deliver something of immediate value in the next cycle. By increasing speed and frequency of releases, they offer better value per release, and better time to market – directly impacting business results. That, ultimately, is the only purpose that IT should be focused on, because without measurable business results, there may well be no business for IT to support.

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Josh Miller is a Business Solution Strategist within VMware’s Accelerate Advisory Services practices and is based in Oklahoma City, Ok. You can connect with him on LinkedIN.

Transforming IT into a Cloud Service Provider

Reg LoBy Reg Lo

Until recently, IT departments thought that all they needed to do was to provide a self-service portal to app dev to provision VMs with Linux or Windows, and they would have a private cloud that was comparable to the public cloud.

Today, in order for IT to become a cloud service provider, IT must not only embrace the public cloud in a service broker model, IT needs to provide a broader range of cloud services.  This 5 minute webinar, describes the future IT operating model as IT departments transform into cloud service providers.

Many IT organizations started their cloud journey by creating a new, separate cloud team to implement a Greenfield, private cloud.  Automation and proactive monitoring using a Cloud Management Platform was key to the success for their private cloud.  By utilizing VMWare’s vRealize Cloud Management Platform, IT could easily expand into the hybrid cloud, provisioning workloads to vCloud Air or other public clouds from a single interface.  Effectively, creating “one cloud” for the business to consume and “one cloud” for IT to manage.

However, the folks managing the brownfield weren’t staying still.  They too wanted to improve the service they were providing the business and they too wanted to become more efficient.  So they also invested in automation.  Without a coherent strategy, both Brownfield and Greenfield took their own separate forks down the automation path, confusing the business on which services they should be consuming.  We started this journey by creating a separate cloud team.  However, it may be time to re-think the boundaries of the private cloud and bring Greenfield and Brownfield together to provide consistency in the way we approach automation.

In order to be immediately productive, the app dev teams are looking for more than infrastructure-as-a-service.  They want platform-as-a-service.  These might be second generation platforms such as database-as-a-service (Oracle, MSSQL, MySQL, etc.) or middleware-as-a-service (such as Web Methods).  Or they need third generation platforms based on unstructured PaaS like containers or structured PaaS like cloud foundry.  The terms first, second and third generation map to the mainframe (1st generation), distributed computing (2nd generation), and cloud native applications (the 3rd generation).

Multiple cloud services can be bundled together to create environment-as-a-service.  For example, LAMP-stacks – Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (or Python).  These multi-VM application blueprints lets entire environments be provisioned at a click of a button.

A lot of emphasis has been placed on accessing these cloud services through a self-service portal.  However, DevOps best practices is moving towards infrastructure as code.  In order to support developer-defined infrastructure, IT organizations must also provide an API to their cloud.  Infrastructure-as-code lets you version the infrastructure scripts with the application source code together, ultimately enabling the same deployment process in every environment (dev, test, stage and prod) – improving deployment success rate.

Many companies are piloting DevOps with one or two application pipelines.  However, in order to scale, DevOps best practices must be shared across multiple app dev teams.  App dev teams are typically not familiar with architecting infrastructure or the tools that automate infrastructure provisioning.  Hence, a DevOps enablement team is useful for educating the app dev teams on DevOps best practices and providing the DevOps automation expertise.  This team can also provide feedback to the cloud team on where to expand cloud services.

This IT operating model addresses Gartner’s bimodal IT approach.  Mode 1 is traditional, sequential and used for systems of record.  Mode 2 is agile, non-linear, and used for systems of engagement.  Mode 1 is characterized by long cycle times measured in months whereas mode 2 has shorter cycle times measured in days and weeks.

It is important to note that the business needs both modes to exist.  It’s not one or the other.  Just like how the business needs both interfaces to the cloud: self-service portal and API.

What does this mean to you?  IT leaders must be able to articulate a clear picture of the future-state that encompasses both mode 1 and mode 2, that leverages both a self-service portal and API to the organization’s cloud services.  IT leaders need a roadmap to transform their organization into cloud service providers that traverse the hybrid cloud.  The biggest challenge to the transformation is changing people (the way they think, the culture) and processes (the way they work).  VMware can not only help you with the technology; VMware’s AccelerateTM Advisory Services can help you address the people and process transformation.

 


Reg Lo is the Director of VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in San Diego, CA.  You can connect with him on LinkedIn.