Last week I presented and participated at the The Open Group Forum in Austin, TX. It was a great event, with insights into Enterprise Architecture, Business Architecture and Emerging Architectures. There were several breakout tracks in the Forum, including, the most popular -- Cloud Architectures Track. The sessions ranged from connecting architecture frameworks (TOGAF) to Cloud Architectures, to Cloud Architectures development. My session was on “Architecture & Considerations for IaaS Clouds”. This session was more focused on technology aspects of the Cloud Architecture. Also, it could be applied to either an enterprise private cloud or a service provider cloud settings. Just to level set everyone in the audience, I started out with a taxonomy and reference architecture (RA) review. I utilized both NIST’s published and a simplified version of Cisco Cloud RA. The Cisco RA review was the case in point for this session, where Infrastructure, Service orchestration, Delivery/Management and consumer layers were discussed.
Innovation is inextricably linked with the old adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try again!” Great entrepreneurs concur that in order to drive real innovation, corporations must cultivate originality by giving employees the freedom and resources to introduce new ideas, methods and processes.
So I began to wonder, what are some great ways that an enterprise can balance the hard costs and the opportunity costs of fostering innovation with the more practical demands of the balance sheet?
A few weeks ago, I heard James Urquhart talking to a customer about their cloud strategy and he said some things that I thought were very powerful. He was talking about the flexibility of Cisco UCS and how it allowed for inexpensive do-overs. You can buy the hardware and try something on it at small scale. If it shows promise, you can scale it up to meet the full market need. If it doesn’t work, the hardware can quickly be recaptured and repurposed for the next innovation. Repeat, redo, retry, redesign—cost effectively “try, and try again.”
As the conversation went on with the customer, we came to recognize the same benefit of a well-engineered orchestrator as the common point of interaction of all the pieces of IT.
New services in the cloud are more than just building a new VM template or vApp and then cloning it on demand. The move toward ITaaS means bringing in new purpose-built technologies (such as IT chargeback, application configuration management, network flow management, industry-specific compliance reporting, etc.), and integrating them with existing OSS/BSS products you already have (ticketing systems, network monitoring, email, etc.).
This week’s focus on Cisco’s Unified Network Services (UNS) portfolio looks at cloud orchestration and the concept of a Network Hypervisor. What is a “Network Hypervisor”?
In the same way that a traditional hypervisor can offer up a modular, replicable set of virtual server resources (including OS, CPU slice, network interfaces), a network hypervisor is a modular abstraction of reusable network services to assemble a flexible data center or cloud infrastructure. Sounds interesting so far, but what does the network hypervisor actually do?
The first function is to allow organizations to pre-define and replicate the modular network containers that abstract a rigid underlying network infrastructure from the needs of individual applications and services. An example of a network container might be defined to include individual components such as logical VM ports, load balancer and firewall. This logical network environment can be assigned and isolated to a particular tenant to provide the network services a particular application needs and where the application VMs can be placed. The figure below shows how some modular, pre-defined containers can be nested and plugged together to offer customized services for a particular tenant. A small number of defined containers can be replicated and plugged together in a large number of permutations to address a wide range of application requirements.
These flexible, pre-defined containers can be device agnostic, just like their server counterparts, and help provide security and quality of service through tenant isolation, as well as application resiliency. During the application and VM provisioning process, the defined network containers advertise their capabilities and are deployed along with the VM in the proper locations. Just like the VMs they are aligned with, the network containers are location-independent and handle all the changes required during VM-mobility, ensuring that the application has the same network services in the new location. Obviously this goes well beyond just the layer 2 and 3 networking services, through to the layer 4-7 application services like load balancing, WAN optimization, and security as mentioned earlier.
The Cloud Challenge
Cloud computing is increasing demands on applications and the application-delivery infrastructure must change to meet the challenge. Virtualization does not solve the problems with applications scaling, in fact it adds complexity. Infrastructure alone does not solve the challenge either. You don’t want to oversubscribe or just add capacity on demand. The infrastructure needs to respond to user demand based on business value and maintain a favorable cost structure. This means that you need intelligent load processing to manage scale, especially given the evolution of applications, which now make numerous backend function calls, which create more traffic than at the front end.
The Need for Scale
Cloud-computing applications are characterized by stateful access, with differentiated service levels, charged to the end user using the pay-per-use pricing model. Implicit in this model is the assumption that a cloud application is always on. Scaling the cloud delivery model to an Internet scale (millions of users) is a challenge that next-generation Layer 4–7 infrastructure needs to overcome.
Scaling a cloud application involves scaling three mechanisms: location (mobility), replication, and load balancing. Virtualization was an early catalyst for cloud computing because it substantially lowered the cost of replication and mobility of a prepackaged application. It does not, however, solve the load-balancing problem. Load balancing involves scaling the address, name space, transport, session, identity, and business logic of the application. Clustering enables scaling of application business logic but leaves the rest of the problem to a proxy infrastructure.
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The Route to PaaS
When cloud computing emerged a few years ago Communications Service Providers (CSPs) saw the opportunity to build the infrastructure layer and offer services on it. CSPs had data center facilities that when combined with their network assets created a cloud service offer with higher service delivery assurance than some alternatives. CSPs are now delivering infrastructure-based cloud services, especially Compute as a Service and Storage as a Service, to the public and to their large Enterprise customers in private cloud offers. As the cloud service model matures, providers who have invested in cloud infrastructure are finding that they are well positioned to evolve their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings into new service delivery models by leverage their services, systems, and expertise to take on the next great opportunity in cloud services which is Platform as a Service.
The Value of PaaS
PaaS is an integral component to development and delivery of cloud-based applications delivered as Software as a Service—or SaaS. Developing a PaaS offer gives CSPs the opportunity to take advantage of the huge and growing SaaS market and help to accelerate the development of SaaS offers. CSP’s can take an active role by leveraging their assets and developing their capabilities, via a PaaS offer, rather than just hosting and transporting SaaS services. The capability they can provide is to enable development and then deploy applications that are created using tools that they support on to their cloud infrastructure. PaaS enables CSPs to carve out a new and essential role in SaaS development and delivery, situated between software developers and end users, for both business and consumers.
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