Monday, March 19, 2012

Podcast: Red Hat's Chris Wells on cloud management and service catalogs

Hybrid cloud management goes beyond managing virtualization. Red Hat's Chris Wells discusses with me how the new bar set by public clouds is changing enterprise IT. We talk:
  • Red Hat's CloudForms hybrid Infratsructure-as-a-Service management product
  • The difference between virtualization management and cloud
  • How IT is changing
  • Service catalogs: What they are and why they matter
This is Part 1. Part 2 will be posted later in March.

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Gordon Haff:  You're listening to the Cloudy Chat Podcast with Gordon Haff. Hi, this is Gordon Haff, cloud evangelist with Red Hat. I'm sitting here with Chris Wells, product marketing manager with Red Hat who, among other things, is responsible for Red Hat's CloudForms hybrid infrastructure as a service cloud management product.
Hi Chris.
Chris Wells:  Hi, Gordon.
Gordon:  Can you just give us a high level view of what CloudForms is and maybe, in doing that, what does a hybrid infrastructure as a service cloud management product do generally?
Chris:  Yeah, absolutely. When we take a look at Red Hat CloudForms, it's really doing several different things for you. The whole goal is we want to give customers the ability to build out and manage their own private clouds and then really go into a hybrid cloud model to be able to leverage a public cloud infrastructure. We also want the ability to go in across heterogeneous infrastructures. We really want to give customers the choice of where they're going to run things in the cloud, meaning that they want to be able to pick whether it's physical machines, different types of hypervisors giving the option for multiple hypervisors or virtualization solutions. And then also give them a choice of different types of public cloud providers.
Now when we take a look at CloudForms, we believe it's fundamentally about not just being able to be able to run systems on different types of infrastructure, but it's also about being able to manage the applications that will then run in that type of infrastructure and do all of the traditional systems management tasks around that. Patching systems, provisioning systems, configuring systems.
So at Red Hat, we believe that if you want to get to your own private hybrid cloud environment, you want to offer an ability such as self service provisioning and stuff. To fundamentally do that you've got to be able to manage across multiple different types of infrastructure, as well as be able to manage different types of applications that run in that cloud infrastructure.
Gordon:  That's really one of the ways that a cloud management product is different from virtualization management.
Chris:  Yeah. I think another big difference is a lot of people, to your point, get confused about what's the difference, especially from a self‑service perspective, between virtualization and cloud. To me, where the fundamental differences are is, if you have virtualization and you put a self‑service portal in front of it, that does give you some automation and some flexibility benefits and agility benefits, but you're really restricted to that virtualization provider. If you have other types of infrastructure that you want to run your systems across, whether they be physical, other types of hypervisors, or public cloud providers you can't do that with a pure virtualization solution.
I think the other part that's different is that most self‑service portals that I've seen in front of virtualization solutions are really designed for administrators. They're designed to make it easier for an administrator to spin up a new VM. What people want to do in a cloud environment is they want to take that self‑service out to end users like developers and stuff.
The only way you're going to be able to do that is you've got to have policies that you can put around and say who's allowed to access what kind of VMs, what they're allowed to run, what kind of resources and infrastructure. You have to have that whole policy layer. That's something that we provide in CloudForms. It's not just a portal that anybody can go to and submit a VM.
There's a whole policy that you can put in front of it to decide who can do it, what kind of access, what the system dependencies are so, as an IT infrastructure team, you still have control of your infrastructure.
Gordon:  This is where you see a difference with a private or hybrid cloud that's governed by IT and the shadow IT by credit card you see with Amazon. It's their idea that anybody can spin up instances in Amazon with anything they feel like in it, including production applications.
Chris:  Yeah. I've talked to quite a few customers. I'm talking to centralized IT teams. They're nervous about shadow IT that's in other parts of their business units and organization, because they know, at the end of the day, that they're going to be held accountable, the centralized IT teams, for the security of data, the availability of infrastructure, even if it's being done by a shadow IT organization. They know it's eventually going to come back onto them. They're trying to figure out ways to give their internal customers that flexibility that a public cloud provider would provide but have all those controls.
Gordon:  I think you're lots of analogs to the whole consumerization of IT, whether it's iPhones or Android phones or tablets or what have you, that I think the best‑of‑breed IT organizations really don't want to just say, "No, you can't use any of this stuff, even if it makes your jobs easier, faster, more efficient." But on the other hand, they really just can't say, "Hey, sure, put the corporate data on your laptop. No big deal."
Chris:  Yeah. I think what's changed is we've kind of had some cultural changes in IT over the last few years. Whereas I'd argue, 10 years ago, centralized IT teams were very rigid, very structured. You did it their way or the highway. And what's changed? You talked about the consumerization of IT. You've had people walk in with their smartphones and say, "Hey, I need to have this smartphone access our email." And IT now can't just ignore that demand. I think what we see on the infrastructure side that what's changing is that the public cloud providers that have come online over the last few years have set a new bar that IT has to answer. I have an option. I can take my corporate credit card and go get a VM on a public cloud provider very quickly and very easily, and if my centralized IT team can't give me that service, I'll go someplace else.
So the point is, the IT teams have to react. And they're looking for ways to be able to do that that allows them to leverage existing investments they already have in their organization, because they can't throw out existing infrastructure. But yeah, it does give them that ability to be more agile and more flexible, more responsive to what the business wants.
Gordon:  You've been talking about self‑service. And self‑service is really a pretty fundamental aspect of cloud computing, whether we're talking public clouds or private clouds. A lot of the time, we hear this expressed in the form of users having access to a service catalog. What does that mean?
Chris:  I think the easiest way to think of a service catalog is it's just a listing of all of the applications or resources that you want to be able to give someone access to. Ideally, you want to have this on‑demand web page or portal that someone can go to and say, "Hey, look, I need a database instance or an application‑server instance or a web server," or whatever it happens to be. I think the easiest use case is probably around developers. If I'm a developer, I'm going to be spinning up a sandbox for an application server very quickly. I want to get access to it to get my job done. But it may only live for a relatively short amount of time, because once I finish that development or test whatever, I just want to throw it away.
Traditional IT process today, if I'm a developer, I've got to put in a self‑service ticket. Maybe I’ve got to send an email. It's got to go to someone. It might take them a couple of days to meet the request, get the hardware, get the software. Most companies I talk to say that could be a three, four‑week process before I have my sandbox.
Gordon:  Yeah. I was talking to someone who had run a service organization, at a large IT vendor, a couple years ago. He really told me an eye‑opening story. He said they went in to this customer who was looking to basically be able to get resources to users more quickly. They cut that time down from 70 days to 35 days, which he considered still to be really horrible because of the work flows in the organization, and the customer was absolutely delighted. 35 days to get resources to a developer, who could, in principle, have an application up and running and generate money for the company with that application for, basically, a whole month.
Chris:  I think that's a good point, where it's all relative [laughs] to what your pain is. But going back on the service catalog, it's exactly right. I mean, if I was able to provide a service catalog that said, "Here's a middleware environment. Here's all the application tools and everything that you need," and I can provide that to a developer. They can just go to a web page, they don't have to put an email or self‑service ticket or anything. They can just go, get access to their resources, spin it up in a matter of minutes. They're happy, because they get their job done faster. I'm happier, because I have completely automated that process. I'm not having to take my time to go through and do basic, low‑level builds of the machine. It's all ready to go.
Gordon:  Great. Thank you, Chris. This is Gordon Haff, and I've been speaking with Red Hat's Chris Wells.
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