Moving To The Cloud: The Last Easy Decision

By now, you’ve read all the analyst reports, news articles, press releases, and blogger ramblings regarding the benefits of cloud computing.  Begrudgingly, you understand that although Cloud Computing began as a marketing fad, the technology behind it is real and is here to stay.

Perhaps you are dabbling in virtualization while considering upgrading your aging networking and storage equipment.  You wonder about the risks associated with moving aggressively toward this new type of infrastructure while considering migrating entire services to Application Cloud providers such as Service-now, Salesforce, or Microsoft’s new Cloud offerings.

Privately, you worry about the demands and pressures placed on your current IT staff.  If Cloud computing is going to work then you must find a way to tear down the silos that have existed for decades.  A successful transition will require not only a well thought out plan but the flawless execution of said plan.

Finally, you wonder what role Amazon EC2, Rackspace, AT&T, Verizon, SAVVIS, and others will play in your future.  Costs are one thing, security and reliability is another.  After all, even Google struggles to provide the vaunted 5 9’s of reliability.  Even if you find the perfect provider, will they remain independent or fall victim to the inevitable consolidation of the industry?

Weighing all the risks, you decide to build a private cloud first while eyeing the benefits of a hybrid or public cloud architecture.  Confidently, you call in your IT Directors or Managers and instruct them to provide you with a detailed cost analysis of building your new architecture.

Unfortunately, the easy part is over; where do you begin?  Do you start with picking a server or compute vendor or a storage vendor?  Do you call in your trusted networking vendor to understand what they have to offer?  Do you exit your comfort zone and call one of these newer vendors with cloud ready equipment?

The server team loves HP and is pushing Matrix, but you’ve read a lot about Cisco UCS, Dell Datacenter/Cloud Solutions, and IBM’s new Blade offerings.  The storage team loves EMC, but you’re intrigued by HP’s purchase of 3Par and Dell’s purchase of Compellent, not to mention NetApp.  Your storage networking team is loyal to Brocade, but if you purchase Cisco UCS then why not implement the Nexus and MDS?  Your networking team is partial to Cisco and are all certified Cisco engineers, but you wonder if Brocade, Juniper, or upstarts like Aristra are the way to go?   Unified fabric or Qfabric?  Fibre channel, ISSCI, or fiber channel over Ethernet?  What about the impacts of multi-hop fiber channel over Ethernet?  Is it time to upgrade your power, cooling, cabling, racks, too?

Next come even tougher questions regarding the software vendors.  Do you choose Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, or Oracle, as your virtualization vendor?  Are your current software vendors certified on these platforms?  You’ve been reading about Vblocks, could this help or does it force you into purchasing Cisco, EMC, and VMware?  What about open source alternatives?

Finally, how do Openstack, Eucalyptus, and Nimbula fit into this equation?  What’s Dell UEC or Opscode’s Chef?   What do you do for backup and disaster recovery?  How are you going to manage and monitor this?  Can you really get a single pane of glass?  Can anyone really handle the dynamic nature of a Cloud where everything from networking to storage to servers to applications are all virtualized?  What about security?

Yes, Cloud computing is as revolutionary and as disruptive as you have been reading.  However, never underestimate the complexity or magnitude of the decisions you must make to implement this marvelous architecture.  In the end, the easiest decision you will make is to move to the Cloud.

VMware Two Years Later: A Microsoftian Transformation

It’s hard to believe, but two years ago I wrote a blog post railing against VMware’s assertion that the operating system was dead.  This was about the same time that the great VMware exodus occurred and VMware replaced Diane Greene with Paul Maritz an ex-Microsoft executive.

What do you do when you are backed into a corner?  You release an upgrade that breaks your install base.  You fire your CEO and begin to lose key personnel.   Hire a Microsoft Executive to become your new CEO because he’ll be out of a job soon.  Pick a fight with the largest software company on earth.  Awake the sleeping giants in IBM, Sun, HP, and more as they want their slice of the pie.  Finally, you bring your most loyal customers to VMworld and proclaim that you are still the king.

Looking back, I failed to understand the transformation that VMware was about to begin.  As a technologist, it’s hard to accept that great technology does not equate to great profits.  VMware’s leadership understood this and set down a path to become the new Microsoft.  I write this with the highest respect and admiration as few software companies in the world have achieved the growth rates, sustainability, profits, and broad market presence as Microsoft.

Today, VMware is a marketing driven technology company.  Look no further than VMworld 2010 as an example of this transformation.  While there were labs and hard-core technology sessions, the message was always on-point and precise, Virtual Roads. Actual Clouds.  While cultivating a legion of developers and partners, VMware repeated that “if you want it cheaper, faster, better” then you’d buy it from them.

While I do not always agree with VMware’s vision of the future, it would be foolish to dismiss their plans and underestimate their marketing efforts.  VMware’s plans fall heavily on “The New Infrastructure”; it looks and feels a lot like the old Microsoft as “The New Infrastructure” is made up of VMware’s lucrative products and powerful partners like EMC, Cisco, Google, and Salesforce.

Give credit where credit is due, Maritz and VMware have done a masterful job in transforming the company while painting an obtainable vision of the future.   In order to make the transformation complete, VMware must cultivate one final group, the application vendors. For once the “old guard” embraces the “new cloud” paradigm, the world will forever change and the provider of this technology is going to be worth billions and billions of dollars.