New Managed and Automated Paths to Private Clouds provide swifter adoption at lower risk

Updated: October 27, 2010

We're here with two executives from HP Software & Solutions to learn more about what BSA is and why it's proving essential to managed and productive cloud computing adoption: Mark Shoemaker, Executive Program Manager for Cloud Computing in the Software & Solutions Group at HP, and Venkat Devraj, Chief Technology Officer for Application Automation, also in HP's Software & Solutions Group. The discussion is moderated by BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Shoemaker: There is hardly a place we go that we don't end up talking to our customers about cloud. Most of the enterprise customers we talk to are looking at private cloud, the internal cloud solution that they own, that they then provide to their business partners, whether that's the development teams or other elements in their business. Most of them are looking to build on the virtualization work that they've already done.

They want to improve their productivity, definitely get better utilization out of what they have already got. They want IT to be your better partner in the business. What that means is to shorten the time that the business has to wait for the services.

Devraj: There is also an interesting micro trend that's occurring. A lot of the application teams, end-user business teams, are getting increasingly sophisticated. They're learning about private cloud implementations. Consequently, they're demanding levels of service from IT that are difficult to provide without a private cloud.

For example, because of things like agile development methodologies, application teams are doing a lot more application deployments and code releases than ever before. It's not uncommon to see dozens of application releases for different applications happening during the same day.

IT operations are just bombarded with these requirements, and requests, and they are just unable to keep up based on yesterday's processes, which are relatively static. These application teams and business unit teams are quite influential.

They're even willing to fund specific initiatives to allow their teams to work in self-service mode, and IT ops are finding themselves in reactive mode. They have to support them, make their internal processes more fluid and dynamic, and leveraging technology that allows that kind of dynamism.

... The third-party companies, the cloud providers, the pure-play server enablers, have an unfair advantage. Because they were started relatively recently, in the last few years, they have the advantage of standardized platforms and delivery units.

A lot to deliver

They can say, "Okay, I'm going to deliver only Linux-based platforms, Windows-based platforms, or certain applications." When you look at the typical enterprise today, however, IT has a lot more to deliver.

There is a lot of prevailing heterogeneity in terms of multiple software platforms and versions. There is a lack of standardization. It's very difficult to talk about cloud and delivery within the enterprise in the same breath, when you look at these kinds of technical challenges.

As a result, IT is undergoing a lot of pressure -- but they have to deliver given the kind of challenges that they face. That's going to require a lot of education and access to the right kind of technology, training, and guidance.

Shoemaker: Just to add to Venkat's comment, we're seeing the business driving IT and demanding that agility and that flexibility. We talk to a lot of our customers, where their own coworkers have taken corporate credit cards and gone out into the public cloud, procured space, and have begun developing outside of them. IT really has to get in front of this. They have to manage all this.

... The one thing that's different about cloud is that it really is a supply chain. It's the supply chain of IT technology that the business consumes. If you think about what a supply chain is, it's something that's got to be repeatable. It has to be governed, and it provides a baseline or foundation and building blocks to build those services that you can then customize on top of the business.

The farther up that you can go with your standard building blocks, the less difficult it is to manage and focus on the custom business-facing functions.

So, the farther up that you can go with your standard building blocks, the less difficult it is to manage and focus on the custom business-facing functions on the front-end.

To do this, cloud has helped us out in a lot of ways. One of the challenges IT has always had is to get the business to consume standards. Because of a lot of hype in the market, the business absolutely is convinced that they get it, and they want the business benefits that cloud offers.

Even if the business decides to go to a public cloud, they still have to consume those elements in a standard fashion. There's no way out of that.

Devraj: And yet, the software used by these enterprises tends to be disparate, heterogeneous, and requires a lot of domain knowledge to be able to manage, resulting in significant delays and bottlenecks associated with service delivery. Those processes just don't scale in the cloud.

Different platforms

At Stratavia we had built a patented technology to manage and control varied software stacks, such as databases, web servers, application servers, and even well-known packaged applications, including Microsoft Exchange, Oracle E-Business Suite, and SAP.

The content that I talk about becomes an abstraction layer, where the customer, the end user, the people who consume the services, see a very easy to understand service catalog. They can click on it. They can choose some menu options, some values from a drop-down box, and then specify exactly what they need, and have the response come back in minutes and in hours, rather than days and weeks, as is traditionally the case.

For example, just at the database layer, within the enterprise, it's very common to see four or five different platforms in use, such as DB2, SQL Server, Oracle, and so on. By automating the operations management lifecycle around these layers, Stratavia has made it possible for the enterprise to deliver and manage these assets as a service within the context of the cloud.

As more and more of HP's and Stratavia's joint customers started seeing value in that capability, HP brought Stratavia into its BSA/Business Technology Optimization umbrella.

There's a big gap in IT today, which is IT/Ops Engineering or IT/Ops Architecture. That's a big missing silo within IT/Ops. And lot of the operators today that rely on scripts, command-line stuff, and point-and-click tools need to evolve themselves to more of an architect approach. They need more of taking stock of the big picture, and taking the tribal knowledge that they have in their heads and looking at the out-of-the-box content that HP provides and selecting the right content that corresponds to their tribal knowledge.

When they go into the cloud, the underlying management, things like compliance and governance, are not out of whack. They're able to successfully take that knowledge, put it in there, and then, in their new role as architects or engineering folks, they're able to watch, measure, and make modifications as appropriate.

So, the role that people play, that key subject matter experts play, is very crucial as part of walking before running with automation.

Gardner: Now that you have mentioned Stratavia, and for the benefit of our listeners and readers, HP has acquired Stratavia, and there was also quite a bit of related product and service news on Sept. 15 around BSA as the acquisition was unveiled.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.
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