By Guy Bartram

In part one of our two-part series, we discussed how a service catalog can bring a cloud provider closer to its consumer. It discussed how VMware approaches catalogs for its platform services and how you, as a service provider, can leverage its approach for an ideal strategy.

Cloud on digital background

In part two, we’re going to discuss how you can leverage VMware vRealize Automation and VMware vCloud Director Service Provider for commonality, sustainability and extensibility.

Let’s see how:

Is there commonality in both these platform’s catalog capabilities?

Both VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) and VMware vCloud Director Service Provider (vCD-SP) cloud platforms utilize extensibility via vRealize Orchestration (vRO) and plugins from the VMware Solution Exchange. Fitting the ‘ideal’ approach, this allows a provider to access more building blocks and drive more intelligence into a service, such as Configuration Management with integration to Puppet, Chef, Ansible and Salt, Process Management integration via the integrated vRealize Orchestrator to service desk and asset systems, granular applications and additional 30+ plugin eco-system providers for backup, security and other critical cloud capabilities.

What about sustainability, do these solutions also address a sustainable catalog strategy?

A sustainable service catalog is one that grows with your business and can adapt. Keeping things granular really helps when looking at flexibility in the future. Catalog services and their Stock Keeping Units (SKU) identify unique building blocks – these could be network or compute virtual data centres (vDC) components in vCloud Director Service Provider or perhaps granular service blueprints in vRealize Automation catalog.

How do they support extensibility?

With many enterprises now requiring ‘hybrid’ cloud managed services, the provider can either extend into separate clouds manually or in an automated fashion to extend their catalogs to provide hybrid services in other clouds. Whilst vRealize Automation can provide hybrid provisioning and lifecycle, vCloud Director Service Provider cannot and hence is a supplier to a higher level catalog providing VMware IaaS services to it.

Returning to basics, we should remind ourselves that a ‘product’ is something that is sold. A product may be composed of multiple services, supported in turn by multiple resources. A provider has to take to market a product composed of services, engineering has to support and deliver are the resources needed to run these services. The catalog should reflect both components to be sustainable, allowing new product creation from existing services. Service diversification then becomes feasible and competitive.

Consider the analogy of a car with added extras available. A large number of options are available, often in fact ‘pre-set’ engineered into the car, but optionally modified. This ‘personalisation’ or tailoring of the product is supportable; the car is not built from scratch each time the product is personalised. The options are within pre-defined tolerances for the service(s). This is analogous to say a public cloud provider like VMware vCloud Air offering ‘touch free’ web IaaS services.

Due to the creative granular product portfolio, it is easier to create new products by combining existing ones (and inheriting all their existing SLA and management), which gives an extremely fast time to market for new solutions without having to go through extensive operational acceptance, as the subcomponents are already supported.

In summary, product catalogs should not be huge and complex. There is a fine balance to what should be exposed to consumers, verses what is exposed internally for service development activities. Flexibility, rather than rigid construction, allows bundle building activities from a ‘Chinese menu’ of services and resources internally would seem to be the way forward. The flexible nature of such a catalog requires abstraction via an API layer to the operational and business support systems (OSS and BSS – something vRealize Automation and vCloud Director Service Provider both support), to the API demands of B2B channel and partner business. This will ensure a service orientated architecture where APIs can wire together services to create new ‘Business to Business’ products, therefore differentiating, but at the same time remaining supportable.

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