I get asked this question a lot. Cisco has multiple exciting Converged Infrastructure solutions with partners. There are actually two different software product “categories” covering the Infrastructure (or POD) Manager and the Cloud Management Solution. Let dig a bit deeper in what the differences are.
- Infrastructure managers are software stacks that manage the initial configuration and day-to-day management of hardware that include systems, networks and storage. These may or may not be related to a cloud project.
- Cloud management solutions include the operation and monitoring of applications, data and services residing in the cloud.
- Infrastructure Managers are used by server administrators to make their lives easy during the implementation and run-time operations of the converged infrastructure. In a cloud, infrastructure managers also provide end user the ability to order converged infrastructure resources across compute, networking and storage in an automated fashion.
- Cloud Management Solutions are targeted toward providing infrastructure as a service to IT and business users. Cloud solutions are designed to automate the end-to-end service across not only the infrastructure but middleware and applications to a specific service level such as gold, silver or bronze.
- Infrastructure Managers are used when a POD is purchased and stood up. Infrastructure managers have two use cases. Today the most common use case is to manage a “pod” such as FlexPod, vBlock of VSPEX where the infrastructure is designed to a specific bill of materials or reference architecture. The second use case is when a company wants to manage a best of breed infrastructure stack composed of different vendors at the compute, network and storage layers. This second use case is becoming less popular as companies discover the cost of standing up and ongoing maintenance for these types of solutions.
- Cloud Management Solutions are used after that to drive the “as a service” storefront and orchestration of those services. Cloud management is what makes the cloud solution work. Infrastructure management by itself is not a cloud. Cloud management creates the end-to-end service in an automated fashion. It allows the customer to come to a portal (store front) and order the complete solution they need. When “submit” is selected, that solution gets deployed across the entire stack and delivered within a matter of minutes.
- When infrastructure is turned on, you might have multiple PODs being deployed and the server administrator needs a console to accelerate the configuration of the infrastructure. The key here is the infrastructure managers speed up the turn on of the storage, network, compute and virtualization.
- IT shops deploy cloud solutions to transform their IT operating model to a “as a service” where you have self-service, elasticity, resource pooling and some form of show- or charge-back.
- Infrastructure managers are bound to the specific hardware stack in play. They have specific behaviors and “shelf reports” of what they support and what they dont. If you want the behavior of the Infrastructure manager to change then you generally need to wait until the next release of the software.
- Cloud management solutions are designed to be extensible. Through the configuration points in the portal and the orchestration layers IT shops can adjust and configure the specific behaviors that they looking for. It is definitely a combination of the out-of-the-box functionality and the specific customer behaviors that build a “true cloud”.
Put all this another way, if the virtualization hypervisor is ground zero, infrastructure management involves all the activities south of the hypervisor and cloud management involves all activities north of the hypervisor.