Connecting Clouds

For those organizations on the journey of transforming their datacenters to meet the demand of a modern IT consumption model, it’s easy to envision what cloud euphoria could/should look like.  That’s mostly because vision is quite cheap – all it takes is a little imagination (maybe), a few Google queries, several visits by your favorite vendor(s), and perhaps a top-down mandate or two.  The problem is execution can break the bank if the vision is not in line with the organization’s core objectives.  It’s easy to get carried away in the planning stages with all the options, gizmos and cloudy widgets out there – often delaying the project and creating budget shortfalls.  Cloud:Fail.  But this journey doesn’t have to be difficult (or horrendously expensive).  Finding the right solution is half the battle…just don’t go gluing several disparate products together that were never intended to comingle and burn time and money trying to integrate them.  Sure you might eventually achieve something that resembles a cloud, but you’re guaranteed to hit several unnecessary pain points on the way.

Of course I’m not suggesting putting all your eggs in one vendor’s basket guarantees success.  Nor am I suggesting that VMware’s basket is the only one that provides everything you’ll ever need for a successful cloud deployment. …
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Heterogeneous Foundations for Cloud: Simply Overrated

Let me start by making a statement that you may or may not agree with – being heterogeneous is often a problem in need of a solution…not a strategy. Allow me to explain…

I spend a lot of time discussing VMware’s vCloud solution stack to many different customers, each with varying objectives when it comes to their cloud journey. The majority of them fall under two groups – Group A) those who know what they want and where to get it and Group B) those who think they know what they want and have been shopping for the “right” solution since before cloud hit the mainstream – one “cloud bake-off” after another while changing requirements in real-time. Can you guess which ones meet their objectives first? Hint: it’s the same group that delivers IaaS to their enterprise and/or customers using proven technologies and trusted relationships in the time it takes the other to host a bake-off.
For group A the requirements are straightforward – deliver me a solution (and technology) that meets exceeds all the characteristics of cloud [see: defining the cloud] so I can transform my infrastructure and deliver next generation IT to the business. Sound familiar? It should because this is where the greater majority is – whether they accept it with open arms or are trying to meet agency mandates (or both).…
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Transform IT With Cloud: GovConnection.com Podcast

I recently had an opportunity to record a Podcast with one of VMware’s valued channel partners, GovConnection.com.  During the Podcast I addressed several questions regarding the adoption of cloud infrastructures in the Federal Government.

Topics included:
  • cloud adoption rates across federal organizations
  • cloud technology drivers (why cloud?)
  • the advantages of building out a cloud infrastructure vs. traditional IT
  • recommended steps for getting started (how cloud?)
  • how VMware solutions align themselves with this IT evolution
(go to “Transform IT With Cloud” and select “Listen Now”)
Enjoy! — feedback welcome
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@virtualjad…
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Gov’t Agencies Taking the Cloud Journey – AFCEA Belvoir Cloud Panel

This week I had the distinct pleasure of joining a panel of cloud industry experts for the AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days conference at Washington National Harbor’s Gaylord Resort to discuss the hot topics of cloud computing in front of hundreds of attendees representing several federal agencies (notably the US Army).  The panel was moderated by GSA CIO, Casey Coleman, and included experts representing Lockheed MartinCSCOcto Consulting Groupand — best of all — VMware (i.e. yours truly).  linked are the BIO’s for each posted on the AFCEA Belvoir website.

To kick things off, each panelist had 5 minutes for opening remarks and to provide some insight on their organization’s perspective on cloud…call it a 5-minute elevator pitch.  For my part, I shared VMware’s cloud vision of transforming IT as we know it and the journey through this transformation — an approach to cloud that is broken up into three measurable stages:
  1. IT Production – early stage virtualization to reach new infrastructure and cost efficiencies.
  2. Business Production – realizing the value of all that is gained by virtualizing “low hanging” applications in stage 1 — increased availability and performance, app agility, centralized management, etc — to drive the virtualization of business critical applications while setting a solid foundation for cloud computing.
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vCloud Networking: Using vShield Edge for Firewall & Routing (without NAT)

The Challenge: You are providing cloud services for a tenant using vCloud Director (obviously!) and want to provide a dedicated [routed] subnet and firewall services that are managed by the tenant admins.  Apps deployed in this cloud will be utilizing shared infrastructure services – LDAP, patching, scanning, etc – outside the cloud, so you’re trying to avoid NAT due to possible complications introduced by masking/translating source IPs.  Sound familiar?  Read on…
The release of vCloud Director (vCD) v1.5 along with vShield Edge (VSE) v5.0 provided a significant number of in-cloud networking enhancements that put a smirk on the faces of socially awkward cloud geeks everywhere.  Okay, I’ll admit it – the networking capabilities VMware has baked into vCloud Director have been one of the most intriguing components of the solution.  The combination of vCD 1.5 and VSE 5.0, riding on top of vSphere’s native networking capabilities, provide the framework for enhanced (and industry-leading) networking options for your cloud.  Check out the vCD 1.5 Technical Whitepaper for more info on these and other enhancements.
Here are the cliff notes for those who don’t care to read the marketing stuff:
  • improved network isolation at several levels within the cloud,
  • enhanced firewall capabilities,
  • baked-in VPN tunnels and the ability to securely stretch tenant networks across clouds,
  • enhanced NAT’ing flexibility,
  • the addition of static routes and layer-3 routing
Speaking of static routes and layer-3 routing (yep, that’s the best transition I can come up with), I have found many of my customers questioning what is actually possible with the use of these features.  …
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Are you ready for Cloud?

Are you ready for all that is cloud??  VMware recently released a cloud self-assessment questionnaire that walks you through your organization’s readiness in the following categories (from the site):

  • Strategy – Aligning business needs with IT capability.
  • Process – Streamlining and automating processes to achieve business agility.
  • Architecture – Establishing an enterprise architecture for this new IT infrastructure.
  • Technology – Designing and deploying your technology infrastructure from virtualization to cloud.
  • People and Governance – Creating the roles and  skills necessary to ensure company-wide adoption, and the accountability  framework and policies for stakeholder collaboration.
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@virtualjad…
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Why Cloud for Existing Apps?

The value proposition for a “green fields” cloud is reasonably clear — building new environment within vCloud’s framework helps enterprises add all the wonderful things above while streamlining:

  • Security – Integration and auto-provisioning of vShield Edge and multi-tenant security boundaries
  • Governance – Integration with Active Directory at the organizational level for tight security and control
  • Resource Allocations – defining resource allowances through the use of virtual data centers (ex: vDCs)
  • Agility / On-Demand Resources – utilizing vCloud’s allocation models to provide critical resources only as they are needed
  • Cost Transparency – Integration with cloud-aware Chargeback
  • Automation – using vClouds template libraries to rapidly deploy workloads within and across tenant clouds
  • Efficiency – further driving resource utilization using innovative technologies, automation, and governance
  • IT-as-a-Service – offering a highly automated, low-maintenance cloud infrastructure to consumers and allow IT to focus on delivering innovations that drive revenue growth
From a marketing perspective, we all know what cloud is expected to deliver — agility, security, control, etc — as well as the key characteristics of cloud computing — pooling of resources, elasticity, self-service, broad access, and automation.   But what does all this cloud talk mean to existing workloads?  I get that a lot, and most recently from a customer that forced me think about a good response (and not a packaged/salesy one). …
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Managing vCloud Resource Accounts

Using dedicated resource accounts to authenticate server and network services has been a best practice for as long as I’ve been in IT. This guideline adds security, interoperability, and governance to your deployed applications, independent of standard user (or admin) accounts. We understand why it’s good to follow these guidelines but if you’re anything like me, maintaining all the resource accounts, passwords, and the services they run can become a bit challenging over time. Rather than create an account and unique password per service, some admins use the same one for everything – windows/linux services, logins, UI’s, connectors, you name it. Although this adds a bit of convenience, it’s a BAD idea from a security perspective. Here’s the real challenge – keeping track of all those accounts, where they are plugged in, and the password cycle they’re on. This can become quite the headache; especially considering an expired or changed password can result in a significant service outage…another reason to avoid a single service account (i.e. single point of failure).

I recently had a customer run into a very similar problem. This customer has 5 independent vCloud implementations across the enterprise, each environment with a single resource account used for the entire stack.…
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