Conversations from the Field: Building a Bridge to the Cloud

Cloud conversations are evolving at a seemingly ever increasing pace. In my experience, nearly all “…what is the cloud?” type conversations have long since past. In fact, for some organizations, private and public clouds are now central to daily business operations. For the both the early and late majority, however, their (usually large) install base of traditional applications makes the cloud far from reality. These organizations tend to have significant investments in proprietary virtualization, management, and operations technologies, and it’s not a given that these applications are cloud ready (today). While many proprietary technology vendors offer re-packaged versions of existing products to create a thin veil of “cloudiness” – this style of cloud enablement usually comes at a heavy price (e.g. large incremental license and maintenance fees, additional infrastructure overhead for management, and often times a need to re-skill).

A Tipping Point

Having a sense for the innovation that tends to emerge from open source communities – organizations with traditional infrastructures have reached out to Red Hat with increased urgency to get started with cloud technology. I speculate this shift in interest (from proprietary to open source solutions) is due to some mix of the following reasons. First, the conversation around migrating to a public cloud (e.g. like Amazon Web Services) is very strong and appealing. Second, organizations might be re-thinking their costly investments in the traditional and closed source virtualization solutions. Lastly, innovation in the open source community is seemingly unparalleled / unbounded. Software defined networks (SDN), software defined storage (SDS), private clouds, DevOps, and containers – all of these technologies and topics continue to grab headlines and gain mindshare. So, if you are a traditional enterprise, how do you start to build a bridge to the cloud?

The Conversation

As someone who’s regularly speaking with those on the proverbial front lines I’ve found my recent conversations in the field to go a little like this:

“Can you talk to me about <XYZ> and how I can take advantage of it in my environment?”

(Replace <XYZ> [above] with any of the following: containers, DevOps, analytics/Big Data, Docker, Ansible, Puppet, cloud, etc. etc.)

My response, often delivered to a cross-functional team of IT professionals, starts with a presentation to “level set” on key concepts. It (then) gets interesting when the presentation changes over into a lively discussion on how the products / solutions / technologies I’m describing compare to existing traditional systems.

“<XYZ> is immature and does not seem to be enterprise ready.”

My response here is fairly simple – unbeknownst to many – some of the largest companies in the world are deploying critical workloads based on <XYZ>.  In fact, Red Hat has a long track record in bringing enterprise ready versions of open source technology to customers – customers in industries that range from IT, to financial services, to manufacturing.

“<Competitive Product / Solution / Technology ABC> has more features… not to mention the total cost associated with a change seems high as we’ll likely need to re-skill.”

In many cases, the referenced features are legacy features (i.e. they’re not used and/or are no longer relevant). These are the kind of features that bloat the architecture – creating larger footprints and higher risk. What features are you actually using in production today? Open source solutions usually provide all of the necessary features – with the upside that you no longer need to invest in a skill set that is exclusive to any one particular vendor. Organizations that adopt open source solutions are stepping towards a future where skills, once acquired, can be useful across a broad range of solutions.

How can we benefit from these open source products / solutions / technologies?”

This is the fun part. I find myself listening to how organizations build, test and deploy applications today. I hear how production workloads have been architected to perform, scale and be resilient. The most common limitation for cloud readiness of existing applications is automated build / test / deploy infrastructure and monolithic application architectures with a sensitivity to latency or vertical scalability demands.

Where Do We Go from Here?

As we start to discuss strategy, the organizations naturally look for “greenfield” application use cases that can be developed.  However,  a “greenfield” solution is usually an edge case, a distraction from core business and lesser business value. Using Gartner’s Mode 1 / Mode 2 terminology – we find that most organizations fall somewhere in this continuum. Organizations need to start introducing Mode 2 technology into their Mode 1 applications.  Successful technology adoption comes from a more gradual approach. Evolution tends to be more successful than revolution.

The Opportunity

For those organizations who may not be ready for cloud applications today, an appropriate alternative is: Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV)

RHEV is a mature virtualization platform that is built from modern open source innovation. It is capable of running traditional application architectures while taking advantage of the performance and efficiency of modern technology.

Some of the technologies that underpin RHEV include:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux – a scalable, high performance, and secure operating system that gives you familiarity with deployment and operation
  • SELinux – a key technology for workload isolation being incorporated into technologies such as Docker containers
  • RHEV-H – an extremely fast and mature hypervisor built from KVM (the preferred hypervisor for the private cloud) and associated projects
  • RHEV-M – a set of open source management tools able to meet the needs of traditional virtualized workloads
  • Software Defined Networking – integration with OpenStack Neutron and the Open vSwitch (OVS) mechanism
  • Software Defined Storage – with support for iSCSI, FCP, NFS, Posix you can leverage cloud storage solutions like Gluster and CEPH
  • Image Service – ability to use the OpenStack Glance image service as an external provider to import images into RHEV

Open Hybrid Cloud

Normally I end conversations in the field by suggesting that organizations learn more about Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure (RHCI). Along with RHEV for their traditional workloads, RHCI delivers enterprise class lifecycle management through Red Hat Satellite. Satellite includes Puppet, Foreman, and a range of other best-in-class open source projects. In addition RHCI includes Red Hat OpenStack (Forrester’s leading distribution for private cloud software) and Red Hat CloudForms (a leading Cloud Platform Management solution) that can provide management and visibility across:

  1. Traditional virtualization,
  2. OpenStack, and
  3. Public cloud workloads from Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

Next Steps

For additional resources on how Red Hat helps our customers build the bridge to the cloud, please visit the below links:

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