You'd think it would be an easy thing to market an all-in-one concept of a "cloud-in-a-box" - a package that gives enterprises everything they need to deploy and manage a private or hybrid cloud. Soon you discover that it's harder to define the box than to define the cloud, because it's the box that you'll inevitably be selling. And if it doesn't look like a cloud, you might find a competitor charging it with being false and misleading.

Last week, BMC Software brought forth the second generation of its Business Service Management (BSM) delivery model. Think of this as BMC's cloud box - the way it orchestrates a cloud deployment for a data center. What changes with this version of the box versus the previous one is that the planning and deployment phases are presented to customers as workflows, rather than do-it-yourself kits.

"We're not into element plays, where we're just trying to figure out a single piece of infrastructure. We are one level higher," says Alan Chhabra, BMC Software's director of cloud consulting services, in an interview with ReadWriteWeb. Two years ago, Chhabra tells us, BMC began delivering Cloud Lifecycle Management (CLM), with the intention of bridging several classes of resource management into a single tool called the Resource Governor.

"Where it's different from the competitors is, it's targeted to be a full-stack cloud engine. It's not just about provisioning virtual machines," Chhabra tells us. "It's not just about provisioning server infrastructure, or managing a single network. From a single pane of glass, you can do a full-service private cloud or public cloud for managing applications, databases, storage, networks, and servers (both physical and virtual). And not just Intel, so you can do AIX and Solaris, for example; and you can burst from your private cloud to the public cloud."

Earlier this year, another competitor to market leader VMware - CA Technologies - pointed out that deployments of VMware management tools and services in data centers tend to stall, for reasons CA often attributes to the software. BMC's theory is that rollouts stall not really because of the toolset, but moreover due to the way enterprises are organized, with some even predisposed to delegating administrative authority to subdepartments and sub-subdepartments. And that's the problem: When software is developed for the existing management structure, the division of labor creates opportunities for bottlenecks.

Thus the new BSM Delivery Model, which comes pre-equipped with people. Their job is to help businesses reconsider their predispositions, develop new and more efficient distributions of labor and new policies for administering resources, and effectively to help businesses get up on the bike, as it were, and start riding. Once the businesses themselves evolve, BMC believes, the "element plays" that its competitors make will appear geared for an older world.

Each of BMC's competitors, from its vantage point, delivers what it calls an "element manager." VMware's is vCloud Director; the element manager for VCE (the joint EMC / Cisco venture) is Unified Infrastructure Manager; EMC has CLARiiON and VNX Unified Storage; Cisco's is actually called Element Manager. "There's too many managers," states Chhabra. "If I'm the CTO, I don't want to buy hundreds of products. I want to buy a couple of products to manage all my infrastructure, if I'm going to do cloud.

BMC categorizes its typical customer for CLM using three classes:

  1. An enterprise that has gone about as far as it can with virtualization and data center automation, which isn't getting the ROI it needs, and is looking to deploy a private cloud that utilizes more self-service features and that is more compliant with new government and private standards for security;
  2. A service provider or telco competing in Amazon's space for cloud services, wishing to build a public cloud for resale, but prefers an off-the-shelf product rather than investing at a Rackspace-like level in developing a homegrown cloud manager; and
  3. An enterprise customer that needs to build cloud infrastructure to some extent, but that's a little frightened to move all its private data to Amazon or Rackspace. For its own piece of mind, it needs to keep some measure of its business data private.

With those three tiers in mind, the BSM delivery model now brings in the Remedy Change Management suite that the company acquired back in 2002 from the old Peregrine Systems.

"You don't want to set up a cloud where you're provisioning thousands of VMs without anyone having any change management," remarks BMC's Chhabra. You get sprawl. So we have built-in workflow managers as well so you can do approvals before someone actually gets their SOI (Server Operating Instance)."

Changing the way enterprises recognize roles and responsibilities has the challenge (some would say a danger) of compelling those businesses to reduce their workforces. "It's a challenge: How do you deploy a cloud when you have various stakeholders controlling the different assets that will be under this self-service umbrella?" asks Chhabra rhetorically. "Networking has been outsourced, you're doing development out of India, your storage is potentially already in the cloud, your people are segmented all over the world. You have ten data centers!"

And it's in the midst of this challenge that the CIO or CTO picks up a copy of Fortune and decides the enterprise must formulate a cloud strategy to regain competitiveness. Sometimes in haste, Chhabra says, CTOs will set up a completely new cloud-based data center, putting off the topic of transition until it's fully up and running. Alternately, businesses may adopt a hybrid approach where they get parts of a cloud infrastructure up and running to some arbitrary threshold, but without the proper tools and metrics to determine whether that threshold has been met.

"So we have something called a CLM-to-CLM architecture," he continues. When a customer has data residing in one data center, and networking managed by a completely different team, "we have the ability to create a federated model where you have a local BMC CLM private cloud, and the ability to burst to another CLM architecture somewhere else, and CLM will broker the integration and workflow communications between the two points. Think of CLM as being a broker, as the Switzerland of the data center. It's bringing the different aspects together, so that while [your data centers] are separate, you have a broker solution... to combine those siloed element manager solutions, sometimes managed by different people in different organizations.

The CLM architecture features a Service Governor, shown in the diagram above, which literally makes decisions about where best to place a requested cloud service given the parameters involved, such as the user's location, quality of service necessary, and specified compliance levels.

From here, states BMC's Chhambra, businesses can learn to build new services and let the Service Governor do the necessary reorganization, without having to re-invent the wheel each time. "They are going to add new service offerings constantly. They could be something simple, like virtual machines today and physical machines tomorrow, and then in a month offer... a PaaS architecture to end customers. They're going to need to be able to broker and talk to more and different things over time. They may need to burst to Amazon today and Rackspace tomorrow... When people stand up a cloud, private or public, it's just the beginning."


DISCLOSURE: One of the principal executives behind BMC's cloud strategy just happens to be named Scott Fulton. He is actually unrelated to the reporter for this article.