Overcoming cloud complexities

Cloud infrastructures ‘an asteroid belt’ to navigate – chat with Zenoss’s Floyd Strimling

Chris Mayer
asteroid-belt

With the cloud infrastructure landscape changing at such rapid pace, we sat down with Zenoss’s Cloud Technical Evangelist to chat about the upcoming fight for supremacy between CloudStack and Openstack and the issues that enterprises face with cloud computing.

Firstly, do you feel it’s an exciting time
for cloud infrastructures?

It’s an exciting time to be in IT in general as we are
seeing breakthroughs across the board.  From solid state
drives to falling price of memory to powerful compute platforms, to
new network paradigms, it’s simply an amazing
time. 
Within “Cloud” specifically, the pace of innovation and
competition is driving a revolution that is breaking down
traditional silos while offering unprecedented agility that enables
both traditional and nontraditional business models to
thrive.

Do you think there’s simply too many
options for enterprises nowadays? 

I hate to say this, but there are almost too many choices for
enterprises.  enterprises are dealing with critical
infrastructure that has been deemed to be “legacy” by the likes of
Facebook, Google, and more.  To keep these systems up and
running while exploring the multitude of options for a next
generation IT infrastructure is a monumental task.  Not to
mention the fact that nearly every vendor is marketing a similar
story.

Is it a minefield for enterprises to get
exactly what they want in terms of security, frameworks and the
like?

I wouldn’t call it a minefield, more like an asteroid belt.
 Enterprises must navigate a maze of challenges that they have
not yet overcome within the traditional IT model while moving to
the cloud era.  The need for security, frameworks, and more is
consistent across both paradigms albeit with more fear around the
cloud.  The real issue lies within the disruptive nature of
cloud itself that threatens the very vendors that these enterprises
have come to rely on for consultation and solutions.

What are the main issues for a business when choosing a
cloud infrastructure? What should they consider?

In reality, every business will need to ask themselves these
questions prior to moving to the cloud. 
Last year I advocated for an Enterprise Cloud Triage (ECT)
to
help enterprises determine their readiness for cloud.  This
includes understanding the business objectives, people, an
assessment of your current infrastructure, and exploring various
doomsday scenarios. In any case, the number one thing an enterprise
should NOT do is rush to the cloud or make arbitrary technology
decisions that will impact them for years to come.

To truly become successful, does a business
need to manage cloud complexity effectively quickly?

To me, the number one issue facing cloud computing is
complexity.  While security or continuity will be solved, the
fact is the cloud paradigm isn’t as “cloudy” as people would
like.  While the complexity has been reduced for the consumers
of the technology, but from the administrators perspective things
are getting more complex.
Learning new technologies like OpenStack, CloudStack,
Puppet Labs, Chef, and more may be easy for the IT elite, but it’s
not quite that simple when you are managing 1000s of critical
applications within today’s always connected world.  For
enterprises to be successful, they must include a viable strategy
for their IT Operations to manage both legacy and cloud
complexity.

It’s difficult to use a tool before it
becomes already out of date and sufficient. How does an enterprise
combat this problem?

This is exactly why the open source revolution is so
powerful.  Why purchase a proprietary solution that requires
an army of consultants to implement and maintain it when you can
utilize modern and agile commercial open source solutions? 
The key is the solution must be open enough to allow enterprises to
take-on today’s challenges with an eye to the future while being
supportable and upgradeable.  The downside, is enterprises
will need to step out of their comfort zone to implement solutions
with new names like Zenoss, Opscode/Chef, Puppet Labs, Piston
Cloud, and more.

What did you make of Citrix’s decision to
jump the OpenStack ship and head to Apache with CloudStack? On the
cards?

To answer the question, I’d have to believe that Citrix has
abandoned OpenStack which I don’t believe is the case.  Citrix
continues to contribute to OpenStack and they are the custodians of
Xen.  With that said, CloudStack deserves the opportunity to
become a top level open source project under the Apache Software
Foundation (ASF).  Whatever happens in the future, I believe
it’s a brilliant move for Citrix and gives them a real chance to
disrupt the cloud market.  However, simply moving to ASF
doesn’t guarantee success and Citrix has a lot of work to do to
make the CloudStack project successful.  

Similarly, what do you make of Red Hat’s
big backing of OpenStack?

On March 1, 2012, I wrote a blog post entitled, “Why
Billion Dollar Red Hat and OpenStack Need to Dance
“, which
broke all of Zenoss’ blogging records.  The fact is, I
understand why Red Hat originally rebuffed OpenStack but I’m
thrilled that they were able to reconcile under the OpenStack
Foundation.  Red Hat could not afford to lose the cloud to
other rival Linux operating system vendors such as Canonical and
they have an opportunity to create a commercial version for the
enterprise that is fully supported and tested.

Will Red Hat at the table truly push
OpenStack forward now it has that huge partner? And what does it
mean for their other products ie
OpenShift/Cloudforms?

Now that the inevitability of Red Hat joining OpenStack is
over, it’s time for Red Hat to get to work and deliver a commercial
version of OpenStack to the Enterprise. It’s my opinion that this
move will force a strategy shift within CloudForms as I doubt Red
Hat will want to maintain multiple IaaS platforms.  However,
OpenShift may be different a la VMware’s Cloud Foundry whereby a
PaaS solution doesn’t necessarily need to conform to a single
design paradigm.

Is there space for both CloudStack and
OpenStack in an already stocked marketplace? Can they co-exist? Who
will be the winner here?

To me the question isn’t really about CloudStack and
OpenStack but their commercial offerings by 3rd party software and
hardware vendors. Will OpenStack or CloudStack be deployed in their
open source forms within an enterprise without the backing of a
commercial entity? Perhaps within the technical elite, but the
majority of the Enterprise they will look to a commercial
offering. 
Therefore, the real question is who will challenge
Citrix’s commercial offering with a viable commercial OpenStack
solution. Today you have Piston Cloud, Nebula, Cloudscaling, and of
course Rackspace with the eventuality of a Red Hat offering. These
solutions will need to effectively compete against the likes of
VMware vCloud and, even more interesting, Eucalyptus with their
Amazon Web Services (AWS) relationship.  

Do you feel not enough enterprises are
embracing different models – public, private and hybrid cloud-based
infrastructures?

Enterprises have always been open to new models within
IT infrastructure.  Whether it was moving from the mainframe
to client/server or now to the cloud the business drivers must
trump the technology. As I talk to large and small enterprises,
they are all investigating cloud-based infrastructure but they are
all struggling with the journey itself. 
However, the enterprises that embrace new technology and
paradigms will have the ability to compete against their current
rivals as well as unseen challengers. Each enterprise will need to
decide which model fits their business goals and objectives and I’d
suggest they start small and grow into the cloud. After all, that’s
the benefit of a scale-out and agile infrastructure
design.
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