VMware IT: Our Journey to a Private Cloud

by: VMware VP of Engineering Huseyin Dursun

How a Private Cloud Can Dramatically Change IT Service Delivery and Agility

A few years ago, VMware IT was operating a very traditional infrastructure provisioning process.  It took four to six weeks to build an IT development and test environment. Our capex-based model meant that projects were driven by fiscal year funding. Environments were built once we had funding. Developers were reluctant to delete them because it took so long to secure them. Stability issues emerged as hygiene worsened. If one project was delayed, other projects assigned to that environment suffered.

Sound familiar? With costs rising from the inefficiency, VMware realized it had to transform its operations; private cloud technologies emerged as ideal platforms for taking the next step. Capacity could be centrally deployed, shared, and managed. Infrastructure delivery could be automated for delivery in hours instead of days in most cases. A private cloud could dramatically change IT service delivery. 

Journey to the Cloud

VMware IT’s journey to a private cloud involved intensive planning the first year. The goal was to move from a traditional allocation model to internal service provider with three clear and well-defined targets:

  • Availability: Availability to improve over time
  • Agility: Fast turnaround on orders for services/capacity.
  • Cost: Cheaper than the alternatives (public cloud, silo deployments).

We implemented several key changes in people, process, and technology within IT to support these targets.

One team. We collapsed several separate groups into a cloud team with a blend of internal IT and external cloud skills. The team operates like a service provider. This approach provides a single choke point for all cloud issues. Only shared services such as data center operations and monitoring are still managed as core IT functions.

Central funding. For the first 18 months, the private cloud was centrally funded. This provided a runway to build a chargeback model across the private cloud, data centers, and public cloud. By not initially charging for cloud services, we could overcome customers’ reluctance to pay for the cloud when data center costs were free. By the time chargebacks went into place, a service catalog of IT services and associated SLAs had been developed. Customers had choices for their cloud services. However, over time, the private cloud emerged as the cheapest, and most popular, option.  An executive ‘cloud-first’ mandate also helped drive cloud adoption.

Automated services. An automated self-service portal uses APIs to provide a single catalog of IT services and serves as a clearing mechanism for capacity alternatives. Anyone with a budget can order an environment and have it available in less than a day in most cases. Users have control over setting up and deleting it without human involvement. IT also developed several standard service options to increase efficiency and reduce the demand for costly custom environments.

Standard VMU. An important element of any plan is to give customers comparable data to make clear choices. IT adopted a virtual machine unit (VMU) as its standard service baseline for comparison purposes. (A VMU is defined as 1 GHz CPU, and 2 GB memory.) This scaling (which includes costs for both people and equipment) is based on popular commercial services. The VMU baseline also enables IT to measure its cloud growth and cost.

Public cloud. IT also took the lead in defining the public cloud strategy to avoid one-off decisions about using the public cloud. IT began managing public cloud consumption and adopting common metrics across cloud options. Use cases, such as disaster recovery and redundancy, helped illustrate the power of the cloud in various scenarios.

VMware on VMware

VMware IT drinks its own champagne by running VMware products in various environments, including its private cloud. This includes providing R&D with feedback on the products, such as bug reports and feature requests. IT balances its commitment to adopting VMware products and managing availability.

Private Cloud Benefits for IT Developers

To kickstart our migration, we initially moved 10 to 20 test environments into the private cloud. We have met our three targets:

  • Four service tiers offer availability ranging up to 4 nines
  • All service/capacity orders can typically be implemented in less than a day
  • When the private cloud reached 175,000 VMUs two years ago, costs had dropped significantly.

During the past four years, VMware’s internal customers have seen several clear benefits:

  • An automated, self-service portal delivers IT instances in hours, not days, and significantly reduces wait times.
  • Blueprints offered within the portal enforce corporate policy and standards and streamline the approval process.
  • Since VMs can be easily added and deleted, environments (>50 VMs) offer low error rates and greater stability.
  • Environments can be easily and seamlessly integrated with other VMware products.
  • Four service tiers address different workloads and support requirements:
Service TierWorkload DescriptionService Availability Objective
PilotUsed to run early versions of softwareNone
Early AdopterRuns real-world user traffic on pre-GA software to improve the quality of VMware products before they reach customers99.0%
StandardHosts general purpose workloads99.9%
PremiumHosts mission-critical and revenue-generating workloads, including battle-tested, mature software and those with geographically separate sites99.99%

Future Trends

The next step for IT is adoption of VMware Cloud on AWS, which combines the best features of the public and private clouds. Its opex model is similar to the public cloud while the VMware software is similar to the private cloud. VMware manages the software stack, including upgrades, just like in the public cloud, and the stack runs on a dedicated infrastructure. This solution delivers the flexibility of the public cloud along with the manageability and skills sets of a private cloud. VMware Cloud on AWS is an important step in our cloud journey.

VMware on VMware blogs are written by IT subject matter experts sharing stories about our digital transformation using VMware products and services in a global production environment. Contact your sales rep or to schedule a briefing on this topic. Visit the VMware on VMware microsite and follow us on Twitter.   


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