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CloudStack and the new XenServer licensing model

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Citrix have announced that as of XenServer 7.3, the free version (including the ‘opensource’ version packaged by Citrix) will no longer have feature parity with the paid-for Standard version. Of the features which are restricted in the free version, a maximum pool size of 3 hosts and the removal of Xen Storage Motion are going to make the use of free XenServer to run production clouds pretty much untenable.

Taxi for Citrix, now time for CloudStack to shine

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Today, Citrix announced that it was selling off two product lines: Citrix CloudPlatform and Citrix CloudPortal. For once, many Cloud commentators are right: this absolutely IS Citrix picking up its ball and going home. They’ve thrown this business line over the fence to Accelerite from Persistent Systems. However the sale tells us more about Citrix than about CloudStack, the open source software governed by the Apache Software Foundation (that Citrix packages as commercial software product called CloudPlatform).

In June 2015, the Elliot Management Corporation holder of a 7.1% stake in Citrix sent a letter to Citrix’s board  highlighting a plan to increase Citrix stock price by the end of 2016. The plan included several divestment ideas including a spin-off of the GoTo business and the sale of assets like the CloudPlatform business.

Since that time, Citrix has been under continued pressure from Elliot. Mark Templeton the long time Citrix CEO announced retirement in July, the GoTo spin-off became reality and in November Citrix’s board announced a 1,000 people layoff for Q4 2015 and Q1 2016, on the heels of a 700 people layoff that already occurred in January 2015.

I actually admire the focus that Elliot has brought to Citrix. I think it is a sound plan (I apologise if that sounds harsh to the many people who have been forced to leave Citrix) But, bottom line, Citrix is re-focusing on its core technology, and everything else will be spun out. The offloading of CloudPlatform is therefore no surprise and has nothing to do with CloudStack and how good a software it is or how big the customer and community are.

However we at Shapeblue saw this coming first hand. Citrix struggled with the cloud.com acquisition, struggled with defining a clear strategy for Cloud and failed at executing on any product development plans that would provide business growth.

Open sourcing of software can be done for multiple reasons. One of them being to level the playing field by making a technology accessible to anyone and developing a growth business for products that integrate with the open-sourced technology. Citrix did not do this, instead it focused on trying to generate profit from traditional software licenses sales of CloudPlatform a repackaged version of CloudStack which offered no differentiating factor. In fact, Citrix started selling support when its business model is based on licenses. This was doomed to fail and it did.

Using opensource as a route to market is what Citrix also tried to do when re-joining the Openstack foundation. This move was more about trying to increase sales of Xenserver and Netscaler than about abandoning CloudStack. Netscaler is a $1B business for Citrix, if they had focused on integrating Netscaler properly with CloudStack in the early days they could have gained much greater momentum. But it was too little, too late and with another piece of software. Mind boggling.

At the time Cloud.com was acquired by Citrix my company, ShapeBlue, was a Citrix partner as well as being active in the rapidly growing opensource community. We worked with Citrix for some time. We designed, built and integrated environments based on the technology and then sold our customers licensing from Citrix for ongoing support. However, in the autumn of 2013, we started to get complaints from customers about the quality of that support. We found many of our customers having to come into the opensource community in order to get problems fixed, and often ended up fixing them ourselves directly in that community. We felt that, as Citrix were effectively offering support, and not very well – that we should do that ourselves and do it better. We launched our CloudStack Infrastructure Support Service a few months later and haven’t looked back. Those complaints continued to escalate and we continued to win significant new customers. Some of these are deploying new IaaS environments but many are companies who have realised that a proprietary proposition that is near-identical to an open source product (with poor support to boot) just does not make sense.

The key part of this for us was not to repeat the mistakes we’d already seen. We didn’t promise a product that was different. By running a proprietary product, customers were missing many of the benefits of opensource: long term assurance if vendor strategy changed, agility for feature development and ability to contribute easily. Combined with the fact that they are near-identical code-bases, has meant its been a no-brainer for many organsations to move to pure opensource Cloudstack.

The end result of this sale is that Citrix is now out of Apache CloudStack entirely. This move may actually open the door for other vendors and users to join the community and help contribute. When Citrix initially left the OpenStack foundation (in 2012, just after aquiring cloud.com)  it alienated a lot of people and directly impacted CloudStack’s chances to succeed as an open source software. However, the community side of CloudStack continues to develop, with a growing developer community widely made up of users of the software. Time will tell how Accelerite contributes to Apache CloudStack, but at Shapeblue we will keep on following our open source strategy and keep on offering outstanding support to CloudStack customers.

Some commentators, almost certainly, will turn this into a “CloudStack is doomed” story. However, the reality is that Citrix hadn’t been contributing significantly for quite some time: between May 14-Jul 14 Citrix averaged 25% of all commits to Cloudstack; by March 15 – May 15, this had dropped to 6% of commits. For some time, Apache Cloudstack has been predominantly developed by its users, not by a set of software vendors. But some people will still look for that story – people who just don’t understand that the success of an open source project is not measured by the number of vendors who have their logo on its website. Apache CloudStack continues to be in widespread adoption, with an ever-growing user base. New and exciting features continue to be developed by the community and the release cycle is accelarating. It remains the easiest to deploy, most production proven IaaS platform available. There is nothing doomed about this hugly sucessful opensource project.

We have made many friends at Citrix over the last few years. Personally, I’ve met some very smart people there and many who have worked tirelessly on CloudStack.  I certainly don’t want to undermine  the great contributions these people there have made, nor should I forget that Citrix created Apache CloudStack by contributing the initial code. For both of those things, Citrix should be thanked and admired. However, in their execution of strategy after that, Citrix has failed. If ever there was a story about how open source mitigates the risk of changing vendor strategies, this is it. Open source has prevailed and is the winner here. Time for CloudStack to shine.

 

Giles Sirett is CEO of ShapeBlue

Twitter: @GilesSirett

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gilessirett

 

 

 

 

CloudStack and OpenStack – Chalk and Cheese?

At lot of advertising and commentators often say; that when comparing the open source cloud orchestration platforms CloudStack and OpenStack that they’re like chalk and cheese, but have you ever tried writing on a blackboard with cheese?

CloudStack or OpenStack -Which one should you pick

To give my view on the difference I’m going to compare these cloud orchestration platforms to cars.

Some people want to design their car down to the nth degree, they want to buy all of the individual components and they will probably hand make some of them and then assemble them. To those people, OpenStack is a framework which explains how to build some engine types, how to make some particular gearboxes and then how to attach them to each other.

Others want to go out and just buy a pre-built car and be done with it, for them there are the commercial distributions from Citrix, HP, RedHat, Ubuntu etc. Which you can’t really change too much without invalidating your warranty, but you’ll find that there are a number of accessories available designed and validated to work with your make/model.

And in between the two of these there is CloudStack. For people who want the more complex parts (like the engine or gearbox) already built for them, and where the parts have already been checked to ensure that they will fit together. You just have to do the final assembly. You still have the option to make whatever changes that you feel like making if there’s something that you’d like to change. And there’s a community of people happy to give you advice or assistance.

Each option balances purchase cost against engineering effort and flexibility to get a running cloud in different ways. The outcomes vary according to the engineering effort put in from completely unique cloud at the OpenStack end of the scale to quite restricted distributions at the other end, with CloudStack offering a middle ground of a ‘default’ model with the opportunity to reskin or replace elements of that default offering.

So (IMHO) OpenStack offers massive flexibility at the price of great engineering effort (and therefore time) while CloudStack offers a much quicker time to market (or production use) if you stick with the ‘default’ offering while allowing you great flexibility if you want to put a bit more resource into it.

When viewed in this way, there is no way we can consider one inherently better than the other – do you want to draw on a blackboard or make a sandwich?

About the Author

Paul Angus is a Cloud Architect at ShapeBlue, The Cloud Specialists. He has designed and implemented numerous CloudStack environments for customers across 4 continents, based on Apache Cloudstack ,Citrix Cloudplatform and Citrix Cloudportal.

When not building Clouds, Paul likes to create Ansible playbooks that build clouds

Using CloudStack? – then give the project your feedback

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The CloudStack community recently launched a CloudStack user adoption survey. As many of you will know, CloudStack is great, production grade, software in widespread use in both service providers and enterprises. However, one thing we haven’t done well to date is communicating this to the outside world. CloudStack is “the best kept secret in the Cloud”.

A lot of work has started to happen recently in changing this perception issue. In short, at long last we have some basic marketing activity happening. One of the key elements to this activity is being able to support our claims of “widespread adoption” with cold, hard facts.

I recently published a list of known Cloudstack users and I’m pleased to see that the project has now published a similar list. But we know that there are companies out there who are benefiting from CloudStack who’s names haven’t made the list. Personally, I don’t feel its much to ask: you benefit from great software, you just share your feedback about it.

Of course, there’s no obligation to complete this survey: the mission of the Apache Software Foundation is to give away software “for the greater good”. However, getting the message out there about user adoption is a critical step in ensuring that this great software continues to be relevant for future users.

Add to that, that its also your chance to give feedback straight into the developer community. What you like about CloudStack, what you don’t like. In a meritocratic open source community its hard to say that your feedback will “help form the roadmap” , but unless you tell us what you like and don’t like about the software,we have no way of helping you.

So, if you’re using Cloudstack in your organisation, please take the survey

 

Are these people really all using CloudStack?

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In this article, Giles Sirett, CEO of ShapeBlue gives an insight into how widely adopted Apache Cloudstack actually is and why the world just doesn’t seem to know

Before I start writing, I just need to say the main bombshell of this article is the list at the end. It’s a list of organisations that I know (or know somebody who knows) who are running (and depending on ) Apache CloudStack. Feel free to skip to that list, but I advise you read this background first in order to see why that list is so incredible.

Anybody who knows me will also know that my main frustration in life is the lack of market awareness and the perception problems of Apache CloudStack. In fact, I used my slot at the recent CloudStack Collaboration conference to talk about exactly this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kflRiFocdUs)

If you don’t know, CloudStack is an open-source IaaS/cloud orchestration platform. If that doesn’t make sense to you, consider as many others frustratingly do: as “the other OpenStack”

OpenSource competition

In the Opensource world, we hate to talk about competitors or markets – we’re all nice guys and we only care about technology. Right ?

Wrong. Over the last few years Open-source has become key to many vendors (and others) strategies. There are battles being fought out in the open source world that rival any of the technology battles that we’ve seen over the last decade. More than ever, major companies are backing certain projects in an attempt to commercialise around them.

CloudStack sits in the opensource IaaS market. Its great software, in production use at 100’s of organisations , proven & stable, is seeing good adoption ,has a vibrant, growing opensource community, two dedicated conferences per year, a couple of commercial ditros and an ecosystem of vendors and integrators (of which my company is one). By any standards, this is a success story for open source. In fact, the reason that we work with it so much at ShapeBlue isn’t based on some sort of strategic decision, it’s based on the factors above and the fact that our customers want platforms that work.

It’s all about marketing

But the fact it’s in the IaaS space is where the problems start. CloudStack just happens to be in the same space as OpenStack. I’m not going to criticise the work that goes on with OpenStack, but what I will criticise is the strategy that the players in OpenStack have used to try and educate the world that OpenStack is the only choice. It started with Rackspace trying to tell us that they were the “open cloud company” (yeh, right) and has steadily spread across many major vendors who have all thrown their life savings on it. OpenStack is a bandwagon like I’ve never seen before. I can just imagine the conversations in many Board rooms “I don’t care if it’s not ready or doesn’t work, just align with it”. But hats off to those guys, if you throw enough marketing money at something, it will develop.

CloudStack on the other hand is governed by The Apache Software foundation. ASF is an organisation that has a huge track record in overseeing the governance of many of the world’s greatest open source products/projects. Just look at the evidence: Cassandra, Hadoop, openoffice and, of course, the webserver. The governance model has been proven to work: by putting community over code and making it extremely hard for individual companies to influence development and we end up with truly great software. But the world has changed since ASF set out on their journey of giving away software for the greater good. Open source projects now compete. They compete for users, they compete for developers, they compete for mindshare. In order to get all of these things, projects need awareness. And, in today’s world, awareness is bought with marketing dollars. Apache does not do marketing. I would like to say “does not do marketing well” but there’s really no need for the “well”. Historically, the ASF has relied on 3rd party commercial entities to informally evangelise & promote their software. Just look at Hadoop and Cloudian if you want an example. However, that just doesn’t work with CloudStack. We are a community driven by users, not by vendors seeking a greater goal. Add to that, we’re in a space so skewed by marketing and we have a problem.

I am a PMC member of Apache Cloudstack (and for the record, I want to make it VERY clear that these views are purely my own and, in no way whatsoever do I represent the project or the community) and I know that there is currently a lot of work going on to try and address these perception issues. But that will take time. Even if CloudStack starts to gain more market awareness, I fear that this will still be an asymmetric situation with such a heavily marketed competitor in the space.

With the lack of marketing, comes a key point: we don’t have a machine that can produce case studies and encourage our users to brag about this great software they’re using. We don’t track downloads, we’re not even really sure exactly how widely adopted our software is. I therefore fully understand people having the perception that OpenStack is the safe route.

For heavens sake: we have got some of the of the worlds largest tech firms using CloudStack and NOBODY in this market seems to know it, because we don’t market ourselves very well.

But let’s imagine a world without marketing. Let’s imagine a world where somebody does a true assessment of how widely adopted a piece of tech is before choosing one over another.

Call to action

So, to my main point (and that list). I have one simple request to make of anybody reading this article. If you are (or will be) considering building a public or private IaaS environment, forget all the marketing for the moment, look at the list of companies below and ask yourself “why the hell are all these people using CloudStack? What has it got that they’ve all seen?” . Once you’ve stood up again, get hold of CloudStack and do a true side-by-side technical evaluation. I’ll then buy you a beer at next year’s CloudStack Collab conference.

 

STOP PRESS: Since I published this list, the Apache CloudStack project has also published a list of known users of CloudStack

If you are using CloudStack and your name isn’t on this list, please feel free to take the Cloudstack adoption survey

List of known CloudStack users

• 1 degreenorth

• 5th Planet

• Accudata Systems

• Acentrix

• Add Value

• Alcatel-Lucent

• Amdocs

• Anolim

• Apalia

• Appcore

• Apple (YES – you read that right!)

• Appdel

• AppSphere

• Ascenty

• ASG

• AST Modular

• Autodesk

• AXEKA

• Axelaris

• Backbone Technology

• BT Cloud

• BT Engage IT

• Bechtle AG

• Business Connexion

• CANCOM

• Centracon

• CentralWay

• China Telecom

• Citrix

• Clavis IT

• Cloud3

• Cloudera

• CloudOps

• COMBIS

• COMLINE Computer + Softwarelösungen

• COMPAREX

• Comping

• Computer Services Group

• Contegix

• Control Circle

• Convergence Group

• Datacentrix

• DataPipe

• Dell

• Digital China Advanced Systems

• Disney

• e-Contact

• Edmunds.com

• Entisys Solutions

• Evry

• EXA Serve

• Exoscale

• Experteq IT Services

• FPG Technologies & Solutions

• Fritz & Macziol

• GreenQloud

• Grid’5000

• Hokkaido University

• Homeaway

• Hostbill

• Huawei

• IDC Frontier

• Ikoula

• IndiQus Technologies

• InMobi

• ISWest

• Joe’s Cloud Computing

• Juniper Networks

• KDDI

• KocSistem

• Kommunale Informatoinsverarbeitung Baden-Franken

• KT/Korea Telecom

• Kumo

• Kyuden Infocom

• Kyushu University

• LCS

• LeaseWeb

• Makro Factory oHG

• MCPc

• Microland Ltd

• NAMU Tech

• NEOS

• Networkers AG

• Nokia

• NTT

• NVision Group

• OpenERP

• Orange

• OverBright

• Ozona Consulting

• PCextreme

• PosAm

• PPTV

• PromonLogicalis

• Proteus

• RedBridge

• Redapt

• Safe Swiss Cloud

• Scalr

• Schuberg Philis

• sepago GmbH

• ShapeBlue

• Shopzilla

• Slovak Telekom

• SoftLayer

• SoftwareONE

• SolidFire Storage

• Stratosec

• SunGard AS

• SwiftStack

• Taiwan Mobile

• Targus Technologies

• Tata

• TNTG Limited

• Trader Media Group

• TrendMicro/TCloud Computing

• Tendril

• TomTom

• UniSystems

• University of Melbourne

• University of Sao Paolo

• Verizon

• Xtendsys

• WebMD

• Zenoss

• Zynga

 

STOP PRESS: Since I published this list, the Apache CloudStack project has also published a list of known users of CloudStack

If you are using CloudStack and your name isn’t on this list, please feel free to take the Cloudstack adoption survey

 

Hybrid Enterprise IaaS Cloud – What you need to know

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3rd July – Johannesburg

4th July –  Cape Town

 

Cloud computing models are well established and here to stay. Many organizations in South Africa face the challenge of needing to update legacy systems and practices to keep pace with customer and partner expectations, but have existing investments in technology and skillsets. How to remain agile and competitive in a world where barriers to market entry are low, whilst maximizing existing technology investment are key questions to be answered.

There is much discussion and ‘noise’ in the market place about cloud computing. Many players present ‘cloud services’ that often do not meet even fundamental princi­ples of elasticity, pay-as-you go consumption models and massive scalability.

Based on real experience gained in the field from multiple cloud projects, and an international client base, ShapeBlue, Citrix and Trend Micro will share insights on what to look for, how to accelerate your cloud strategy and provide a practical starting points for the journey.

Register here

Who should attend?

This event is suitable for IT leaders, line of business executives and the technical community who need to understand what the next steps are in developing cloud strategies, or those who need a practical starting point to kick-off.

Agenda

09h00 Arrival & registration
09h30 Hybrid Cloud – what is it and how to I get one?
Dan Crowe, ShapeBlue Managing Consultant South Africa
10h05 Keynote – IaaS, the business use cases
Giles Sirett, CEO ShapeBlue
10h50 Break
11h15 Citrix Systems and the Hybrid Cloud – the latest
Mike Church, Enterprise Manager, Citrix Systems South Africa
11h35 Trend Micro – Deep Security in the cloud
12h00 Q&A on the challenges specific to South Africa
12h15 Networking lunch
13h00 Close

 

Speakers

Giles Sirett
Giles is CEO of ShapeBlue, the leading independent global CloudStack advisor, chairman of the European CloudStack user group, and Project Management Commitee (PMC) member and committer on the Apache CloudStack project.
As the founder of ShapeBlue, Giles has been at the forefront of some of the largest international cloud build projects. Giles brings a wealth of practical and commercial expertise on cloud adoption, and will share real-life customer experiences. His keynote talk will introduce the business use cases for cloud services, and address the organizational changes that are commonly faced.
Mike Church
Mike is Enterprise Manager at Citrix Systems South Africa, and has experience working directly with some of the largest service provider and enterprise customers in South Africa as they develop mobility, virtualization and cloud orchestration strategies. Mike will discuss Citrix’s position in relation to cloud services, and up¬date on recent announcements as well as what can be expected from Citrix over the course of the coming months.
Dan Crowe
Dan is Managing Consultant for ShapeBlue South Africa. Based from offices in Cape Town, Dan is responsible for establishing ShapeBlue’s sub-saharan African presence and building out local capability and customer awareness of the benefits of cloud computing models, and associated technologies, as well as the local go-to-market strategy.
Dan will discuss the ‘hybrid cloud’ model, adoption trends in South Africa, and present a pragmatic starting point for South African organisations looking to start or develop their journey to the cloud.
Trend Micro
Trend Micro will discuss their Deep Security and SecureCloud solutions in relation to CloudPlatform/CloudStack IaaS deployments, directly addressing important security considerations.

Date: 3rd July ’14 – JHB

Time: 09h00 – 13h00

Venue: Westcon Comztek, 9 Cambridge Commercial Office Park, 22 Witkoppen Road, Paulshof, Johannesburg

Date: 4th July ’14 – CT

Time: 09h00 – 13h00

Venue: African Pride Crystal Towers Hotel, cnr Century Boulevard & Rialto Road, Century City, Cape Town

Read event PDF here

Cloud Adoption in South Africa

The broad adoption of cloud computing services in South Africa has gained pace in the past 12 months. Uptake in 2014 is still expected to be slower than some other African countries (Nigeria, Kenya) but the accelerating use of software-as-a-service (SaaS), in country Infrastructure-as-a Service (IaaS) and the lessons learned from other worldwide regions, provides the opportunity for South African businesses to increase levels of trust in cloud compute delivery models and catch up with other African regions in the second half of the year.

Read the full whitepaper in PDF format here

The Hybrid Cloud Strategy

The broad adoption of cloud computing services in South Africa has gained pace in the past 12 months, and although slower than some other African countries (Nigeria, Kenya), this is set to dramatically change, with indications pointing to the rapid acceleration in use of Software-as-a- Service (SaaS), in-country Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and the creation of corporate hybrid cloud computing models to support the changes. Driven by factors such as changes in workstyles, user device proliferation, emerging cloud-native applications and mobile application growth, alongside continued advances in mobile LTE services, further investment from carriers in fixed broadband, and the Connect South Africa policy implementation – South Africa is poised to take further advantage of new methods of IT service delivery and continue to drive competitiveness locally and internationally.

South Africa broadband speed distribution (Source: Cisco Global Cloud Index, 2013):

 SA broadband speed distribution

South Africa is considered a ‘Cloud Emerging’ territory, based on current fixed network characteristics, (Cisco Global Cloud Index Supplement:Cloud Readiness Regional Details) and while average download speeds in South Africa are significantly lower than parts of Europe, average speed has just broken 4Mbs with scope for further improvement as the ‘South Africa Connect’ policy measures take effect. POPI regulations with requirements for data belonging to individuals be housed within the borders of South Africa will drive additional local investment in IaaS services, addressing the anticipated growth rate of 35% CAGR, with the cloud ICT market worth $215m by 2017. (Linklaters Generation Next/The Cloud).

South Africa is also an important hub for access to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Home to 70% of Africa’s major companies and with increasing numbers of US and European organisations terminating networks in South Africa to access other territories on the continent, it is increasingly likely that major international IaaS providers will make investments to capture this level of anticipated revenue growth.

This developing cloud landscape not just in SA, but globally is also driving changes in how traditional IT functions are structured and opens the way for new projects which can unlock value across the organisation and better align IT with line of business stakeholders. South Africa is already seeing value derived from linking secured corporate data, and offsite SaaS services via integration platforms such as Boomi and Mulesoft, but what about the next steps, e.g moving beyond SaaS towards IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS)? This term is the new nirvana, and in reality a long way off being anything like ‘business as usual’ but as an aspirational (albeit often overused) ideal it is useful in defining the principles we are working towards, and a start on the journey that many South African businesses will soon be making, if not started already.

That starting point is to create a Hybrid Cloud Strategy. That is, combining SaaS, private internal cloud services, and public IaaS in a way that achieves individual business objectives.

Enterprise Cloud Strategy

A hybrid cloud strategy combines the evolution of fixed capacity on premises or hosted IT infrastructure into dynamic, scalable and flexible private (or internal) cloud services alongside the use of public IaaS to allow seamless and infinitely scalable on demand ‘cloud bursting’. This allows IT to service current workloads and prepare for the cloud-era applications.

The levels of maturity in cloud adoption in other territories provide a backdrop that enables emerging territories, such as South Africa to take advantage of the lessons learnt and how common early adopter issues such as security and compliance, cross-border data transfer and risk profiles have been addressed. Security concerns, which were the number one issue for early cloud adopters have dropped to fifth place in more mature users, and increased benefit has been unlocked as more workloads have migrated to the cloud.

Top 5 Challenges Change with Cloud Maturity

When defining and documenting a cloud strategy, the question is often asked – where do I start? Perhaps we should address a slightly different question first, WHY do I start? Taking the first steps to shifting any business process requires a thorough understanding of the problems to be fixed, resource planning and a focus on disciplined execution.

IT has changed, no longer are siloed stacks of proprietary high end infrastructure servicing line of business applications, with off site DR, intolerant of failure and managing reliability SLA’s. Internal development teams need to move faster and lines of business need more control.

Business now needs access to applications that were simply born in a different era to most of the current infrastructure!

The ‘WHY’ can be further broken into several strategic reasons:

Improved Efficiency – how do IT leaders continue to innovate, improve service delivery, remain relevant and provide value to their organisation with reducing budgets, manage new expectations from across all lines of business (often based on consumer tools) and handle the usual ‘multiple fires’ situation? The creation of a cloud strategy unlocks efficiency by allowing IT to act as the internal provider of a range of shared services common to multiple lines of business, with varying levels of self service to allow different user groups access to resources they need to be productive, rather than individually managing different SLA levels, change control windows, patching and compliancy requirements, capacity and security variations etc, and the underlying hardware and databases required. This will require new levels of collaboration between departments and the creation of new shared functions.

Increased Agility – Requests from multiple sources are coming thick and fast, and often will result in latency to service requests being fulfilled. By providing a more consumer like self-service experience IT can give some ownership and thus more responsiveness and slow down the advance of unauthorised, unmanaged and often undetected third party services creeping into operations due to speed issues. Getting new services, products, launches and features to market rapidly is critical to remain competitive, and a platform that allows an organisation to act on new opportunities quickly provides competitive advantage.

Greater Flexibility – the ability to quickly accommodate cloud-era workloads and scale underlying infrastructure resources to cater for spikes in real time and back again without heavy manual intervention is desired and cloud platforms deliver this elasticity. Building internal infrastructure on commodity hardware, and utilising elastic load balancing and global load balancing to tolerate hardware failure in given locations enables a new way of architecting IT systems, ready for next-gen services.

Enhanced Collaboration – between departments and functions. IT wants a more service based relationship with lines of business, so it follows that IT must have a service based structure internally before that can occur. This will mean a cultural shift in approach to managing the disciplines of development and production/operations and likely new roles for architectural principles to bring together disparate teams.

OK – so HOW do I start?

Improved efficiency and increased agility are of course all things we want, but a cloud strategy needs to be specific in terms of what the expected outcomes are. What applications do I have now and will I be using in the future? Who are the users and stakeholders? What cloud security policies do we need? When do we go offsite and when on premises? What is the timeline for the strategy? What availability and DR considerations do we have? What are our cost policies?

One thing is for certain, that in 24 months application requirements and user expectations will look very different, and a change is required now.

When discussing new deployments, you want to be looking at your watch, not the calendar! 

So, given we accept that fixed bandwidth, vertically tiered application silos built with top end so called ‘best of breed’ technology stacks, supporting traditional enterprise workloads such as ERP, SAP and Oracle Financials (often duplicated for multiple business units) are not the only workloads that IT must deliver, even today. Further, that the growth in flexible, variable, horizontally scalable platforms supporting workloads born in the cloud-era is an inevitability, what are the components required to build a sustainable hybrid cloud platform for this growth?

Firstly, a collaborative approach between functions and departments that have historically remained as wholly separate disciplines needs to be nurtured with clear common goals and governance built in. Cloud ‘build’ projects provide an ideal collaborative environment, and provide a natural stage for traditional roles and skillsets to be evolved.

Call it Devops, call it Application Delivery, call it Stacey, it doesn’t matter! As long as the fundamentals of collaboration and common purpose are in place, the journey to IT-as-a-Service will be underway!

Devops – start the change in culture with a relevant project that delivers real results and evolve! 

Choice of cloud platform – a critical decision

The layer that is used to turn existing infrastructure into a dynamic, flexible private cloud is known as the ‘orchestration layer’. Positioned above the hypervisor in the stack, the orchestration layer turns existing (or new commodity) storage, compute and networking assets into scalable virtual machines that can be created and destroyed as required.

The market for cloud orchestration is broken down into offerings with various strengths and limitations, and from different backgrounds.

In order to truly lay the foundation for a successful hybrid cloud strategy, it is important to consider the two distinct types of workloads which need to be delivered, as discussed earlier, namely cloud-era workloads such as big data analytics, social media web applications and traditional workloads such as SAP, ERP and Oracle, typically based on n-tier architectures that existed long before the advent of cloud computing.

Your chosen platform must be able to support both types, given both need to be delivered, notwithstanding the evolution that even enterprise apps will encounter as they become more distributed and less dependent on current delivery models.

 The orchestration layer in the cloud ‘stack’

 Orchestration Layer

A number of commercial enterprise solutions are available, including those from VMware and Microsoft which build upon existing investments in server virtualisation and offer private cloud services well suited to traditional enterprise applications, and those from the community supported Open Source space, such as Eucalyptus which has strong integration with the market leading public cloud provider Amazon Web Services, and are well suited to cloud era workloads.

Citrix Cloud Platform, powered by Apache CloudStack, and its open source version, known simply as CloudStack have emerged as leaders in both product maturity and deployed production clouds supporting all types of workloads. Citrix Cloud Platform and Apache CloudStack provide users the choice to take either a commercially supported version from Citrix, with all the assurances of world class enterprise software support from a market leader in cloud and virtualisation technologies, or a community supported OSS version. Both versions of the product share a common code base, and have wide industry deployments: http://www.citrix.com/customers.html?product=cloudplatform&industry=all-industry&solution=all-solution

When considering the orchestration layer, extensive field deployments, proven support packages and an active community on the OSS side are important considerations. The Apache CloudStack community is active and vibrant, with high participation ratios and a lively events calendar which continues to build momentum, and with the Citrix version, CloudPlatform provides an enterprise wrap which many corporates will require.

One measure of community involvement and activity is the number of messages generated by user and developer mailing lists, and as of Q1 2014, the CloudStack community proves to be matching other OSS projects and attracting contributions from a growing number of participants. The past 12 months alone has seen 50% growth in the number of CloudStack project participants. (Source qjiang@ieee.org).

Monthly Number of Messages

What about my existing investment in technology?

But what about the multiple $000’s investment in top end technology that is humming way in local datacentres (and replicated for DR)? This investment is safe, in fact it is desired, because as we know, the critical line of business applications they support will continue to require that level of robustness, the good news is that a hybrid cloud model will enable flexible deployment options to provide traditional and cloud era workloads access to the infrastructure they need, all managed by a common orchestration platform.

Existing investments are protected, and a hybrid cloud strategy enables ongoing migration for these platforms, as well as extending their life.

So what next?

Introducing CSForge

Using experience built up over multiple cloud builds, for both service providers and enterprises, in geographies worldwide, ShapeBlue have recognised a degree of commonality between projects, and that a proven, standardised deployment method for Hybrid Cloud builds would be of benefit to emerging territories.

CSForge is a framework developed by ShapeBlue to deliver the rapid deployment of a standardised CloudStack powered IaaS cloud for small production deployments or medium scale POC’s and pilots.

The framework can be used as a basis for either public cloud or enterprise private cloud deployments.

CSForge

Based on ShapeBlue’s extensive experience building IaaS clouds and managing Devops integration for global customers such as BskyB, SunGard Availability Services, TomTom, Ascenty DataCentres and many others, we bring to the South African market a proven delivery model, based on truly open platforms, with a fixed price, low risk deliverable based engagement to accelerate your cloud strategy.

CSForge will allow you to avoid the lock-in often associated with software vendors, and delivers a fixed-price, low risk approach and the peace of mind of commercial support and services from the most experienced integrators of CloudStack globally.

CSForge provides the fixed price, low risk, high impact starting point that many customers are looking for, retaining the principles of open solutions and collaborative processes

CSForge delivers:

  • A pre-built, tested, and proven deployment methodology
  • The deployment of a fully functional CloudStack cloud on between 3 and 24 compute hosts with 1 or 2 management hosts
  • The ability to avoid vendor lock-in by exploiting open source technology
  • A workshop & training programme that allows you to fully exploit the possibilities of an IaaS environment
  • Automated cloud testing tools
  • Automated/scripted deployment of components using industry standard configuration management tools.
  • A known baseline on which to further develop your IaaS environment and hybrid cloud strategy
  • Predefined capacity planning
  • Out of the box prebuilt operating system templates
  • An SLA based technical support model

Conclusion

In order to provide a starting point for the evolution of cloud services it is important to:

  • Define the problems and desired outcomes upfront
  • Align resources for a cultural shift
  • Choose your orchestration tools carefully, considering todays and tomorrows environments
  • Pick a starting point

ShapeBlue with either CSForge or Citrix CloudPlatform, combined with extensive experience in building clouds and advising on cloud strategy, and backed by global SLA driven enterprise support, provide that starting point in the evolution to ITaaS.

About the author

Dan Crowe is Managing Consultant at ShapeBlue South Africa. ShapeBlue are the leading independent global CloudStack integrator, with presence in Cape Town, London, Rio De Janeiro, Bangalore and Mountain View,CA.
For more information, please contact info@shapeblue.com or contact the Cape Town office on +27 (0) 21 035 0318

www.shapeblue.com
@shapeblue
@shapedan

 

CloudStack becomes a Top-Level Apache Project – why all the fuss ?

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Giles Sirett, CEO of ShapeBlue the Cloud specialists, gives his opinion on the recent news that Apache CloudStack has graduated to a Top level Apache project.

You can read the full the full story, here, but in summary, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) today released this :

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the all-volunteer developers, stewards, and incubators of nearly 150 open source projects and initiatives, announced today that Apache CloudStack has graduated from the Apache Incubator to become a Top-Level Project (TLP), signifying that the project’s community and products have been well-governed under the ASF’s meritocratic process and principles

“When CloudStack first became an Apache Incubator project, it was a well-established cloud management platform, so its codebase was already mature,” said Chip Childers, Vice President of Apache CloudStack. “Our work in the Incubator has focused on growing a really strong community around the code and establishing the governance practices expected of a top level project within the Apache Software Foundation.”

This is hugely significant news for both the CloudStack project /community but also for the wider cloud management platform (CMP) space . Most people have worked out by now that there is a bit of a battle going on over CMP’s. But why is this news so significant ?

I’m going to presume that readers understand the face-value significance of this news: Apache CloudStack is now deemed, by Apache, to be a well-governed project with a mature, well-established, community of developers. I can vouch for that: I’ve been involved in the community for some time (there is a disclosure in there somewhere!). Having this seal of approval from Apache should not be taken lightly: their governance structure has been shown time and time again to deliver hugely significant software (Apache webserver, Tomcat, Hadoop, the list goes on) and it has taken an entire year for the project to pass through Apache’s incubation. A whole year, which mainly focussed on community & governance (remember, the product was already established).

But it’s the story behind the headline which, I feel, really has the significance here. The CMP space is a, if not THE, key current battleground in the fight for market share by many software vendors. A decade or so ago, the companies that dominated the server operating system, found it much easier to gain market share in server platforms (take the meteoritic rise of Microsoft’s [at the time] sub-standard SQL Server against Oracle as the perfect example). Roll forward a few years and it was all about the company that “owned” the virtualisation layer: whatever the vendors told us about neutrality and openness, it was  always going to be easier for them to make money “up the stack” if they owned the hypervisor layer. Desktop virtualisation simply amplified this battle.

So, bringing this up to 2013, we now have CMP’s, which some are already calling Cloud OS’s. By the simple fact that these technologies abstract infrastructure even further away from IT operations, much like standardised server OS’s and virtualisation did in the past, they become hugely significant for the vendors that want to develop on top of the infrastructure stack.

The other thing here is that its become apparent that, to survive as a CMP, a technology has to have significant momentum – people want to align and nobody wants to back the Cloud Betamax. Such significant momentum will only be gained through the development of a major community of open source developers. Many of these developers are sponsored by the vendors, but the key thing is one vendor can’t do it alone. Vendors who have tried to take on the CMP space with a proprietary offering (think Microsoft, think VMWare) will find this out to their peril.

So, we currently have two significant players in this space : OpenStack & CloudStack (sorry Eucalyptus and Openebula, the space isn’t big enough for 4 projects in my opinion). OpenStack and CloudStack are two similar projects, with similar functionality & use-case’s. It is the different approach that the backers of each of these communities have taken, that really shows the significance of todays news from Apache. Openstack’s primary backer to date has been Rackspace. They have done an excellent job of positioning the technology as the most significant CMP project: lots of marketing ,lots of events and some pretty significant stories about big-name adoption. However, many of us have had the view for some time that OpenStack, despite having a great future, has been over-hyped in terms of what it can deliver today.

CloudStack has come from a different background. It started as a product not a project, it has many real-world large-scale deployments and is proven to be scalable & reliable. It doesn’t have the hype of OpenStack, but it is good technology that works, today. The problem with CloudStack has been that, due to the fact that its previous owners (Citrix) were the main backer, it has been perceived (incorrectly) by many as Citrix open-washing. Today’s announcement should remove any doubt about that perception. The Apache Foundation’s governance model simply would not allow a single vendor to have control of a project – and I think the IT world will sit up and take notice of this.

This decision by ASF is supported by the figures: some recent research by Sebatien Goasguen  shows the project having 722 active contributors from 272 different organisations. This says to me : a mature and diverse community, not under a vendors control.

There is a downside of being an Apache project: as the Apache Software Foundation is so tight around governance, it can often stop the big backers of a project from shouting about it too much (like Rackspace did with OpenStack). All decisions around the projects day to day are taken on public mailing lists and run on a true open democratic basis. This includes marketing decisions.The result? – CloudStack has not been as well marketed as it should have been.

I do believe that there will not be a single winner in this space: I believe that CloudStack & OpenStack have both got the required momentum and backing now in order to flourish. I hope they flourish together and side by side. However, I do think it’s time that CloudStack started to get its fair share of the attention and being a Top-Level Apache project should go some ways towards achieving that.