The DataCenter Operating System Pillar
In the first post (https://florenttastet.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/are-we-failing-the-true-business-needs-part1/) I spoke at high level about where I believe some if not most of the conversations we’re having are in fact missing the true business need: the End User Community.
I see way too often SME, SA, TA focussing on a PreSale conversation about 1 or 2 pillars without circling back to the fundamental of the project, the end user.
In this post, I will cover how the DataCenter Operating System has fallen short for some time at meeting that same objectives, but has deploy tremendous efforts at regaining the lost miles, and where there’s still need to improve.
Where we were to Where we are
We can’t hide the fact that the Datacenter has changed. From a typical archaical physical deployment to a well aligned and managed software defined datacenter, it has enabled organizations achieving a higher level of operation through an aggressive reduction of compute power needs. At some point, 8-10 years ago, the momentum had started and we’ve all seen the outcome shaping quickly.
From 100’s of physical servers hosting one single application, we saw that footprint reduced to a factor of 5 (sometimes more), where we have been able to host 20 virtual machines (or more) onto a single server. This momentum allowed the highest expectations of High Availabilty and virtual servers move without application disruption a.k.a “vmotion” or “xenmotion” or “Live migration”.
So these technologies have allowed a workload to be highly available in a cluster, and permit business continuity while helping to move to the next level: BCDR
The BCDR (Business Continuity Disaster Recovery) is where we fall short, and more on the “BC” than the “DR” part. In a typical cluster, you would have to follow very strict rules of compute aggregation (same configuration across all platforms) and storage alignment (don’t rely too much on SATA) to meet the highest demands. Regardless of where you stand as an organization, you always will need to have a very agile compute alignment, and technologies such as Cisco UCS FI (http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/servers-unified-computing/ucs-6200-series-fabric-interconnects/index.html) NEED to be considered, mainly because there’s still need of physical “commodity” compute platform interchangeability and we can’t fall short on that aspect. When problems hit the fan, you need to have all the right technologies to return the service back to where it was prior to that crisis.
All clusters need to be balanced, and all clusters need to have a precise acceptance level; this means that you always need to leave some room in your compute architecture for “HA”; you need to calculate (HA helps with that) how much room is required in a HA architecture to accept 1 or 2 host failure AT ANY GIVEN TIME. That will limit your virtual workload per host and increase your physical ratio. So you will need to consider a technology that enables compute addition and integration into an exciting cluster without disrupting the virtual workload.
We have also seen the architecture been enhanced by vDS to allow a seamless networking definition across all hosts on the datacenter, and all that to ensure a peaceful server migration.
While I believe that vDS is driving a strong change, we have not been leveraging its full potential for the applications consumed. The vSwitches did, and are still doing, a wonderful job in smaller deployments. But you need to be extremely diligent when you create your cluster and manually replicate your vSwitches designs. We wouldn’t want a virtual machine migrated, unable to find its vNetwork right? … and its NIC…
So if you are concerned by the outcome of all this and the “Business Continuity” aspect of your mission, we need to consider 2 important aspects: 1) the platforms needs to be agile in a sense that you need to be able to do anything, any time (adding, removing, redeploying) 2) the virtual network needs to follow a strict ethical deployment across all hosts unless you’re privileged and have access to vDS.
You may also consider Host profile, if you can. I like it. Much like “Ghost” did miracles in the past, “Host Profile” ensures that you have the same configuration across all hosts. Practical when you need to look at more than 5 hosts, and surely unlocks the standardization of the most demanding configurations.
We are in a privileged place where applications hosted on virtual servers can be seamlessly moved from one host to another, from one datacenter to another without a long service interruption, resulting in a higher datacenter up time (yes, the 5 9’s); Consider however, the fundamentals in your designed and how it will impact the users and responsiveness of the applications consumed.
The focus of some and the gap of others
What some have forgotten is that these changes, while improving the datacenter experience and business continuity, in fact were driven by the end user community and application accessibility requirements.
True that application where always highly available when needed (think about clustering technologies for example), but they came at a cost and were tightly analyzed to calculate the true benefits; some felt short of support and were placed aside, much like if that business requirement was not essential or business critical.
And why is that? While the dollars always talk, today’s requirements in application accessibility are demanding a high level of accessibility regardless of the impact it could or not have on the business. In other words, when your co-worker is still working on his deadline, why yours are stopped? And for many years, excuses were flighting high, but as newer generation came onboard organizations, this situation was no longer acceptable, and frankly, regardless of the business outcome, none of the C-levels wished to have their workers seating and waiting. Kind of unproductive you would admit…
So came the high availability and helped organizations through the virtualization adoption, to enhance the level of productivity from the least business critical application to the most demanding one. Interesting fact and shift don’t you think?
The ease of management came as well to add some weight in the balance. No matter how good you are, there’s only so much you can ask the technologies to do for you, and not because you can’t make it happen, because the dollar talks. So now imagine how we all felt when “vmotion” (to name only one) came in. Big LOL in the system engineers community. F.i.na.l.l.y were we able to offer a unified level of service to ALL users and the apps they needed to feel productive.
So where are we? Where’s the gap then??
Well, I would say we have started an interesting journey all together. While the datacenter now offers a seamless application accessibility experience, through HA and VMotion, remains the portability of application, a.k.a SDN, in the datacenter operating system space.
Have we just reached the end of the road? I don’t think so.
We have seen many clusters getting build, many inter-cloud strategies been deployed (primarily to address the processing burst and accessibility of applications) but I still do feel that we are not addressing the true conversation in the datacenter.
We can move applications from on host to another; we can somehow, migrate an application from one datacenter to another using replication, but we are falling short of device accessibility to all these application still yet and the portability of the applications still is at the beginning of an exciting journey.
I face this very frustrating situation every day where I can’t access the application I need, natively, from all my devices. Yes we can always fall back on Citrix to bring the user roaming experience, but it still requires a layer unneeded and frankly all applications were designed to be accessed by a mouse. When you’re like me, a little outside of the typical IT guy size, trying to click Outlook “send” button with a finger the size of a toe, it quickly becomes irritating, trust me. Imagine trying for save a document now…
Ok I hear you in the back chatting about Trinity, and I agree with you: Trinity is there and we should be far more concerned by it, or less concerned by the “toe” situation. But are we, as a community, there yet? no. I still can’t have it even if I wanted to: I don’t have the infra in my basement.
So we have addressed in the last 10 years application migration, BCDR, and provided the platforms with what they needed, but we’re still missing the next big thing: can I access an application, natively, from ALL the available devices? And the answer is too often: no!
Luckily all organizations are not yet allowing all devices. Thank god! But the day is coming and we need to be ready for that!
Will the cloud help in that? Many seem to believe so and the best example is SalesForce.com I have been using it for over 2 years now and I have to admit that I am impressed. I freely used it from an iphone, ipad, laptop, android and the application is always responsive with the same level of agility and performance: good job!
How many other applications exist out there that organizations are heavily relaying on that can’t still be accessed? And what are the true alternatives out there? And more important, WHEN have you had, last, that discussion?
The world of application portability is getting defined, and Horizon, Xenapp, Xendesktop, App-v are leading the charge. Let’s not forget that the outcome of all investments is for the end users that we are trying to keep in our organization because we have the coolest ways of working!
Have a wonderful weekend friends.