It seems clear to me that Cloud Computing is going to go down two quite different paths. The first is the path that Amazon / Google / Joyent represent. Enough said on those technologies.
But why not build a Cloud Infrastructure in your own Data Centre ?
The security and operational risk of handing your application out to something like Google means its unlikely to happen any time soon. Moreover, rewriting your business applications for their environments is probably never going to happen. No matter how I try, SAP on the Google is not going to happen in my lifetime.
The good news is, that Cisco already makes a tool that does, more or less, does a ‘do it yourself’ Cloud Computer. Lets look into that.
Cisco already makes a cloud solution
Sometimes there are so many products in the Cisco catalog that some of them get lost. But one product I have been researching over the last six months is Cisco VFrame.
Now VFrame is software toolset that automatically provisions VMware ESX servers, Cisco Catalyst switches, ACE Application Delivery Controllers ((Application Delivery Controllers – yep, that the new term for a load balancer. Well, ok, they mimght do some application acceleration and app firewalling, but it is still a load balancer. )) , FWSM modules, Storage Arrays and Storage Switches and so on. In simple terms, it is programming environment that allows to ‘orchestrate’ the configuration of many separate technologies into a single process.
Let me ay that last bit again ” ‘orchestrate’ the configuration of many separate technologies into a single process.” Thats is the first part of Cloud Computing right there.
Looks Like a Cloud
Essentially a toolset that spawns a virtual machine, and all the supporting network infrastructure. VFrame will :
- automate the creation and deployment of VMware hypervisors, with all the standards and toolsets you specify
- automate the network operational changes including firewall, load balancing configuration.
- automate the creation and allocation of storage units to the virtual
If you ever created a system on Amazon EC2 (their so-called elastic compute cloud), you get the feeling that this is exactly what they have done.
Smells Like a Cloud
Lets look at the bit of Amazon EC2 :
To use Amazon EC2, you simply:
Create an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) containing your applications, libraries, data and associated configuration settings. Or use pre-configured, templated images to get up and running immediately.
Upload the AMI into Amazon S3. Amazon EC2 provides tools that make storing the AMI simple.
Amazon S3 provides a safe, reliable and fast repository to store your images.
Use Amazon EC2 web service to configure security and network access.
Choose which instance type(s) you want, then start, terminate, and monitor as many instances of your AMI as needed, using the web service APIs.
Determine whether you want to run in multiple locations, utilize static IP endpoints, or attach persistent block storage to your instances.
Pay only for the resources that you actually consume, like instance-hours or data transfer.
So if I have Cisco VFrame, a software tool that automates the following tasks:
- allocate and create a storage capacity and storage network from my existing storage system
- allocate and create CPU / RAM resources in the form of a VMWare ESX hypervisor
- creates the network modifications for firewalling and application acceleration
then that smells lot like Cloud Computing to me.
Feels like Cloud Computer.
So the VFrame software is able to connect to the Storage Array using various APIs, then create storage configuration and transfer the ESX image to the LUN.
The storage network is then configured to add the LUN’s to the MDS units.
The network is configured for IP addressing, switch ports, NIC teaming and any other switch configuration. Automated configuration for FWSM for security, and ACE for load balancing and application acceleration.
VI3 Remote Boot is used to start the ESX server.
Given that this all automated, we can use our standard build processes for every machine that is created, and the ongoing maintenance of these systems becomes simplified.
OK, where is the ‘elastic nature’ of the Cloud. The elasticity comes from the underlying nature of the technologies –
- VMotion takes care of scaling CPU and RAM resources from a possible pool of resources
- dynamic storage allocation on your MDS switch (combined with your Storage Arrays) provides scaling of storage capacity
- network virtualization allows you to move firewall and load balancing within the network to find bandwidth and processing resources.
Given that I can do this already, why am I outsourcing this to the Google or the Amazon.
Outsourcing usually fails
While I have seen outsourcing be successful, it almost never is. Outsourcing the computer functions of your IT may be an OK idea for mail other simple function like Office, it’s hard to perceive that outsourcing core compute functions will ever happen.
But we need something Cloud Computing in the change phase of our Data Centres. Funny thing, it’s already here.
Must be a Cloud!
I am sure I haven’t done this justice, and you should head over to Cisco’s Web site and get a look at the marketing material at www.cisco.com/go/vframe and get the full picture.
Here is thing, most people can build a test environment for a lot of this with the stuff you are throwing away. Get some of those old servers and storage arrays and build a test environment. Imagine how cool it would be to have your own “Cloud Computer”. Now that would be brilliant.
The thing I don’t understand, if why Cisco is not giving this more focus. They should have their entire “Social Marketing” machine out their pushing this like their lives depended on it.
There are some really amazing technologies in Cisco’s Data Centre strategy, and I reckon that a lot of people don’t know about them. This is just one of them. I have some more technical stuff coming in the next few on network infrastructure, so keep any eye.
Thanks for reading this far, feel free to comment and add information. Cisco Web site on Cisco VFrame is here.