Digital transformation strategies

“The cosmos is complex, the cloud does not have to be”.

This quote by Ben Amaba, Worldwide Executive at IBM Cloud, early in his presentation at the Performance without Limits 3.0 on IBM Cloud event was his introduction to what I interpreted as stepping back from “what do I do with the cloud?” to consider “what makes my business successful?”. Indeed “the cloud”, i.e., Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), should not be the complicated component in your business strategy.

The realization is that today, digital information exists and its growth is accelerating exponentially. Any strategy to embrace this need is essential to maintaining business success. This implies that to achieve transformation, your business has to include using available and potentially un-thought-of digital information to innovate and personalize. The present traditional approach towards provisioning resources and services simply cannot meet this need. Hence the adoption of “utilizing the cloud” is becoming the ubiquitous answer.

The business model that one develops for maximizing this infrastructure-on-demand needs to be a provable, reproducible, resilient and a flexible reference architecture. It needs to have set principles to embrace the potential of the cloud. It needs to minimize the potential of failure.

Amaba talked about having three guiding principles in his presentation. These are:

  1. Hybrid
  2. Discipline
  3. Analytical

As we consider digital transformation strategies, just understanding the potential capability of a hybrid structure is required. This will vary from organization and industry and will rely on a balance of private and public cloud services. Locking your organization into an all public cloud solution (e.g. AWS), or an all private cloud solution (e.g. all VMWare) limits your capacity to adapt.

Implementing an on-premise cloud infrastructure that leverages OpenStack to replace existing propriety off-premise cloud providers such as AWS, Azure and Google Cloud is not the ROI you should hope for. Indeed a hybrid private/public strategy with the capacity to enable greater access to applicable and real-time data and tools, providing the ability for your employees, associated researchers, strategic partners and even individuals via a foldit gamification type approach all increase the innovative transformation that can ensure your company is the disruptor, not the disrupted.

Let’s consider a theoretical example when a hybrid cloud strategy enables the capacity for innovation to occur in record time. CERN announces the release of 300TB of LDR data. If this was released into one specific cloud infrastructure, could your organization support that? For example, if this was the SoftLayer cloud infrastructure, leveraging the compute resources of this cloud provider would be beneficial to your internal organization because one feature of this cloud is that it includes free data transfer across the entire worldwide network. This one feature on a specific cloud has an immediate cost-benefit.

Not being capable of expanding your organizations authentication, intellectual property analysis engines, and tools to quickly and seamlessly cater for the data could also be a competitive disadvantage. Amaba noted that 1/3 of top companies will face disruption in the next few years. Disruption is not limited to a competitor, a customer or a supplier. It can include the lack of ability to adapt timely to opportunity. Is being able to utilize any public cloud rather than one specific public cloud included in your business process? Could your internal global infrastructure and network support an additional 300TB of data immediately? While this is a specific use case, the availability of data and the ability for your organization’s employees to consume, digest and analyze is a digital strategy you need to be prepared for to compete in speed and innovation within your industry. Is the source of new data for your organization an opportunity or a problem?

The discussion of whata hybrid cloud is and how does my organization cater for and uses a hybrid cloud is the reason that thought leadership is needed. To understand the enterprise architecture of legacy systems, the capacity of new cloud-native applications and the huge divide in transition between these to enable utilization of existing data-wealth must also be part of your transformation strategy.

Amaba’s presentation also included discussing the discipline of needing to ensure and provide consistency. This ranges from the varying views of information to your consumers to the choices for workload assignment and access. Analytics was the third principle that encompassed the capability to determine insights, from using big data analysis to cognitive computing.

These thoughts are a reflection on the few notes taken at the time. I am really looking forward to seeing the slides and video presentation to fully reflect and comment in more detail.

devstack, your personal OpenStack Cloud

As a software developer or system architect that is interested in looking at the workings of OpenStack, devstack is one of several different ways to start a personal cloud using the current OpenStack code base.

In it’s most basic form, you can run devstack in a virtual machine and be able to manage your personal cloud via the Horizon web interface (known as the Dashboard), or via several CLI APIs such as the OpenStack client (OSC). You can use this to launch compute services, manage boot images and disk volumes, define networking and configure administrative users, projects and roles.

The benefit of devstack is for the developer and deployer. You can actually see the running cloud software, interact and engage with individual services. devstack is a valuable tool to debug and bugfix services. devstack is used by the OpenStack CI/CD system for testing so it is robust enough to evaluate the core projects and many of the available projects that can be configured to be installed with devstack. You can also configure to use trunk (i.e. master) code, or specific branches or tags for individual services. The CI system for example will install the trunk of services, and the specific branch of a new feature or bug fix for one given project in order to perform user and functional testing.

devstack also enables more complex configuration setups. You can setup devstack with LXC containers, you can run a multi-node setup, you can run with Neutron networking. While devstack installs a small subset of projects including keystone, nova, cinder, glance and horizon, you can use devstack to run other OpenStack projects such as Manila, Trove, Magnum, Sahara, Solum and Heat.

The benefit of devstack is for evaluation of capabilities. devstack is not a product to use to determine a path for production deployment of OpenStack. This process includes many more complex considerations of determining why you want to implement an infrastructure for demand for your organization, and considerations of the most basic technical needs such as uptime and SLA requirements, high availability, monitoring and alerting, security management and upgrade paths of your software.

If you are ready to see what OpenStack could provide and want to run a local cloud, you can start with installing Openstack with devstack, a first-time guide.

Additional References

What is OpenStack?

OpenStack is a cloud computing software product that is the leading open source platform for creating cloud infrastructure. Used by hundreds of companies to run public, private and hybrid clouds, OpenStack is the second most popular open source project after the Linux Kernel.

OpenStack is a product of many different projects (currently over 50), written primarily in Python and is in 2016 over 4 million lines of code.

OpenStack Distributions

There are numerous distributions of OpenStack from leading vendors such as Red Hat, IBM, Canonical, Cisco, SUSE, Oracle and VMware to name a few. Each vendor provide a means of installing and managing an OpenStack cloud and integrates the cloud with a large number of hardware and software products and appliances. Regardless of your preferred host operating system or deployment methodology with ansible, puppet or chef, there is an project or provider to suit your situation.

Evaluating OpenStack

For the software developer or system architect there are several ways to evaluate the basic features of OpenStack. Free online services such as Mirantis Express and TryStack or production clouds at Rackspace and OVH offer you an infrastructure to handle compute, storage, networking and orchestration features and you can engage with your personal cloud via web and CLI interfaces.

If however you want to delve behind the UI and API’s to see OpenStack in operation there are simple VM based means using devstack, RDO or Ubuntu OpenStack that can operate a running OpenStack on single VM or multiple VMs. You can follow the OpenStack documentation installation guides which cover openSUSE 13.2, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, CentOS 7 and Ubuntu 14.04 (LTS) to install OpenStack on a number of physical hardware devices (a minimal configuration is three servers).

These options will introduce you to what *may* be possible with OpenStack personally. This is however the very tip of a very large iceberg. Considering a cloud infrastructure for your organization is a much more complex set of decisions about the impact, usefulness and cost-effectiveness for your organisation.