Cloud Management Platform

Journey Towards Multi-Cloud Management

Journey Towards Multi-Cloud Management

The world of cloud is continuing to evolve. More and more companies are adopting cloud to provide IT services.

Businesses are in demand of fast and agile IT resources to be able to accommodate the digital transformation that is going on. They are relying more and more on IT to become a business enabler. And with that the demand grows to deliver IT resources faster. For that people are turning to public cloud to meet those demands.

But there is still the need to manage the IT resources that are already there. Over the years businesses have build their own IT infrastructure to accommodate their needs for applications. At first it was mainframes, then moving into x86, which then evolved to a more flexible infrastructure with virtualization. And for some that evolved into private cloud using cloud management technology.

VMware has enabled that by providing the market leading software that has enabled that to happen: vSphere for virtual infrastructure and vRealize Suite for evolving towards a private cloud.

But with the move towards public cloud both the infrastructure and the management tooling need to evolve. The question to answer then is : How to manage both the old and new in a *consistent* way?


The Need For Consistent Infrastructure

Before going into the management of all things we need to look into what they actually are. Most customers have vSphere as the platform of choice in their datacenter to host their application workloads. With virtual machines running the applications that enable the business.

Over the last decade the value of virtualization has been proven its value. No longer did were applications hosted on individual hardware servers, but by making the servers “software-defined” it became possible to create a platform to host “virtual machines”. And the platform also came with nice features such as vMotion, High Availability (HA) and Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS). Features that revolutionized the world of IT Operations. The true value was that software-defined enabled new capabilities and more flexibility while delivering on business benefits such as lower costs and reducing carbon footprint.

And if you look at a datacenter it basically consists out of 3 things : compute, storage and network. It was only natural that besides compute (server) virtualization VMware would also evolve into a world of a full “software-defined” datacenter (SDDC). VMware has been leading with this strategy since 2012 by adding network virtualization and storage virtualization through their products VSAN and NSX.

In the end SDDC results in a uniform, consistent infrastructure platform for hosting virtual machines. For the business the benefit is a stable, battle-tested foundation that can host any type of application.


Automating the SDDC

But software alone does not build a software-defined datacenter. The time-to-value for most customers when it came down to landing application workloads on top the platform was most of the times weeks to months.

Automation is needed to minimize that time of deploying all the software. So VMware created the automated SDDC solution called VMware Cloud Foundation. Cloud Foundation deliver the SDDC platform by automating the deployment of vSphere, VSAN and NSX. It provides a standardized cloud infrastructure building block.

The magic that makes this possible is the SDDC Manager. SDDC Manager is the automation tool that makes it possible to install, configure and update the complete SDDC software stack build out of vSphere, VSAN and NSX. Next to that there is also the possibility to VMware cloud management solutions in the vRealize Suite.

The value for customers here is not only that the SDDC stack is automatically installed. The true value is that VMware provides update packs that automatically installs the complete stack to the latest version. These packs have already been tested by VMware and as Cloud Foundation is a standardised installation it will work for every customer.

The goal is to have a similar experience as updating the operating system of your mobile phone. The software vendor provides the update package. An update package for all the components that are making up the complete operating system. You decide when you update to the latest version. All of this without impacting the applications that run on top of it.

The other benefit is that Operations teams no longer spend the majority of their time “keeping the lights on”. At some customer we saw IT Operations teams spend 80% of their time installing, managing and upgrading the infrastructure. 20% was dedicated to innovating and helping in business related activities. Cloud Foundation should help in turning that around : Spending 80% on business related activities and 20% on  working on the infrastructure. Infrastructure management is still needed, but it should not be the primary focus of IT Operations teams; it should just work!


Building a Private Cloud

But an SDDC does not make a cloud. SDDC, either build using Cloud Foundation or not, provides a virtualization platform to run workloads on top of. It does not provide the capabilities that define a cloud such as self-service and scaleability. For that we need a Cloud Management Platform that is able to consume the underlying resources from the SDDC.

VMware provides these tools with the vRealize Suite. This software suite is a set of products that gives customers the ability to build their own cloud.

In general there are three things you need :

  • Operations; To be able to monitor and observe what is going on in the cloud
  • Automation; Automation enables self-service. Being able to orchestrate services is key for cloud;
  • Costing; Consumption of cloud needs to be metered. This way spend for services consumption can be controlled.

There are various VMware products that make these 3 things possible. In the end it gives customers the ability to create a private cloud out of the infrastructure resources that the SDDC provides.

The goal of a Cloud Management software is to be able to build a private cloud. And with a private cloud IT Operations can provide IT services that can be easily consumed in a self-service manner. Enabling IT to become an enabler in stead of a burden to the business.


Rise of Public Cloud

But the world did not only evolve in the datacenter. Companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google went down the path of building public (mega) clouds that could provide services to whomever wanted to consume it. In a sense they used the SDDC concept in a different format. Where they take responsibility for the underlying infrastructure and just provide the services on top of that to whomever wants to consume them.

For customers this is an interesting choice as they are no longer responsible for the infrastructure and consume just the service. If it’s a virtual machines, data store or network. It can be consumed, just by paying for it. Even more when you go up the stack and consume databases, key-stores and other middleware services as-a-service.

It may seem different, but in essence public cloud is private cloud on steroids. Creating a massive infrastructure to provide services to anyone who wants to consume the services that run on top of it.


Extending the Foundation into the public cloud

However for a lot of companies there is a need to easily extend the on-prem, private cloud platform into an external cloud. The easiest way to do that is to have the same infrastructure platform in the external cloud compared to what customer have to host their workload in the on-prem environment. In case of a SDDC based on-prem environment it would mean a SDDC platform hosted in an external cloud.

And with the fact that external cloud offers services, that would result in a SDDC-as-a-Service. A full SDDC stack that provides a vSphere based infrastructure platform where vSphere workload can be hosted. Customers who then want to move vSphere workloads from the own on-prem environment to the external cloud then do not have to change anything. They can easily migrate between the two platforms as both platforms are vSphere based.

There are a couple of options VMware and partners provide when it comes to SDDC-as-a-Service :

  1. VMware Cloud on AWS; A SDDC hosted inside of an AWS datacenter. Service is provides by VMware and is co-engineered with AWS to provide a fully automated SDDC that can be consumed by customers as-a-service.
  2. VMware Cloud Foundation on IBM Cloud; A service created and hosted by IBM. IBM provides the service to the customer. Customer gets a full SDDC stack within the IBM Cloud environment.
  3. VMware Cloud Services Providers; World-wide VMware has 4500+ Service Providers offering services to their customer on vSphere based platforms. A variety of service levels is offered, but all are build upon a vSphere platform.

All of these services offer a form of SDDC-as-a-service. Which means that a customer is no longer responsible for the SDDC infrastructure and typically only has the responsibility of the workload that runs on top of it.


And it’s all about the app

After all the workload is the most important thing to the business. The workloads on top of the platform run the applications that help the business do what they have to do. If we speak about digital transformation then applications are the  driving force that makes that happen.

As more and more business are embarking on the journey of digital transformation that results in IT becoming a crucial part of the business. Business is IT and IT is the business.

Over the last year businesses have been running their applications inside virtual machines. We can more or less state that the majority of all business applications today run in virtual machines.

But there is currently a shift taking place. Developers are looking for speed and agility when deploying software on top of the infrastructure. And containers have become the popular deployment mechanism of choice to deploy the software. The open-source Docker format being the most popular one.

So from a platform perspective there is a need to also be able to host containers. Ideally the capability to run containers is part of the platform. And that’s what VMware makes possible with vSphere Integrated Containers. It is an easy way to consume container and it does not change the way that vSphere administrators operate the platform. The best of both worlds.

But also the container world evolves and people started to look at running container management systems. One container is no container. And that led to the needs of a system that could manage containers and organize how they should be operated. Kubernetes has become that standard in the container space. And VMware, together with sister company Pivotal, has create an enterprise grade version of it that can be run on top of the platform: Pivotal Containers Service (PKS).

Next to that we see a need to run Functions-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service (Openshift, Pivotal Application Services) and other application framework formats on top of a platform. The need is ever increasing but it all comes down to hosting virtual machines and containers in an *consistent* way. One platform that can deliver all the capabilities in an easy and manageable solution.

VMware aims to provide customer with the capability to host all these type of workloads on-prem using VMware Cloud Foundation. Next to the workloads that customers are hosting using services of native public cloud providers such as AWS, Azure and Google.


Moving Towards Muli-Cloud Management

With the movement of managing all these types of workloads across all different cloud platform comes the need to manage across them all. After all we don’t want the clouds to become the new silos, where every cloud is managed individually and without having a *consistent* overview over all cloud resources being consumed.

VMware has set itself the goal to evolve its Cloud Management Platform to become two things :

  1. Provide the ability to manage both private and public clouds;
  2. Create a platform that meets the needs of the developers.

And also as a side note to these two goals there is the increasing need from customers to move to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. Especially customers that are moving away from the on-prem, private cloud model. So being able to consume VMware products as-a-service is also transformation that is needed.

All of this is what VMware is providing with Cloud Services. The new services are managed by VMware and provide customers the capability to manage application workloads and cloud resources across both private and public cloud.

VMware Cloud Services is a set of services to help govern, control and operate cloud.

The Cloud Operation services available today are :

  • Cloud Automation Services; Automation tool for orchestrating and automation cloud resources;
  • Cloud Health; Costing solution platform providing cost insight;
  • Secure State; Real-time security and compliance for public cloud;
  • Log Intelligence; Monitoring tool for infrastructure and app logs across private and public cloud;
  • Network Insight; Network analytics across cloud resources;
  • Wavefront; Real-time monitoring and analytics tool focussed on the application in a multi-cloud environment.

One thing to make clear is the fact that VMware is not moving away from the software that you can install yourself. VMware internal software development is shifting to “SaaS first”. This means that all new features will be written for the SaaS version first. But VMware will provide a version of the software, that customers can install themselves, on a regular cadence. Similar to the release cycles that are happening today. The aim is to have the same code base and to deliver feature parity between the SaaS version and install version. Delivering the customer in the end with the same software, but with the choice to consume it through SaaS or to provided software that the customer can install and manage themselves.

The result however is the same : a multi-cloud management platform that can manage any type of application framework on any type of cloud. VMware’s goal is to provide a consistent management platform.

And with all the Cloud Management services that VMware is now delivering, and is going to deliver in the future, it will provide a full suite of cloud services that will provide the right tools to operate a multi-cloud environment.


It’s a journey, start today

Hopefully this post has shown the path on how to move towards a multi-cloud world using VMware technology. It’s not a question if multi-cloud will happen, but when it will happen.

And every journey start with a good strategy. Start thinking about your multi-cloud strategy today and how you can effectively govern your multi-cloud resources and stay in control. After all that is the job of IT Operations!

See more from Martijn on Twitter- @baecke


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