NOTE: This post is not intended as an endorsement of the company “CloudOps.”
This week, I’ve working to describe the “cloud operation model” or “cloud ops” to Dell internal and external customers. CloudOps is really just DevOps but packaged more broadly to help explain how hardware, software, and operations interact. The critical concept I’m trying to convey is that we’re not spending enough time working with customers on operations.
Running a cloud is driven by operational processes and choices.
Back in 2001 when virtualization was a shiny new thing, no one had any idea on how to operate a virtualized data center. My company (now owned by Quest) struggled to win deals outside of our own data center because our customers did not know how to operate virtualized hardware. Ultimately, VMware created the SAN based data center consolidation pattern and sales exploded. That solution is much more about operations than hardware (SANs) or software (ESX).
So here in 2011, we have the same challenge with cloud. (The majority of) Dell’s customers do not know how to operate a hyperscale data center because there is no commonly accepted pattern. That’s where the cloud operation model comes into play – we have cloud proven hardware and cloud proven software, but we had been missing a description of the operational cloud mojo.
My team’s first OpenStack project started as a cloud installer (aka Crowbar), but we’ve learned that it is more fundamental than that. To achieve “4 hours to cloud,” our approach embraced the DevOps philosophy that deployments should be automated, dynamic and repeatable. Our choice to extend Opscode’s Chef Server allowed us to bring in more than just a software capability: it delivers a core operational foundation that enables customers to manage their data center at significant scale.
We had to deliver a CloudOps Foundation because Cloud is not a static configuration that can be distilled in a 10 page white paper!
Cloud scale requires an Operations Foundation that can respond and react because deployed software and infrastructure is constantly evolving and adapting. I do not mean moving around assets like VMs. I am talking about something that closer to refactoring code and writing software features. Like the applications that run on the cloud, we need to recognize that cloud is a moving target and build systems that can handle that.
We’re delivering OpenStack using an operational platform that can respond to the code as it changes and expands. There is more than enough stable code and proven capability in OpenStack for our customers with CloudOps mojo to start building their operational foundation and to create commercial public clouds. These first providers are not waiting for a “final release” of OpenStack where it’s suddenly “production ready.”
The beauty of an open source cloud with an active community is that it will be constantly improving.
Some may be hoping that in 5 years we will have established patterns for hyperscale; however, I think those days are past. Instead, we’ll see tools that accelerate infrastructure agility. We already have those for public cloud deployments and now it’s time to bring those into the data center itself. But that is the subject for another post (BlackOps).