Journey Towards Multi-Cloud Management

With more organizations moving to public cloud, IT teams need a way to manage old and new infrastructure consistently. Learn how to develop your own multi-cloud strategy to effectively govern your multi-cloud resources and stay in control.

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 demanding 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 is growing to deliver IT resources faster. As a result, 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 built their own IT infrastructure to accommodate their needs for applications. At first it was mainframes, then moving into x86, which then evolved into a more flexible infrastructure with virtualization. And for some, that evolution continued into private cloud using cloud management technology.

VMware has enabled that transition by providing the market leading software that has enabled it 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 tools need to evolve. The question is then: How do you manage both the old and new in a consistent way?

The Need For Consistent Infrastructure

Before going into the management of everything, we need to look into what they actually are. Most customers have vSphere as the platform of choice in their data center to host their application workloads, with virtual machines running the applications that enable the business.

Over the last decade virtualization has been proven its value. No longer are applications hosted on individual hardware servers. By making the servers “software-defined” it became possible to create a platform to host “virtual machines”. And the platform also came with powerful 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 business benefits such as lower costs and a reduced carbon footprint.

If you look at a data center, it basically consists 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” data center (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

Software alone does not build a software-defined data center. The time-to-value for most customers when it came down to landing application workloads on top of the platform was often weeks or months.

Automation is needed to minimize the time of deployment for all software. So VMware created the automated SDDC solution called VMware Cloud Foundation. Cloud Foundation delivers 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 an automation tool that makes it possible to install, configure and update the complete SDDC software stack build out of vSphere, VSAN and NSX. As well as the SDDC Manager, there is also the possibility to use 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, which updates all of the components that are making up the complete operating system. Then, 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”. We’ve seen some IT Operations teams spend 80% of their time installing, managing and upgrading the infrastructure while only 20% was dedicated to innovating and helping in business-related activities. Cloud Foundation should help in turning that around, so they spend 80% on business-related activities and 20% 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

An SDDC does not make a cloud. SDDCs — whether built using Cloud Foundation or not — provide a virtualization platform to run workloads on top of. It does not provide the capabilities that define a cloud such as self-service and scalability. 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 three 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 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 instead of a cost to the business.

Rise of Public Cloud

The world did not only evolve in the data center. 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.

For customers, this is an interesting choice as they are no longer responsible for the infrastructure and just consume the service. Whether it’s a virtual machine, 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

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 hosting their workload in the on-prem environment. In the case of an SDDC based on-prem environment, it would mean an SDDC platform is hosted in an external cloud.

And as the external cloud is offering services, that would result in an SDDC-as-a-Service. This is a full SDDC stack that provides a vSphere based infrastructure platform where vSphere workloads can be hosted. Customers who then want to move vSphere workloads from their 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; An SDDC hosted inside of an AWS data center. Service is provided 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; Worldwide VMware has 4500+ Service Providers offering services to their customer on vSphere-based platforms. A variety of service levels is offered, but all are built 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 for the workload that runs on top of it.

It’s All About the App

Ultimately, 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 businesses are embarking on the journey of digital transformation, IT becomes 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 containers 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 created 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 a consistent way. One platform that can deliver all the capabilities in an easy and manageable solution.

VMware aims to provide customers with the capability to host all these types 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 Multi-Cloud Management

It’s important to manage all these types of workloads across different cloud platforms centrally. 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 how all cloud resources are 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. In the end, delivering the customer with the same software.

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 of if multi-cloud will happen, but when it will happen for you.

And every journey starts 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!

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