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Ford DonaldBy Ford Donald, Principal Architect, GTS PSE, VMware

Imagine someone gives you and a group of friends a box of nuts and bolts and a few pieces of metal and tells you to build a model skyscraper. You might start putting the pieces together and end up with a beautiful model, but it probably won’t be the exact result that any of you imagined at the beginning. Now imagine if someone hands you that same box, along with a blueprint and an illustration of the finished product. In this scenario, you all work together to a prescribed end goal, with few questions or disagreements along the way. Think about this in the context of a large technical engagement, for example a software-defined data center (SDDC) implementation. Is it preferable to make it up as you go along, or to start with a vision for success and achieve it through a systematic approach?

Here at VMware, we’re enhancing the way we engage with customers by providing prescriptive guidance, a foundation for success, and a predictable outcome through the SDDC Assess, Design and Deploy Service. As our product line has matured, our consulting approach is maturing along with it. In the past, we have excelled at the “discovery” approach, where we uncover the solution through discussion, and every customized outcome meets a unique customer need. We’ve built thousands of strong skyscrapers that way, and the skill for discovering the right solution remains critical within every customer engagement. Today we bring a common starting point that can be scaled to any size of organization and adapted up the stack or with snap-ins according to customer preference or need. A core implementation brings a number of benefits to the process, and to the end result.

A modular technical solution

Think of the starting point as a blueprint for the well-done data center. With our approach, the core elements of SDDC come standard, including vSphere, vCenter Operations, vCenter Orchestrator, and software-defined networking thru vCNS. This is the clockwork by which the SDDC from VMware is best established, and it lays the foundation for further maturity evolutions to Infrastructure Service and Application Service. The core “SDDC Ready” layer is the default, providing everything you need to be successful in the data center, regardless of whether you adopt the other layers. Beyond that, to meet the unique needs of customers, we developed “snap-ins” as enhancements or upgrades to the core model, which include many of our desirable, but not necessarily included-by-default, assets such as VSAN and NSX.

The Infrastructure Service layer builds on the SDDC by establishing cloud-based metaphors via vCloud Automation Center and other requirements for cloud readiness, including a service portal, catalog-based consumption, and reduction of administrative overhead. The Application Service layer includes vCloud Application Director and elevates the Infrastructure layer with application deployment, blueprinting and standardization.

From our experience, customers demand flexibility and customization. In order to meet that need, we built a full menu of Snap-ins. These snap-ins allow customers to choose any number of options from software-defined storage, NSX, compliance, business continuity & disaster recovery (BCDR), hybrid cloud capabilities and financial/cost management. Snap-ins are elemental to the solution, and can be added as needed according to the customer’s desired end result.

Operational Transformation Support

Once you’ve adopted a cloud computing model, you may want to consider organizational enhancements that take advantage of the efficiency gained by an SDDC architecture. As we work with our customers in designing the technical elements, we also consult with our customers on the operational processes. Changing from high administrative overhead to low overhead, introducing new roles, defining what type of consumer model you want to implement – our consultants help you plan and design your optimal organization to support the cloud model.

The beauty of this approach shines in its ability to serve both green field and brown field projects. In the green field approach, where a customer wants the consultants to take the reins and implement top to bottom, the approach serves as a blueprint. In a brown field model, where the customer has input and opinions and desires integration and customization, the approach can be adapted to the customer’s environment, relative to the original blueprint.

So whether you’re building your skyscraper from the ground up, or remodeling an existing tower, the new SDDC Assess, Design and Deploy Service provides an adaptable model, with a great starting point that will help you get the best out of your investment.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post that gives you a look under the hood of the work stream process for implementing the technical solution.


Ford Donald is a Principal Architect and member of Professional Services Engineering (PSE), a part of the Global Technical Solutions (GTS) team, a seven-year veteran of VMware. Prior to PSE, Ford spent three years as a pre-sales cloud computing specialist focusing on very large/complex virtualization deployments, including the VMware sales cloud known as vSEL. Ford also served as coreteam on VMworld Labs and as a field SE.

 

Go for the Gold: See vSphere with Operations Management In Action

If there’s anything we’ve learned from watching the recent Winter Olympics, it’s that world-class athletes are focused, practice endless hours, and need to be both efficient and agile to win gold.

When it comes to data centers, what sets a world-class data center apart is the software. A software-defined data center (SDDC) provides the efficiency and agility for IT to meet exploding business expectations so your business can win gold.

The VMware exclusive seminar is here! Join us to learn about the latest in SDDC.

Now through March 19, VMware TechTalk Live is hosting free, interactive half-day workshops in 32 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Attendees will get to see a live demo of vSphere with Operations Management.

The workshops will also provide a detailed overview of the key components of the SDDC architecture, as well as results of VMware customer surveys explaining how the SDDC is actually being implemented today.

Check out the TechTalk Live event information to find the location closest to you and to reserve your spot.

SDDC + SAP = CapEx/OpEx Savings

By Girish Manmadkar, an SAP Virtualization Architect at VMware

Earlier this month, my colleague David Gallant wrote about architecting a software-defined data center for SAP and other business-critical applications. I’d like to further explore how SAP fits into the software-defined data center (SDDC) and, specifically, how to optimize it for CapEx and OpEx savings.

A key to remember is that the SDDC is not a single technology that you purchase and install—it is a use case, a strategy, a mind shift. And in that way, it is also a journey that will unfold in stages and should be planned in that way. I’ve outlined the three foundational steps below.

SDDC 1.0

Most of the customers that I work with are well along in this stage, moving their current non-x86 SAP workloads toward a VMware-based x86 environment.

During this process, numerous milestones can be delivered to the business, in particular, an immediate reduction in their CapEx. This benefit is achieved by starting to move non-x86 or current physical x-86 workloads to the virtual x-86 OS platform. Understandably, customers tend to approach this transition with caution, so we often start with low-hanging fruits: non-production and/or development SAP systems.

The next step you can take is to introduce automation. Automation comes in two places: at the infrastructure layer, which is achieved using VMware vCloud Automation Center and Orchestration; and at the application layer, delivered using SAP’s Landscape Virtualization Manager.

During this phase it is best to implement vSphere features, including auto deploy—host profiles, and OS templates—in order to automate vSphere and virtual machine provisioning to the environment.

Often it is a good idea at this time to start a parallel project around storage. You can work with your storage and backup teams to enhance current architectures by enabling storage technologies like de-dup, vSphere storage I/O control and any other storage array plugins.

We also recommend minimizing agents in the guest operating system, such as agents used for backup and/or anti-virus. The team should start putting together new architecture to move such agents from the guest OS to the vSphere hosts to reduce complexity and improve performance. The storage and network teams should look to implement new architecture that will support virtual disaster recovery solution. By planning ahead now, teams can avoid rework later.

During this phase, the team not only migrates SAP application servers to the vSphere platform but also shows business value with CapEx reductions and value-added flexibility to scale out SAP application server capacity on demand.

SDDC 2.0

Once this first stage goes into the operations cycle, it lays the groundwork for various aspects of the SDDC’s second stage. The next shift is toward a converged datacenter or common virtualization framework to deploy a software-defined lifecycle for SAP. This allows better monitoring, migration to the cloud, chargeback, and security.

This is also the phase where you want to virtualize your SAP central instances, or ASCS instances, and database servers. The value here is the removal of a reliance on complex, physical clustered environments by transitioning instead to VMware’s high-availability features. These include fault tolerance (FT) applicable to and determined by the SAP sizing exercise for the ASCS and focused on meeting the business’s SLAs.

SDDC 3.0

Once the SDDC 2.0 is in production, it is a good time to start defining other aspects of SDDC, such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, Storage-as-a-Service, and Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service.

Keep an eye out for our follow-up post fleshing out the processes and benefits of these later stages.


Girish Manmadkar is a veteran VMware SAP Virtualization Architect with extensive knowledge and hands-on experience with various SAP and VMware products, including various databases. He focuses on SAP migrations, architecture designs, and implementation, including disaster recovery.

The SDDC Seems Cool … But What Do I Do with It?

By David Gallant, VMWare Professional Services Consultant

Lately I’ve been receiving requests from customers to talk to them about the software-defined data center (SDDC). So I start to explain software-defined networking, software-defined storage, automated provisioning, and self-service portals.

And that’s when I notice the customer looking excited, but also slightly confused.

Last week at SAP TechEd 2013, I was in the middle of just such a talk when I decided to stop and I ask the customer why he looked puzzled.

His response? “That’s great, but what do I do with all that SDDC stuff?”

That’s when the light bulb came on. He was right to question me—why build a software-defined data center if you have no clue what you’re going to do with it?

To really harvest the investment in your SDDC, you need to be building toward a specific set of goals. We don’t build data centers without a purpose; and that purpose for SDDC, as it’s always been, is the application.

In most cases the best data centers have been purpose-designed and built around the organization’s business-critical applications; for instance SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft applications.

I’ll concentrate for now on SAP—if you can architect an SDDC for SAP, you can roll those concepts over to pretty much any other application. Continue reading

Developing Defense in Depth for a Software-Defined Data Center

By Jared SkinnerCloud Management Sales Director – West

The software-defined data center (SDDC) is on the tip of a lot of tongues these days, but the fact is, it’s not yet an end-point solution but rather a constantly evolving strategy. For that reason, I meet many customers who are excited about its potential but still wary of the unknowns—in particular around security.

As we abstract different layers of the technological stack, namely storage and network, we must continue to manage security across the stack through industry best practices and/or regulatory standards. Securing the SDDC begins by reinventing Defense in Depth.

What Is “Defense in Depth”?

I think of Defense in Depth like an onion, where the sweetest part is the center, protected under many layers of security. Continue reading

Top Tips and Take-Aways from VMworld 2013

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since 23,000 forward-thinking IT professionals converged in San Francisco for VMworld 2013. With VMworld Barcelona just around the corner, we asked a few of our consultants to reflect back on highlights from San Francisco and offer advice for how to get the most out of the event.

What nugget of information from VMworld did you take back to your work?

“Pay special attention to NSX and vSAN because VMware is changing the way IT delivers networking and storage services.” –Jung Hwang

“Automating SDDC is now more than an idea—it’s a reality. It has a huge impact on the Business Critical Applications space.” –David Gallant

“Almost anything can now be virtualized: monster VMs are now commonplace; systems that previously required an entire Unix platform to run can now be accommodated in a single Virtual Machine on VMware vSphere 5.x.” –Michael Webster Continue reading

3 Steps to Put You on the Path to the Software-Defined Data Center

The software-designed data center (SDDC) was the hot topic at VMworld 2013, which wrapped up this week. Our consultants and the VMworld speakers helped answer lots of SDDC questions, but we know that there are still plenty out there—especially for those of you who couldn’t join us in San Francisco.

To begin at the beginning: How do we define the software-defined data center? As VMware Professional Services Chief Architect John Steiner points out in this video, SDDC is not just virtualization of servers, networks, and storage. He instead describes it as “cloud done right,” and outlines the other processes that allow IT organizations to realize the full benefits of a software-defined data center architecture.

We know organizations are also looking for specific steps to help them design an efficient transition to the software-defined data center. In this second video, John explains three key questions for organizations to answer, pointing out, “It’s not about doing it all at once—it’s about understanding how I can drive virtualization and server definition into all the key components in all my endpoints.”

For more details on getting the full benefits of the software-defined data center, please contact VMware Technology Consulting Services. They will be happy to help!

Get Your Hands on the Data Center of the Future

By John Steiner, Eric Ledyard and Shaun Millin

Today’s software-defined data center (SDDC) is helping IT organizations meet business demands by automating and managing a growing range of data center functions, freeing up resources for new projects that support IT as a service.

From talking to VMware customers, we know that up to 80% of deployment time has nothing to do with physical equipment—it’s all about the orchestration between the technology, the people and the migration process. Thus, implementing an SDDC architecture goes beyond virtualized computing to a fully integrated, highly automated IT environment.

You can see exactly how the VMware Professional Services team designed and built an SDDC environment based on the vCloud Enterprise product suite and the opportunities it presents during our hands-on demo at VMworld San Francisco this week. Stop by the VMworld Professional Services booth to have one of our skilled architects walk you through the data center of the future.

The SDDC hands-on demo will include:

  • A self service catalog based on vCloud Automation Center where users can provision different types of systems, including small, medium, and large environments, with a built-in costing model. With a couple of clicks, deploy Windows and Linux machines, along with a multi-tier application that provides a shopping cart interface for web servers, fully backed by network load balancing, as well as a database with communication networking built in.
  • A fully integrated management interface where administrators can easily determine which systems are available to users and automatically apply different approval workflows. Admins can also decide what kind of networking is put in place, including low, medium, and high security levels.  All of the automation and orchestration of the environment was achieved by integrating vCenter Automation Center with vCenter Orchestrator.
  • A workflow manager employing vCenter Orchestrator, the single workflow engine running behind the VMware live demo. When a system, network, or group is requested, vCenter Orchestrator runs predefined workflow components, such as additional installations. Once the system has been deployed, it’s also dynamically entered into the vCenter Operations Manager  environment, purpose-built for the software-defined data center.
  • The vCenter Operations management environment, which greatly improves on traditional green, yellow, red health ratings. In addition to dynamically managing virtual environments, it provides risk and trending information, allowing administrators to track the health of the environment, but also to see opportunities for future failures. Instead of today’s traditional “reactive” environments, a software-defined data center enables a proactive environment where administrators can fix problems before they occur by monitoring the health of the entire stack, not just the server interface.
  • The vCenter Configuration Manager, which examines the environment where a system is being deployed to determine if it is following predefined compliance and security rules. In addition, the virtualized networking environment allows administrators to look into all the security and networking capabilities offered by VMware to automate rule creation and to monitor compliance without having to chase down and scan different machines.

For details on how these products are deployed and integrated, contact VMware Professional Services or stop by and talk with our consultants and architects at our VMworld booth.


John Steiner is Chief Architect for VMware Professional Services. Since joining VMware in 2007 and VMware Accelerate Advisory Services in 2010, Steiner has pioneered the business solutions architect delivery model through the creation of architectural blueprints and multiyear roadmaps that help customers achieve maximum business value, data center efficiencies, cost reductions and ROI objectives.

As a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services, Eric Ledyard utilizes the broad VMware portfolio and his own experience to design strategic roadmaps for transformation that lead organizations to their goals of building highly efficient IT-as-a-service environments.

Shaun Millin has worked at VMware for more than a year with the Integration Automation Team, designing and delivering custom IaaS and PaaS solutions. Shaun has extensive knowledge in data center virtualization, orchestration, and VMware API scripting.

Are You Ready To Get The Most Out Of VMworld?

Since the sessions for VMware 2013 were announced, we’ve been highlighting a few favorites from our Professional Services Consultants and Service Architects each week. The planner will be launching soon, and with 350+ sessions this year, we imagine you’ll be carefully laying out your schedule in the coming weeks.

This week we recommend you check in with David Hill about building a hybrid cloud and Wade Holmes about software-defined storage. And don’t miss our earlier recommendations in the End-User Computing and Virtualization tracks.

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How to Build a Hybrid Cloud in Less than a Day

With David Hill (VMware)

In this session you’ll hear how you can build a hybrid cloud in less than a day. We will look at the multiple technologies available today enabling the hybrid cloud and how you can use them to turn your current vSphere infrastructure into a hybrid. This helps businesses lower total cost of ownership and operational costs.

Attendees will leave the session with:

  • An understanding of how to deploy vCloud Connector in a vSphere infrastructure
  • Clarity on the potential pitfalls and mistakes real customers have made in the past
  • Knowledge of how to move workloads seamlessly between clouds

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Software-Defined Storage: The VCDX Way

With Wade Holmes (VMware)

Storage is one of the key pillars within every datacenter. Leveraging software-defined storage is key to unleashing the full benefits of the software-defined data-center. But, as with any new technology, you must understand how software-defined storage fits into your current datacenter architecture.

VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDXs) utilize an architectural methodology that eases the adoption of new technology to meet your business needs. Join us to learn how to design, implement, and integrate software-defined storage solutions—the VCDX way.

At this session you’ll learn:

  • How the VCDX architectural methodology can assist you in adopting new technology into your data center
  • How leveraging software-defined storage can assist in meeting your business needs
  • Key features and capabilities of VMware’s software-defined storage offerings

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Have You Included Education in Your SDDC Transformation Budget?

By Ryan Dohm, VMWare Professional Services Consultant

This may be the most incredible time in history for emerging technologies and integrated information systems. As a VMware consultant, I see many new and seasoned companies growing larger and more profitable in what most consider “hard economic” times. On numerous occasions I see these environments becoming so advanced and “state-of-the-art” that the support staff fall behind the technology.

Successful companies must upgrade to the latest core systems to be able to run the newest versions of software demanded by their customers. As my peer David Gallant mentions in his article, as Tier 1 applications (database, web and unified communication) advance, they require the latest virtual hardware platforms, plus virtualized servers, network and storage systems. This is pushing the  “standard datacenter” to evolve into the “software defined data center” (SDDC).

Having the latest software and hardware systems in the data center provides many advantages, including:

  1. Faster, more efficient hardware that handles more users with a smaller physical footprint
  2. The ability to run the latest applications, allowing mobile devices and “always-on” resources
  3. Information systems can offer more services with fewer support staff to maintain availability

Unfortunately, more than half of the companies I visit are squandering the advantages of their data center upgrades by failing to adequately prepare the IT staff tasked to run and configure the new hardware/software. Time and again, the technical personnel I interact with request professional training to provide them with the skills they need to successfully support the new environment. Too often they are struggling to keep their heads above water as the vendors implement new software.

While the data center becomes very efficient, the operations side lags behind until management realizes the importance of increasing the budget to train IT staff. In my opinion, the architecting of a new technology should include a plan to educate the staff supporting the new environment after its implementation. This is too rarely the case.

Movement to the SDDC can also be hindered by counterproductive ideas lodged within the technical teams themselves—like the “silo” mentality. In other words, if a problem doesn’t specifically match the support staff’s job description, it is “not their job” to address the issue. (My eyes roll as I type that.)

This “old IT” paradigm must shift to meet the needs of the new SDDC reality. The silos must be rebuilt into a large integrated collection of knowledge resources. The old lines, “this is what I was hired for” and “this is what I am required to do” are now relics of the past. Many technical staff cringe at the idea of change. I encourage them to remember that, with new technology comes new and exciting opportunity. It’s up to today’s technical support staff to become a more versatile asset to their teams—and, luckily, they have many tools to help them do this.

One I’m obviously fond of is VMware’s comprehensive professional services capabilities, which provide timely implementation of solutions, as well as hands-on experience to the operational teams expected to maintain that solution. Although VMware offers an array of pre-defined professional service engagements, it also allows customers to define an entirely custom scope for any services desired. For a comprehensive list of services, please visit www.VMware.com/services/full-services-portfolio.html

Ryan Dohm has worked at VMware for more than a year with the End User Computing team, driving Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Data Center virtualization and Private/Hybrid Cloud environments engagements.