Month: March 2010

Migration steps to a private cloud

The rationale to move towards cost effective private cloud to reduce cost and improve the flexibility to dynamically use the hardware resources and elastically define the infrastructure architecture are defined in the earlier post.   Applications running in the current environment must be migrated to new private cloud to realize the benefit. To illustrate the thought process, the source platform is assumed as a stand-alone HP-UX and AIX platform and target platform is virtualized Intel processor based chassis managed by VmWare ESX cloud operating system.

Migration steps are given..

  1. Check the applications in the landscape uses COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) product). Verify from the vendor, the COTS product is supported in the VmWare environment.  If COTS are not supported in the VmWare environment, understand the vendor’s product road map and see if there is any VmWare support in the horizon. Explore ASP model for COTS model.  If it is not feasible, then follow the exception process. (An organization should define an exception process to deviate from private cloud)
  2. Study the technology stack of current application landscape. Verify the technology stack can run in the new host operating system (Linux or Windows).  For instance, if an organization runs the application server BEA WebLogic in HP-UX, in this step, verify if BEA web logic can run in Linux or windows.  There are some technology (like Oracle DB) does not support or perform in VmWare cloud operating system. When a technology is not supported, it is an opportunity to consider that technology for migration to a comparable technology with lower cost and risk and higher or equal benefits.
  3. Even when a current commercial technology stack (like IBM WebSphere, IBM DB2) runs in VmWare platform, still perform a risk assessment of running the native technology stack instead of migration of existing technology stack to private cloud. For example, perform a risk assessment comparing IBM Websphere and native application server JBoss.  The net benefits between these technologies may be equal, in most case, there is a significant license cost differences between these technologies.
  4. Study the migration cost from current technology stack to new technology stack in the cloud. For instance, study how the current technology stack (application server, database server) are currently being used. Look for any proprietary module used by applications in the landscape. For instance, IBM provided CICS transaction gateway jar files in older version of websphere. The applications in the landscape may be still using it. Watch for it. CTG jar files are not part of J2EE specification when IBM bundled with their product. Later, Java connectors for CICS are made available. If there are applications in the landscape using more proprietary modules/tools, then migration of application from websphere to JBoss will be a significant effort.  Total cost of migration must be taken in to consideration. It is a not a best practices to run any vendor proprietary technologies in the mission critical application in the landscape.
  5. Repeat step 2,3,4 for all elements in the technology stack. (like database, security access management, data ware house, back office systems and etc)

Business Rationale for a private cloud

In a stand-alone hardware infrastructure, adding an extra memory or CPU to a hardware unit may take 3-5 months time involving various members following various internal processes like purchase request, infrastructure internal process, service provider internal purchase process and etc. The longer lead time and more involvement from various teams are required because of current enterprise hardware design. Most of  IT organization has more stand-alone servers and it limits the flexibility to add additional resources to the servers.
Due to above reasons, during the initiation phase of any project, the lenient hardware capability planning is done.  It is not ideal nor cost efficient.  This problem can be solved by procuring a bigger server and partition it as need arises. The concept has been in use in mainframe platform for last three decades and each partition in mainframe is called LPAR (Logical PARtition). The similar concept proliferated in the Unix world and major Unix operating systems AIX, Sun Solaris and HP-UX supports it now.
Operating systems Aix, Sun Solaris, and HP-UX run on their host RISC processors from IBM, Sun, and HP respectively.  RISC processor are designed for high volume high speed processing  there is a perception within IT leadership team including  CIOs that only the RISC processors are suitable for data center operations.    The cost of virtualization operating system and blade chassis hardware for RISC based server farm are more expensive than CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer)processor (like Intel Xeon, AMD) based server farms.  CISC processor based servers had the perception that it is meant for a small scale business and not ready for enterprise data center operation.  It has been a challenge to enterprise architects and IT strategist to convince the IT leadership team to re-platform the existing expensive and inflexible stand alone RISC based servers.

Popularity, acceptance, and adoption of social networking platforms like web 2.0 indirectly helped IT leadership team to rethink about their perception on the CISC based servers for data center operations.  The popular social network sites like facebook runs on Linux platform and the number of users in social networking sites exponentially growing.  It is empirical proof that CISC processor based server are ready for high volume and high-speed data center operations.

With current economic climate, IT leadership team in all sectors have the following objectives.

  • Reduce infrastructure cost (Capital Expense, CAPEX)
  • Reduce over all data center operation cost  (Operational Expense, OPEX)
  • Utilize more energy-efficient (for both Green and cost purpose) devices
  • Minimize lost revenue due to down time

The above objective can be met by developing a cost-effective private cloud. It will additionally provide more flexibility and enable the organization to become  more nimble and agile.

How to architect the private cloud?

First and fore most, cloud operating system is required to manage a set of hardware to virtualize it to create virtual image.  There are two types of cloud operating system available.

  1. Hosted Server cloud operating system
  2. Bare-metal server cloud operating system

1. Hosted server cloud operating system requires a host operating system. The cloud operating system runs on top of the host operating system. The devices are directly managed by the host operating system. It is not designed to clone the operating system and create an image. It is primarly dessigned to clone an application. It is not recommended to run the data center operation like data ware house.

2. Bare-metal server cloud operating system has a micro kernel to manage all hardware directly. Generally the micro kernel is developed very effectively. There are open source cloud operating system available. If you are running mission critical  system, it is highly recommended to run under the commercial cloud operating system. VmWare ESX Server is one of the popular commercial cloud operating system. The micro kernel of VmWare ESX  written very effectively and does a great job of managing the resources.

What are the hardware requirements for private cloud?Well, it depends. There are quite a few certified hardware providers supply servers to  run under VmWare ESX Server. All major manufacturers like Dell, HP, IBM, Fujitsu hardware both blade and racks runs under VmWare ESX Server.  Similarly major manufacturers in storage area network, SCSI controllers, RAID controllers, Fiber Channel adapters, Ethernet Nic support VmWare ESX. Select the hardware, memory and storage based on your needs. There are guidelines available to select the hardware units. Those guidelines will be followed based on the need.

What are the target operating systems ?Well, again, it depends on the requirement. It supports both Linux and Windows. It support all major flavor of Linux (like Redhat, Novel SuSE) and Windows server platform. VmWare ESX can support both operating system at the same time.  The size of the image can be selected based on the requirement.

Results

With the private cloud architecture using Intel/AMD processors, all the above objectives are being met.

IT Strategist Job

Predicting monotonic events are trivial, whereas,  preciously predicting the continuous non-monotonic events are impossible. For instance, , it is possible to predict that the Sun is to arise on east the next day. Well, assuming that our star, the Sun, is not sucked by an external moving black hole (Yes, black holes can move!! and it was recently proved). The probability for a black hole to swallow the Sun on next day is almost zero.  Like wise, preciously predicting continuous non-monotonic events like weather,stock market for next ‘n’ days are impossible.

Any profit organization events are non-monotonic and preciously predicting the organization future is impossible. but, strategist can define it or approximate it.

A strategist or chief architect can shape up a small state and make it as an empire. Strategist lays a strong foundation for growth and road map to flourish. He (or she) uses abstract and vertical thinking skills to study the past, analyse the current, and approximate the future.  Chanakya, was an strategist, who lived 2500 years ago,provided thought provoking ideas to Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and defined strategy to transform the entire kingdom.

Strategy in an organization starts with people. A strategy can be made successful only if the strategy has an exemplary communication management plan.  In communication plan the following questions must be answered..

  • Why do we have the new strategy?
  • What are the expected results of the new strategy?
  • Will we be successful?