So, I have to start off by thanking Brian Gracely (a fellow EMCer) for starting me off on this runaway train of thought. a few weeks ago I read his article entitled “Will IaaS+ happen before PaaS” the question posed in the title is very apt, a question which only reinforces the fact that we work in such a rapidly changing IT world. One where the battle for market and mind share continues to alter the landscape on a monthly if not daily basis.
IaaS, PaaS, SaaS… Reality!!
I remember when I first started at EMC as a vSpecialist, we were all about building private Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) capabilities. Virtualise everything on VMware, utilise vCloud Director to create pools of resource, securely divide them between tenants, deliver a self service catalogue through a portal and conduct chargeback against all of it. We also talked about extending that private cloud to the public cloud through a federated hybrid cloud model, but ultimately when you strip away the bells and whistles what we were all talking about from an end user perspective was the basic provisioning of VM’s to the OS layer.
Roll forward 3 years and things have changed up a gear significantly. Platform as a Service (PaaS) has become the new hot topic and the ability to write applications without worrying about the underlying infrastructure is well and truly upon us. Pivotal Cloud Foundry, Red Hat OpenShift, AWS Elastic BeanStalk, Microsoft Azure and SalesForce.com’s Heroku are some of the key players in today’s PaaS market. Some of these PaaS offerings are open and can sit on top of multiple cloud infrastructures, others are more proprietary and locked in. All of them however are trying to capture a share of the customers who broadly speaking fall into the following categories.
Innovate or die — PaaS offers a way to “leapfrog” the competition with the ability to quickly integrate the latest innovations in software development and scale them quickly. Customers get that pie-in-the-sky seamless experience, which is a win for everybody.
Agility is key — PaaS is a strong entry point to embracing the DevOps mindset with minimal investment, helping organizations work toward agile development. When you don’t have to worry about the underlying infrastructure, it becomes a lot easier to achieve continuous deployment and quick, responsive feature updates. Developers don’t need to handle operations and operations don’t need to know how to code in order to take advantage of a PaaS.
Build once, deploy anywhere — This is relatively specific to the open source players, but the ability to build an application on a common platform means that you can write it once and deploy it on any infrastructure you’d like. In other words, if you build an application on Cloud Foundry, that application will run the exact same way on any other instance of Cloud Foundry, with the implication that you can ideally move from the public cloud to the private cloud or between public cloud providers with lessened fear of lock-in.
The reality (in my opinion)… well it’s a mixed bag of course. Today I still see customers / IT teams striving to provide basic IaaS for their internal users. In truth developers wanted that simple capability from internal IT over 2 years ago, it is one of the main reasons that many public cloud providers, such as AWS are what they are today. They offered a viable and quick alternative for infrastructure while internal IT teams were either still trying to work out how to do IaaS themselves or were simply asleep at the wheel not realising that some very real competitor existed out there.
PaaS is an exciting shift in the industry, it’s allowing businesses to move up the stack, forget about the infrastructure and concentrate on building the applications that differentiate them from their competitors. It’s still early days for PaaS, though the momentum is building, not least with the Cloud Foundry foundation announcement this week which saw some of the industry heavy hitters commit to developing the Cloud Foundry project.
I certainly don’t think anyone can argue with the concepts of PaaS, or the fact it will rapidly take share in the coming years as development methods change. I do however feel that it won’t suit everyone immediately, It’s great for greenfield start-ups who are not constrained by legacy IT and want to operate in the public cloud, but how will it be adopted into the existing businesses? How quickly will it be adopted into the enterprise? All enterprise customers should be taking a look at this today, working out how they can integrate PaaS into their IT function to fundamentally change how they manage the software development lifecycle.
I personally think we’re at another one of those interesting inflexion points. The business and the developers that work for them want to move ever faster. Internal IT has maybe only just got to grips with IaaS and can now service them with the VM’s they want quickly. However the developers have moved on and already want more, they want to consume services and not just VM’s, they look to the public cloud and they see rich services being layered on top of cloud infrastructure, messaging services, Database as a service, in-memory capabilities, etc. The developers and the business are again demanding more than internal IT are currently delivering, sounds familiar doesn’t it! Sounds like the IaaS story from a few years back all over again.
Delivering Iaas, IaaS+ and PaaS
The question I asked myself after reading Brian’s article was what are EMC doing to assist our customers to deliver in this crazy fast moving IT world of ours. When I say “customers” I mean that in the broadest sense, it could be assisting small IT departments, enterprise customers or service providers looking to deliver services back to businesses and public consumers.
At EMC we’ve been talking a lot about the 1st, 2nd and 3rd platform. Some of you may have seen the picture below before, sums up today’s modern IT world very well I think. I certainly speak to customers who operate somewhere in all three of these platforms and I can safely say that I don’t see that model changing overnight, however I do see companies striving hard to leave the legacy behind and leapfrog straight into the 3rd platform.
If we break it down, what businesses are technically looking to achieve today is optimising the 2nd platform and at the same time enabling the 3rd platform. This is where I think a blended model of IaaS, IaaS+ and PaaS will cover the majority of use cases. IaaS and IaaS+ will help optimise legacy and new 2nd platform applications and change how they are delivered. IaaS+ and PaaS will find itself used for new application requirements in both the the 2nd platform and 3rd platform.
A picture speaks a thousand words, so I’ve attempted to draw out below what’s in my head on this subject. Thanks to Eric Wright for the graphic inspiration in his recent blog post. In theory by mixing traditional IaaS with PaaS and looking to utilise that combined stack to layer services on top of IaaS, whether that be PaaS delivered (MemDB aaS or Messaging aaS) or more traditionally delivered app blueprints (DBaaS straight on top of IaaS) we eventually come up with a hybrid model that caters to lots of different requirements.
So if we then take that on one step, what does the EMC federation have to offer in this space to help customers achieve this blended model of IaaS, IaaS+ and PaaS? I came up with the below diagram, pretty busy isn’t it!!
Lets break it out from the top down
Services – there is a plethora of services that theoretically could be consumed, some you may put together yourself (via application blue prints or custom buildpacks for Pivotal CF) others may be pre-packaged for you (either blueprints or packaged services). They may be consumed on PaaS (buildpacks) or may be deployed straight onto IaaS (blueprints). Pivotal services such as GemFire, RabbitMQ and TC Server are some of the offerings that can be deployed on either today.
vCloud Automation Center – vCAC has recently had the vFabric Application Director functionality folded in can be utilised to deploy VM’s, Operation Systems and application blueprints straight onto physical infrastructure, multiple hypervisors and multiple cloud platforms. I’ve included Puppetlabs on the diagram as the integration with vCAC has greatly expanded the capability for service deployment, with vCAC being able to take advantage of the puppet modules library. I think once VMware get vCAC fully plugged into Pivotal CF and the vCloud Hybrid Service (hopefully both aren’t too far away) it will make it an exceptionally powerful tool for automation whether that be VMware or a heterogeneous cloud environment.
Pivotal Cloud Foundry – The open source Platform as a Service offering that is today compatible with multiple cloud environments (VMware, OpenStack, AWS and I’m hoping vCloud Hybrid Service soon). It currently comes in an Open Source and a Pivotal enterprise flavour, other custom variations will undoubtedly appear, IBM Bluemix is a recent PaaS based on CF that I’ve been reading about. Cloud Foundry is creating a real stir in the IT world at the moment with a lot of the IT heavyweights throwing their backing behind this open source project, prompting comments such as the one below.
“Cloud Foundry is on an absolute tear. The number of companies that have bought into the initiative, the amount of code being contributed, the customer wins that ecosystem members are enjoying suggest that Cloud Foundry is preeminent among all the open source PaaS initiatives.”
— Ben Kepes, Forbes
VMware Software Defined Data Centre – I think everyone knows the story with this, if you don’t you really should VMware in combination with it’s partners (EMC included) are working hard on delivering the software defined data centre. The basic software defined compute layer is where VMware earned it’s stripes, that area of the SDDC needs no introduction. Software Defined Networking became a mainstream topic with the VMworld 2013 announcement of VMware NSX. With NSX VMware are bring the same consolidation, control and flexibility benefits to the network world as they did to the server world. Granular network policies that can follow a VM around regardless of it’s location (Private or Public clouds) is a key factor in enabling wide spread SDDC and hybrid cloud adoption. The last element is Software Defined Storage, something VMware and EMC are working very hard on. EMC announced our ViPR offering at EMC world in 2013, a fundamental change in thinking around storage. Abstracting the control plane and enabling a single point of management for EMC storage, other vendors storage, as well as commodity and cloud storage was a major change of direction for EMC. Providing software only data services is another fundamental shift in mindset, but an essential one as the storage world slowly becomes more commoditised. Today EMC offer HDFS and Object data services through ViPR, in the future there will be a lot more as EMC focus efforts on producing more abstracted software features. VMware have also gone down the commodity route with VSAN, still in Beta but due for release soon, it will prove popular for those VMware only shops who want to consume commodity server direct attached storage.
VCE vBlock – The leading converged infrastructure stack company created as a joint venture between EMC, Cisco, VMware and Intel. Converged infrastructure stacks are the easiest means of quickly deploying private cloud infrastructure within your own data centre. Built from best of breed components, available in multiple T-shirt size offerings, fully integrated, built in the factory, certified and ready to roll in 45 days or less, it is the perfect way to consume infrastructure and underpin a blended IaaS, IaaS+ and PaaS model.
vCloud Hybrid Cloud (vCHS) – This week saw VMware announce their new vCHS service in Europe, based in the UK. This is a key announcement for VMware and one that will sure to get customers excited. Lots of customers have VMware in their own private cloud deployments today, enabling those customers to extend their internal VMware environments while use the same automation and monitoring tooling will be very appealing. The capability to move your VM’s back and forth between on-prem VMware private cloud and vCHS or simply deploying your existing VM templates directly into a public cloud offering without upheaval is a huge plus or vCHS. With IPSEC VPN or direct connect network capabilities on offer, vCHS offers the simplest means of extending of your data centre to consume as required. Once the offering beds in and a few more bells and whistles are added (I’m thinking Pivotal CF PaaS here) it will be an even more compelling offering and a large part of VMware’s future business.
This has been a very long post, written over a number of weeks and written about a moving target (I’m thinking Cloud foundry foundation announcement and vCHS launch here). It basically comes down to businesses and the developers wanting to constantly innovate and do more. It’s about IT struggling along to keep up with that insatiable appetite and deliver what they want. I believe IT departments wants to help them do that, but they have to balance delivering with all the challenges that comes with existing IT Legacy and the requirement to maintain secure and compliant environments as per the rules and regulation that governs their business.
I believe the answer is a mixture of platform 2 and platform 3 solutions, it’s a mixture of legacy and new world applications, it’s a mix of legacy IT infrastructure, IaaS, IaaS+ and PaaS as I outlined above. With the work going on at EMC + VMware + Pivotal it’s a no brainer that this particular federation of companies is in a perfect position to help the businesses, developers and IT Infrastructure teams with that journey to innovate and change how they do what they do!