Thought Leadership and Cloud

The People Side of Cloud Computing

Posted by Justin Nemmers

3/26/14 2:55 PM

 (Originally posted in the In-Q-Tel Quarterly)

The cloud-enabled enterprise fundamentally changes how personnel interact with IT. Users are more effective and efficient when they are granted on-demand access to resources, but these changes also alter the technical skill-sets that IT organizations need to effectively support, maintain, and advance their offerings to end users. Often, these changes are not always immediately obvious. Automation may be the linchpin of cloud computing, but the IT staff’s ability to effectively implement and manage a cloud-enabled enterprise is critical to the IT organization’s success and relevance. Compounding the difficulties, all of the existing legacy IT systems rarely just “go away” overnight, and many workloads, such as large databases, either don’t cleanly map to cloud-provided infrastructure, or would be cost-prohibitive when deployed there. The co-existence of legacy infrastructure, traditional IT operations, and cloud-enabled ecosystems create a complicated dance that seasoned IT leadership and technical implementers alike must learn to effectively navigate.

In-Q-Tel Quarterly Image

In the past five or so years, and as enterprise IT organizations have considered adopting cloud technologies, I’ve seen dozens of IT organizations fall into the trap of believing that increased automation will enable them to reduce staff. In my experience, however, staff reductions rarely happen.  IT organizations that approach cloud-enabled IT as a mechanism to reduce staffing are often surprised to find that these changes do not actually reduce complexity in the environment, but instead merely shift complexity from the operations to the applications team. For instance, deploying an existing application to Amazon Web Services (AWS) will not make it highly available.  Instead of IT administrators using on-premises software tools with reliable access—and high speed, low-latency network and storage interconnects—these administrators must now master concepts such as regions, availability zones, and the use of elastic load balancers. Also, applications often need to be modified or completely re-designed to increase fault tolerance levels. The result is that deployments are still relatively complex, but they often require different skillsets than a traditional IT administrator is likely to have.

A dramatic shift in complexity is one of the reasons why retraining is important for existing IT organizations.  Governance is another common focus area that experiences significant capability gains as a result of cloud-enabled infrastructure.  Automation ensures that every provisioned resource successfully completes each and every lifecycle management step 100% of the time.  This revelation will be new to both IT operations and end users. I’ve also frequently seen components of the IT governance mechanism totally break down due to end user revolt—largely because particularly onerous processes could be skipped by the administrators as they manually provisioned resources.

Cloud-based compute resources will dramatically change the computing landscape in nearly any organization I’ve dealt with. For example, one IT Director worked to automate his entire provisioning and lifecycle management process, which resulted in freeing up close to three FTE’s (Full Time Equivalent) worth of team time.  Automating their processes and offering end users on-demand access to resources helped their internal customers, but it also generated substantial time savings for that team. The IT director also recognized what many miss: the cloud offerings may shift complexity in the stack, but ultimately all of those fancy cloud instances are really just Windows and Linux systems. Instances that still require traditional care and feeding from IT. Tasks such as Active Directory administration, patch management, vulnerability assessment, and configuration management don’t go away.

Another common learned-lesson that I have witnessed is that with shifting complexity comes dependence on new skills in the availability and monitoring realms. Lacking access to physical hardware, storage, and network infrastructure does not remove them as potential problem areas. As a result, Ihave seen organizations too slowly realize that applications need to be more tolerant of failures than they were under previous operating models.  Making applications more resilient requires different skills that traditional IT teams need to learn and engrain in order to effectively grow into a cloud-enabled world. Additionally, when developers and quality assurance teams have real-time access to needed resources, they also tend to speed up their releases, placing an increased demand on the workforce components responsible for tasks such as release engineering, release planning, and possibly even marketing, etc.

I’ve encountered few customers that have environments well suited for a complete migration to the public cloud. While a modern-day IT organization needs to prepare for the inevitability of running workloads in the public or community clouds, they must also prepare for the continued offering of private cloud services and legacy infrastructures. Analyst firms such as Gartner suggest that the appropriate path forward for IT orgs is to become a broker/provider of services. The subtext of that statement is that IT teams must remain in full control over who can deploy what, and where. IT organizations must control which apps can be deployed to a cloud, and which clouds are acceptable based on security, cost, capability, etc. Future IT teams should be presenting users with a choice of applications or services based on that user’s role, and the IT team gets to worry about the most appropriate deployment environment. When this future materializes, these are all new skills IT departments will need to master. Today, analyzing cloud deployment choices and recommending the approaches that should be made available are areas that typically fall outside the skillsets of many IT administrators. Unfortunately, these are precisely the skills that are needed, but I’ve witnessed many IT organizations overlook them. 

The Way Ahead

While IT staff can save significant time when the entirety of provisioning and lifecycle management is automated, there are still many needs elsewhere in the IT organization.  The successful approaches I’ve seen IT organizations use all involve refocusing staff to value-added tasks. When IT administrators are able to spend time on interesting problems rather than performing near-constant and routine provisioning and maintenance, they are often more involved, fulfilled, and frequently produce innovative solutions that save organizations money. Changing skillsets and requirements will also have a likely affect on existing contracts for organizations with heavily outsourced staffing.  

Governance is another important area where changes in the status quo can lead to additional benefits. For example, manually provisioned and managed environments that also have manual centralized governance processes and procedures typically have significant variance in what is actually deployed vs. what the process says should have been deployed: i.e. processes are rarely followed as closely as necessary. No matter how good the management systems, without automation and assignment, problems like Virtual Machine “sprawl” quickly become rampant. I’ve also seen scenarios where end users revolt because they were finally subjected to policies that had been in place for a while, but were routinely skipped by administrators manually provisioning systems. Implementing automation means being prepared to retool some of the more onerous policies as needed, but even with retooled processes, automated provisioning and management provides for a higher assurance level than is possible with manual processes.

Automation in IT environments is nothing new. However, today’s IT organizations can no longer solely rely on the traditional operational way of doing things. Effective leadership of IT staff is critical to the organization’s ability to successfully transition from a traditional provider of in-house IT to an agile broker/provider of resources and services.  Understanding the cloud impacts much more than just technology is a great place to start.  This doesn’t mean that organizations that are currently implementing cloud-enabling solutions need to jam on the brakes, just realize that the cloud is not a magic cure-all for staffing issues. Organizations need to evaluate the potential impact of shifting complexity to other teams, and generally plan for disruption. Just as you would with any large-scale enterprise technology implementation, ensuring that IT staff has the appropriate skills necessary to successfully implement and maintain the desired end state will go a long way to ensuring your success.  


 

Justin Nemmers is the Executive Vice President of Marketing at CloudBolt Software, Inc.CloudBolt’s flagship product, CloudBolt C2, is a unified IT management platform that provides self-service IT and automated management/provisioning of on-premises and cloud-based IT resources.  Prior to joining the team at CloudBolt, Nemmers has held both technical and sales-focused leadership roles at Salsa Labs, and Red Hat, where he ran government services. Nemmers resides in Raleigh, NC with his wife and daughter.

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Topics: IT Challenges, Cloud, People

API v2, Chef Roles and Orgs, AWS Elastic IPs, and Add VMware Disks

Posted by Justin Nemmers

3/18/14 12:14 PM

We’re pleased to announce the immediate availability of CloudBolt C2 v4.4.1.

This release is jam-packed with new capabilities intended help IT organizations better manage and access their existing IT resources—not just through the provisioning process, but through the entire lifecycle management process as well.

Even before the C2 v4.4.1 update, customers have some pretty awesome things to say about us:

Upon completing a 2.5 day PoC with a large complicated user:

"You accomplished more on day one than VMware did in two weeks."

Other praise:

"If we were to build something, this is exactly what it would look like."
“This is completely plug and play.”
“Wow, that seemed almost too easy.”

And my personal favorite… Upon quickly knocking out a Chef and vCloud Orchestrator use case that vexed every other vendor:

Customer, to co-workers walking by office:
“Dude, you have to see this. It’s [explicative] awesome!”

C2 v4.4.1 takes builds on an already awesome product.

CloudBolt C2 v4.4.1 features a completely re-designed API. Our new API layer enables the programmatic control of C2 by parties that prefer a command line-based interface, or want to cleanly integrate C2 into an existing scripted process.  While this capability isn’t new to CloudBolt, it’s much improved and deeper functioning in C2.

C2 API browserC2's built-in API browser greatly aides development against the new C2 API v2

VMware

You talked and we listened. Customers asked us for better management of new and existing VM virtual disks in VMware. C2 users can now add new disks to VMware-backed VMs. C2 also ingests more information about existing VM disks.

vmware datastore add disk virtual machineUsers can add additional virtual disks to VMware VMs

Customers were also looking for a way to manually set the root password on Linux-based VMware guests.  Despite the VMware API not directly supporting this, we’ve developed a way to allow users to specify a new root password at provisioning time, and C2 will ensure that the provisioned instances will be accessible using that password.

Configuration Managers: Chef and Enterprise Chef Configuration Management

The Chef connector has been enhanced to provide support for the import and management of Chef Roles.  Now users can interface with and select Chef Roles for assignment and deployment to servers both at provisioning time and in an ongoing manner. Along the same lines as roles, C2 v4.4.1 also includes a new Chef Community cookbook importer in the UI. Browse and import community-provided Chef recipes and Cookbooks. 

chef configuration management roles

Running Enterprise Chef?  We haven’t forgotten about you. In fact, C2 boasts the industry’s best Chef integration, and we’re expanding that important relationship to include integration with Enterprise Chef features and capabilities. C2 v4.4.1 adds support for Enterprise Chef organizations. We’ve also added support for hosted Chef, and for those of organizations using Chef to manage software on EC2-based instances, we now support communication with AWS-based Chef servers, but also the deployment of Roles, CookBooks, and Recipes to EC2-based servers.

Configuration Managers: Puppet

We didn’t forget about our Puppet Labs integration, either. In this latest release, we’ve expanded the details C2 collects about the Puppet nodes. The latest Puppet configuration management report status and link to the entire report are now available from the Puppet connector details page.

Amazon Web Services

C2 now has deeper support for EC2 and related components. First, users can now directly manage AWS Elastic IP addresses right from C2—both at provisioning time, and in an ongoing basis. In addition to detecting and importing AWS availability zone metadata, C2 now supports assignment of a specific actual availability zone within a region.

Amazon web services assign elastic IP addressUsers can now select and associate AWS Elastic IP addresses from within C2.

Usability Improvements

Don’t forget that we use C2 to manage our own It environments. This helps us identify places where C2 could be a little more usable after a few small tweaks. In this release, we’ve made a number of these little tweaks, but I’ll discuss a few of the more important ones here. C2 v4.4.1 now automatically validates IP addresses when entered on the order form.  We also noticed that the latest Firefox web browser update broke C2’s built-in console access application. C2 v4.4.1 fixes that. We’ve also added the ability to download a job log file directly from the UI—no need to log into the actual C2 instance.  Lastly, and thanks to a customer that uses C2 to manage 10k+ VMs, and hundreds of OS templates, we’ve drastically improved the performance of VMware OS template import.

How to get it

If you haven’t yet seen C2 in action, get started here.  Ready to kick the tires yourself?  Request a download. Already runnung C2? Log into our support portal to download the Cloudbolt C2 upgrade today.

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Topics: Feature, VMware, Puppet, Chef

Introducing CloudBolt C2 v4.3, VM Utilization, More Reporting, and a Reboot Button

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/13/14 4:45 PM

Fast on the heels on our last release, v4.2.1, where we added Chef Configuration Management as well as vCloud Orchestrator support, we're happy to announce the immediate availability of CloudBolt C2 v4.3. Our developers have been hard at work making significant advances in the functionality and capability of C2, our Controlled IT Self Service portal software.

Building on the advances made in previous versions, C2 v4.3 adds numerous capabilities that improve how end users and administrators alike interface with their IT environments.

New In Reporting and Visualization

Users and administrators can now view current and historical VM utilization information on environments back-ended by VMware. The “Stats” tab in the “Server View” page provides information on that server’s CPU and Memory utilization.

4.3-vCenter-Server-StatsThe Server Details view gains VM utilization information.
We’ve also added several new reports, including a per-group server count trend, which shows the rate of growth or contraction on a per-group basis. C2 v4.3 also includes a built-in report that enables users to drill down into the makeup of a selected group’s servers.

Looking at a server in C2, but wondering when it was added? We’ve updated the "Server View" page to now include the date the server was added to C2. We’ve also gone ahead and included this information by default in the server list. 

4.3-Cloud-Server-ListSee when VMs were added at-a-glance.

Administrators that make use of the C2 CLI for advanced integrations or other purposes will be interested in v4.3's updates to the export_server_info command line. It now allows the output to STDOUT rather than just a CSV data export.

Security

We've added support for RADIUS authentication targets.

C2 v4.3 also gains the ability to forcibly limit users to a single concurrent session, meaning that they cannot be logged in from multiple locations or with multiple web browsers simultaneously.  Of course, this is configurable in the event you prefer to allow multiple concurrent sessions. 

UI Enhancements

Users can now add additional network interfaces (NICs) to servers anytime, not just during provisioning. Adding NICs is not just important for VM maintenance, but also enables more complicated lifecycle management capabilities, including VM promotion or demotion in and out of various environments.

4.3-Add-NICAdd a NIC to a server at any time.

For those customers that use C2 in environments with 10 or 10,000 servers (or more!), we’ve updated C2’s widget dialogs to allow for partial value filtering, better handling large environments and complex environments.

C2 now enables administrators to delete networks from the resource handler detail page. This is helpful in the event a network is no longer needed within C2. 

You shouldn’t have to press a power off button and then a power on button to reboot a server. We added a convenient “Reboot Server” button that does the same thing.

We’ve made additional speed and performance improvements in the UI. The server list page, server detail pages, logical data center environments, resource handlers, and groups pages all perform faster than previous versions of C2.

In environments back-ended by VMware, C2 v4.3 also now syncs with VMware much faster and more efficiently. Changes made directly to VMs in vCenter will be detected and updated in C2 more efficiently. 

Upgrades are a Snap!

At CloudBolt, the upgrade process is just another feature. Watch our upgrade video to see just how easy it is.

 

Seen enough? Request a Download today.

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Topics: Feature, Upgrade, Release Notes

C2 Controlled IT Self Service Software Integrates with Chef, vCloud Orchestrator

Posted by Justin Nemmers

12/6/13 9:39 AM

CloudBolt C2 is not just the most extensible product on the market, it’s also backed by the industry’s most agile development team. 

C2 continues to impress customers:

“If I were to build a tool to solve our problem, it would look exactly like this…”  --Large Education Software Company

v4.2.1 improves on previous releases thanks to:

  • The addition of two new connectors, expanding the breadth of what C2 can manage in your environment.
  • Additional reporting improvements, including a new stock report.
  • User interface improvements and updates.

Connectors

C2 v4.2.1 now includes support for Chef Configuration Management. Similar to our support for other CM tools, administrators can import Chef Cookbooks, assign them to logical data center environments, and then make selections directly available to end users through the C2 Controlled IT Self Service portal. Administrators remain in complete control over which users can deploy which Cookbooks, and into which environments. Of course, Chef Cookbooks can also be included in C2 Services through the C2 Service Catalog. Lastly, C2 continues to be able to assign cost, as well as track software licenses as Chef Cookbooks are deployed (and removed) from systems.

IT Self Service Chef Configuration ManagementImport Cookbooks and Recipes, and provide the power of Chef Automation to end users through C2's intuitive Controlled IT Self Service Portal.

Also new to CloudBolt C2 v4.2.1 is a connector for VMware’s vCloud Orchestrator (vCO). C2 administrators can import flows, map parameters, and assign points at which C2 will call vCO workflows. Permissioned users can also be presented with a button in the server view that allows them to run appropriate flows on a one-off basis. Since C2 ingests existing flows, there’s no need to start from scratch with your automation implementation. C2 will import everything it needs to know from your vCO environment, and enable you to extend your Orchestration capabilities into your Controlled IT Self Service Portal.

VMware vCloud Orchestrator Integrated with an IT Self Service PortalC2's UI will allow you to import existing VMware vCloud Orchestrator workflows, and map parameters. Workflows can be assigned to automatically run at any point during the life cycle management process.

We’ve also improved the VMware connector. C2 has supported datastores for a while now, but now also supports the selection and assignment of a datastore cluster to a specific logical data center environment.

Reporting

We revamped our internal reporting in C2 v4.2, and in v4.2.1, we’ve continued that trend by including a new report: Storage, which displays the total storage allocated to each deployed server in your permission scope. We’ve also poured on the caffeine: all of the reports now load even faster than they did before.

User Interface

Our last release introduced an all-new UI. In C2 v4.2.1, we’ve made some additional updates and tweaks to the interface, including:

  • Improvements to data tables
  • Input fields have additional UI treatments
  • Improved custom logo branding capabilities

C2 Chargeback and showback VM utility rate metering chartC2's industry-leading intuitive ordering process has gotten even better. Users now see an interactive chart displaying the proportional cost based on their choices.

Also, we’ve added new graphical rate breakdowns to the order forms. As users make selections in the ordering interface, the chart will automatically be updated to reflect the proportional cost of the CPU, RAM, storage, operating system (i.e. the OS build), and software packages as parts of the total cost for the resource.

Summary

The pace at which the CloudBolt development team is able to iterate the product is thanks to the wise architecture decisions made after decades of experience managing complex data center environments. The C2 architecture enables CloudBolt to rapidly develop and deploy new connectors and capabilities.

In fact, we look at the upgrade process as just another feature. Everything in C2 is upgrade safe, and it takes just a few minutes to add all of these new capabilities into your existing C2 installation. Watch how the process unfolds here in this quick video.

See enough? Request a demonstration today!

 

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Topics: Feature, Data Center Automation, Upgrade

New Release of C2 Controlled IT Self Service Portal

Posted by Justin Nemmers

11/11/13 3:45 PM

C2 v4.2 of Controlled IT Self Service is Now Available

Our latest version features a new UI, and steps up the awesome from there.

Controlled IT Self Service Dashboard

Look and Feel

Already hailed as "the most intuitive" IT Self Service Software available on the market, C2's new user interface brings a modern look to the C2 Controlled IT Self Service Portal you know and love.

The new UI elements and organization will allow us to add additional capability into C2 that would have been troublesome to do in our existing UI. Interested in learning more about our roadmap? Drop us a line.

C2’s new look also includes a number of significant backend performance improvements. You should notice that overall, the UI is more responsive, loading pages faster, and filtering results quicker.

Dashboard

This latest version of C2 also introduces the C2 Dashboard. The C2 Dashboard provides an overview of things that are relevant to the user, including server statuses, order history, and information on the latest jobs. By default, the C2 Dashboard also serves as the landing page users are directed to upon login. As is the case with everything in C2, users will only see information on items that are relevant to them, and that they have permissions and access privileges to.

Reporting

Controlled IT Self Service requires reporting. Although C2 included a separate external advanced reporting system, customers asked for, and we have delivered some significant additional reporting functionality. 

C2 v4.2 now includes integrated reporting. C2 will now produce charts and graphs right from the UI, and also gains the ability to directly export the source data as CSV, which can then be opened and further analyzed in a spreadsheet program of your choice. C2 v4.2 ships with a number of embedded reports today, and we’ll be adding more with every update. Also new with integrated reporting: regular users also gain access to reporting capabilities. When run by a non-administrative user, the reports will only display and aggregate information about the servers, groups and logical data center environments they have access to.

Controlled IT Self Service Reporting Pie Chart

C2 Integrated reporting is also now available to C2 VE customers, including those that are using C2 VE at no-cost in environments under 100 VMs.

Controlled IT Self Service Report Highest Cost Servers

For those customers that have implemented C2’s advanced external reporting (which is provided by an external Jasper reports instance), those reports are now displayed to administrators directly in the UI. To ease the installation and configuration, CloudBolt also now provides the external Jasper reporting server as an OVA download. Contact support for more information.

Orchestration Hooks

Orchestration Hooks are how C2 interfaces and automates external systems that either do not have or need a connector. Every job type in C2 has multiple points where Orchestration Hooks can be configured to run, automating every last manual process and procedure in your IT Organization. While C2 has had this impressive capability since inception, we’ve made a few important changes in C2 v4.2.

We’ve made the power of C2 Orchestration Hooks even more accessible with an all-new UI. Additionally, we’ve also made it possible to select External Orchestrator flows from configured and integrated External Orchestration tools, including HP Operations Orchestration and (coming soon) VMware Orchestrator. Just select the appropriate job type, and then pick the hook point, and choose the flow(s) you’d like to run.

LDAP/AD Integration

C2 has directly integrated with multiple LDAP and/or Active Directory instances for a while now. In C2 v4.2, we’ve updated some of those fields to provide the room necessary for filter and search of larger, more complicated LDAP/AD environments.

The Upgrade Process

Good news! It’s as easy as ever.

Ready to get started? Request a download today.

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Topics: Feature, Upgrade, Release Notes, IT Self Service

IT Organizations Want Cloud, but Need IT Self Service. Here's Why.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

10/30/13 9:20 AM

Most end users of IT Organization services have one thing in common: They just want access to the resources they need. They don’t like waiting, and frankly, the more you as an IT organization make them wait, the more likely they are to just go around you and create a nice little shadow IT environment. And even if they don't branch off on their own, they're likely to let you and others know they're not happy.

egnMy lovely daughter reminds me of some users I've worked with. They'll definitely let you know when they are not happy, and you'll probably come to regret whatever it was you did to piss them off.

In my travels, it seems to me that most IT organizations get—at least at some level—that they need to improve the level of service to the end user, but from there, they tend to lose their way about how to actually make that happen.
Path to the Cloud?

IT’s typical response to the end user pain is almost universally “Cloud!” This is great, except for the fact that the term “Cloud” has moved from maximum hype to beyond meaningless. The core issue is that once the concept of building a “Cloud” comes into the conversation, IT organizations invariably start long and convoluted planning processes about how they’ll be re-engineering the entire environment, what they need to buy, and the services they need to implement it. Oh, not to mention fabricating what all of the other Cloud requirements are. There will be negotiations and there will be fiefdoms resistant to change. There will be arguments and disagreements.

IT will finally reach an agreement, and look to begin implementing a large solution stack that will take lots of contracting, money, and professional services to implement. Many months later in the most agile organizations, IT will have something that they can show to the end user.

All the while, end users have been patiently waiting. Even if they’ve been involved in the Cloud planning process, with little to no improvement after months, they wonder how a seemingly simple request of “we just want our resources now instead of later” turned into such a massive engineering effort. 

Tactical Quick-Win

I’ve written before about how IT and Business speak different languages. The end users want IT Self Service. The IT Organization takes that requirement and rolls it into a larger cloud strategy, delaying and over-complicating a simple need.

IT Self Service is at the core of a cloud-enabled organization. What IT fails to understand is that there is significant value in providing a tactical quick-win capability to end users in need. IT values not having to replicate a bunch of work by implementing a tool that can’t grow and mature as their cloud adoption strategy takes shape. End users just want IT Self Service. IT needs and very much wants to ensure that deployed VMs and applications are governed and backed by policy that ensures they’re secure, effectively tracked, and accountable to specific users and groups. And once again, end users just want IT Self Service. IT wants to ensure they remain in control of their environment. After all, their jobs depend on it.

Just in case you haven’t picked up on my theme yet, end users don’t care a lick about Cloud. They just want to be able to get near-immediate access to resources they need to get their jobs done. Cloud to them could mean any one of a thousand different things—most of which are meaningless in the realm of IT.

In the hundreds of customer conversations that I’ve had since I started with CloudBolt, one theme is pretty common: many IT teams think that in order to be successful—and relevant—IT Self Service alone is insufficient. Successful IT organizations, however, share something in common: They know that IT Self Service isn’t just important, it’s everything when it comes to improving the interaction with end users.

Goal: Positively Impact Users

IT Organizations that are embroiled in a long and complicated Cloud strategy and implementation cycle must take steps to rapidly improve the level of service to lines of business. A tactically focused implementation of an IT Self Service software tool that offers immediate benefit to the end users and lines of business will go far to placate angry and disillusioned end users. This quick win helps to keep the IT Organization as a whole relevant. It is certainly important that your IT Self Service solution be not only quick to install but have expanded capabilities as you seek to broaden your organization’s approach to ‘Cloud’ but that immediate response to your IT consumers is paramount to the IT group remaining relevant to the overall organization.

Our CEO John Menkart previously wrote about how IT Organizations need to mature to become broker/providers of resources. The subtext of this is that it is the IT organization that decides who can run what, and where they can run it. End users again have little concern about where something is deployed; just that it is rapidly deployable, and meets performance, access, and (occasionally) cost metrics.

IT Organizations can also enable public cloud capabilities into their IT Self Service Portal. To that avail, IT Orgs with capable IT Self Service portals are much closer to hybrid cloud than they likely think.

Expanding on the normal wins from IT Self Service, controlled IT Self Service offers the needed level of policy-backed automated IT Self Service provisioning, while also ensuring that IT, process, and procedure is always followed. Reporting enables IT organizations to provide critical metrics back to lines of business in ways that have not previously been discoverable or reportable. Lines of business need this visibility and have in most cases been frustrated by the inability for IT to provide this for some time. (Yet another big win for the business.).

The scenario gets even better when the IT Organization realized that a good Controlled IT Self Service Portal will actually afford them the control that they need, and offer a quick-win “your-life-is-getting-better now” solution to end users.

So sit back, and think about what your goals with Cloud are, vs. what they should be. Then give us a call. We'd love to demo the C2 Controlled IT Self Service portal for you.

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Topics: Challenges, People, IT Self Service

The Conflict Between IT and Business: 5 Steps to a Solution.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

9/26/13 4:57 PM

IT exists to serve the business. The business is made up of users, with requirements, that need IT resources in a timely manner. Back when I was an admin with the Government, we used to joke with among the IT staff that our lives would be much easier without users. Funny thing is, I’ve found this to be a pretty common sentiment across IT organizations. 

IT Conflicts With Business

The conflict between IT Organizations and the businesses they are tasked with supporting has existed since non-technical business people started using IT. The IT enterprise is a fundamentally complicated environment that takes both specific skills to craft and maintain. The language of Enterprise IT is radically different than that of the business. IT speaks about servers, resources, software licenses, infrastructure, technology, and capacity. The Business uses language like budgets, margins, time-to-market, cost accountability, end user experience, responsiveness, compliance, advantage, reporting and agility.

Because of these conflicting concerns, business often doesn’t appreciate the complexity of a seemingly simple request such as:

  • “I need more resources”, or
  • “What was the cost for user’s project?” Or,
  • “We need X capability in our product.”

IT and business not speaking the same language results in obtuse responses:

  • “How many resources, and of what type, to be used for what purpose, and where?”
  • “Give us specifics about what the project was, and we’ll try to get the information.”
  • “What application do you want us to use?”

This back-and forth doesn’t produce results as needed, and is part of the reason IT and business frequently struggle when communicating about requirements, and why the IT Administrators—the ones tasked with keeping the enterprise IT environment moving in the right direction—end up with a negative view of each other. 

Current Tools are Not the Answer

By necessity, organizations have adopted various tools and technologies intended to help narrow this communication gap. IT teams employ all sorts of overlapping, complicated tools in their attempts to generate answers to business’ leadership’s difficult questions. 

IT organizations’ attempts to answer these questions include single-purpose tools like chargeback managers, various IT and business intelligence tools, configurations managers, software license management tools, a CMDB and so on. The problem is that none of these tools talk with one another, and many have overlapping capabilities. For instance, to answer a question regarding how many copies of a license are in use, where should an IT administrator look?  The configuration manager might not tell you that a system has been decommissioned. The License Manager might not capture multiple copies of the same license. Neither tool does a good job of assigning ownership. 

So to answer difficult business questions, and even with complicated and feature-rich tools, IT Organizations are inevitably left with Excel spreadsheets trying to track interrupt-driven requests with an error prone and largely manual process. It’s unsustainable! 

A Robust Cloud Manager Can Help Answer the Questions

Reconciling these issues does not have to be complicated or difficult, though. Using a complete cloud manager to gather real-time information from underlying tools such as virtualization and configuration management can help eliminate the spreadsheet jockeying that has to happen, and essentially eliminates the time needed to gather the needed data. Next, because a Next Generation Cloud Manager abstracts the underlying technology, IT Organizations are able to layer in additional tools to help complete the picture for both end users and IT alike.

Even for Organizations that have relatively mature IT operations and processes, the difficulties present in collecting relevant data can be notoriously difficult, and even in the best environments, end users are rarely treated to such transparency in metrics like consumption, cost, an utilization. If you are a program manager, it would be nice to have real-time access to that information in order to chart your own team’s progress. 

Actionable Data is the Answer

Consider your personal finances. Without a tool like Quicken or Mint (or any of the other similar tools), keeping track of every little in or outflow of cash would be a nightmare. Between iTunes purchases, Netflix subscriptions, cable television, Internet, car payments, restaurants bills, groceries, cell phones, insurance and bar tabs, quickly answering questions with actionable data becomes difficult:

  • How much did I spend on entertainment last month?
  • What is my average spending on utilities over the past six months?
  • Which vehicle is costing me the most for gas?

The biggest difference between how IT and Business communicate is what data each views as actionable. Closing that gap with a tool that allows IT to provide Business with the information they need to make effective decisions will lessen the conflict and ease tensions between the two parties in any organization. 

The Steps to Helping IT Talk to Business

Given that current tools do a poor job of providing real business answers, how does an IT organization begin to implement the right tools and processes to effectively provide the needed information? 

1) Identify the information gaps.
What business questions does IT lack any real data on? These needs can range from information about deployed licenses, location and configuration of systems, or software supporting a given application, to what groups are using which resources. The types of information gaps present will dictate capability requirements of selected technology (or technologies). 

2) Embrace automation and IT self-service.
In the past, the idea of giving users access to self-service IT struck fear into the hearts of IT Administrators. Why? Being in constant control of their environments is part of the job description and letting users actually touch systems can radically affect system quality and uptime. When self-service IT is coupled with automation, and the automation platform can ensure the appropriate policies and procedures are followed, IT Administrators can rest assured that the Self-Service IT process is fully governed, and thus, they’re still in full control and quality is protected.

3) Make sound technology decisions.
When choosing technologies to fill the information gaps, look outside of your core vendors.

Going with the same vendor suite that provided your virtualization system might seem like a good idea, but promoting vendor lock-in at this level can be very costly for an IT organization, and limits choice and capability both initially and downstream.

Choosing a Cloud Manager that will play well with your existing and varied environments is also critical. IT Administrators must have the ability to make continued use of underlying management tools if needed. Discovery of virtual and cloud resources are critical: a Cloud Manager needs to overlay its tracking and measurements on top of existing environments.

Heterogeneity will be unavoidable, but heterogeneity itself is not an issue with the right Cloud Manager.

4) Ditch the Spreadsheets.
Fact: IT Administrators hate using spreadsheets to track critical aspects of the environments they manage. They’ll be relieved to know that there’s something else to keep track of these metrics, and in real-time at that!

5) Create and Schedule Reports
Using the requirements from step 1, use the Cloud Manager to create and automate reports that pull information from the various needed technology classes. For instance, reporting on a specific project’s IT cost would consolidate information on that team’s usage from your virtualization, configuration management, license management, and public cloud tools. And, of course, make sure that the Cloud Manager does the math for you.

IT teams that work to build understanding about the types of questions Business wants answered will find more success. Select the right technology, and focus on delivering the types of actionable information the Business needs. Tweak it, refine it, and remember that it’ll change as the needs of the business shift. With the above points, however, you’ll be on the path to success.

Learn more about how CloudBolt C2 helps solve this problem.

 

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Topics: IT Challenges, Business Challenges

New Release: CloudBolt C2 v4.1 Cloud Manager

Posted by Justin Nemmers

9/26/13 3:22 PM


Customers are speaking, and we’re listening. C2 v4.1 contains a host of customer-suggested enhancements that are designed to enhance the capability and usability of C2’s management of a wide variety of IT resources.

CB Web Slides v4.1

Virtual Private Clouds and Amazon Web Services

In C2 4.1, the AWS connector now has the ability to detect, manage, and deploy systems into VPCs. C2 Environments backended by the AWS connector will now discover VPCs, VPC subnets, and other VPC-specific options such as security groups. C2 will also now auto-create C2 Environments for each selected VPC/Region, which nearly eliminates additional setup and configurations required.

VMware Integration Improvements

As we showed with our latest AWS updates, we’re always on the lookout for additional features to add to existing connectors. In this release, we’ve improved our VMware integration by adding more in-depth automatic C2 Environment creation for each VMware-hosted cluster present in vCenter. C2 will also now auto-discover any resource pool or datastore options as configured in vCenter, and will automatically create and map those options to C2 fields.

Re-Importing and Updating

Once AWS and VMware environments are created, C2 can now auto-detect and re-import changes to the underlying configuration of those environments. This includes things like VMware datastores, resource pools, and AWS security groups.

The Docs

We now include the full CloudBolt C2 product documentation as part of the install. The bottom of every page contains a link to access the embedded product documentation.

Speeds and Feeds

Despite our class-leading interface—recognized as the most intuitive available in a Cloud Manager, we’re always working to improve the user experience and keep it at the top. In C2 4.1, we’ve worked to get the rust out of many parts of the interface—so it will be faster than ever—especially on the server list page for environments that have thousands of servers. We’ve also polished the interface in several areas to help with usability. 

Additional Improvements

We already talk to Puppet Configuration Management, and now we speak that language even better with a updated Puppet connector in C2 4.1. 

We’re the only Cloud manager that can use itself to test your critical provisioning workflows. Configuring the Cloud Supply Chain Validator (CSCV) capability in C2 4.1 is now fully managed in the C2 UI, rather than requiring a configuration file modification.

For Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager (RHEV-M), C2 will now automatically import the RHEV-M API certificate.

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Topics: VMware, Red Hat, Upgrade, Release Notes, AWS, vCenter, Puppet

Cloud Brokers: Don’t Buy One, Use a Cloud Manager to Be One

Posted by John Menkart

9/18/13 2:25 PM

“Private clouds will become hybrid, and enterprise IT organizations will move beyond the role of hosting and managing IT capability to becoming brokers of IT sourcing - delivered in many ways.” wrote Thomas Bittman , VP Distinguished Gartner Analyst for the upcoming Gartner Webinar: Hybrid Clouds and Hybrid IT: The Next Frontier, Date: 03 October 2013.

The IT world is abuzz with the term “Cloud Broker”. Seemingly every vendor wants your enterprise to buy “their Cloud Broker”. The fact that they are so anxious to sell a Cloud Broker is in fact proof they don’t fully understand the meaning of the term.

Become or Purchase a Cloud Broker/Provider

Today’s enterprise IT organizations are struggling to remain in control of internal and external IT resources being consumed by their business. These IT Organizations face a triple challenge in that they must:

  1. For security and accountability reasons, gain control of IT resources being provisioned and consumed by the Lines of Business, regardless of those resources being delivered from an internal community cloud, or public clouds like AWS, Verizon/Terremark or Rackspace.
  2. Be more oriented towards the Lines of Business in the enterprise. Hand waving in response to direct questions like; ‘What is the cost associated with IT support for our engineering group?’ Or, ‘How much are we spending monthly on that customer service application for finance?’ is no longer acceptable. IT Organizations have to deliver real answers.
  3. Be orders of magnitude faster and more responsive in providing access to internal IT resources. The speed and agility required to keep Lines of Business happy with their IT groups is well beyond the capabilities of most IT shops, and requires a level of IT automation found in a minority of organizations today.

Addressing all of these challenges requires that IT organizations implement a solution that manages IT resources in a unified way, regardless of whether the resources are deployed internally, or externally in one or more public clouds. The managed resources need to be controlled and reported on in a business context-sensitive way. Finally the solution needs to allow resources to be provisioned rapidly (and in a self service manner) and effectively retired in an accountable and orderly fashion, regardless of location or type of environment in which they reside.

When an IT organization addresses these challenges and functions in this manner, the IT organization itself has become both a Cloud Broker, as well as a provider for its customers. Merely purchasing a Cloud Broker alone ignores the significant role IT Organizations must play in the governance of their environments, and thus, Enterprise IT risks irrelevance if they merely purchase a Cloud Broker vs. becoming a broker/provider.

 

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Topics: Public Cloud, IT Challenges, Private Cloud, John

Cloud Managers: When Free Isn’t

Posted by John Menkart

9/9/13 12:41 PM

Recently a number of large IT vendors have begun bundling their cloud management software with their existing product suites. This results in the appearance that the vendors’ cloud management technology is free, or near free, and thus appears to have a significant price advantage over other technologies such as CloudBolt C2 that offers real value to customers.

vendor solution suite cash cow
Is that "free" product really just a loss leader for the cash cow solution suite?

VMware, CA, IBM, HP and others have jumped onto this bandwagon to incent customers (any customers) to adopt their proprietary Cloud Management Platform. My question is: why would a company give customers something for free that is valuable and takes resources to develop, maintain, and support?  The answer is that they wouldn’t.

We all know the adage of “there is no free lunch”. So what is the reason the apparent price of these supposed solutions is so low, or even as a free line item on your quote?

1)   You get what you pay for. If a product has little actual value, and as a result companies are unlikely to pony up cash post-evaluation, then giving the product license for free makes the overall expenditure look like a better deal. It also distracts the customer from looking too closely at the product, and from realizing that license cost is the tip of the cost iceberg. The time to implementation and functional use of the products combined with the resources consumed during the implementation process will likely dwarf the initial acquisition cost.

2)   Vendor Lock In. Cloud computing by its nature is intended to provide customers significant choice. It can free customers from an unhappy marriage with their vendors and enable adoption of best of breed technologies across the board. Despite this, many large vendors are using their free or low-cost cloud managers to lock-in customers to their larger solution suite. In short, the Will VMware work as hard to support alternative to vCenter hypervisors in vCAC? Will BMC ever make supporting Puppet, Chef or HP SA as easy and feature rich as the support for BMC BladeLogic? Any reasonably savvy customer intuitively knows the answer to these questions. The fact is: free products are loss leaders. They’re meant to drive revenue from other products and make it difficult if not impossible to switch to alternatives once deployed. As a result, they all have a significant bias toward the rest of the vendor’s solution suite.

The next time your vendor rep tells you that their solution is just as good as CloudBolt C2 and free (or nearly), think about why they are so anxious to avoid having their product scrutinized in comparison to C2. Look closely, and understand their motivation, or you could be accepting a free tool only to be forced to feed the cash cow that is all of the other vendor’s products.

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Topics: John, Vendors, Puppet

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