The latest release by CA Technologies of a product called Private Cloud Accelerator is being described, by folks who only read the press release and skipped the details, as a new catalog for rapidly provisioning and deploying services over a company's private cloud. But what's really nice for a prospective customer to have at a time like this, is a private cloud.
So the real news from CA today is actually this: By means of a partnership deal with Vblock infrastructure platform maker VCE, CA is making available an all-in-one, rapidly deployable private cloud package, both hardware and software, that competes directly with out-of-the-box solutions from IBM, HP and Oracle.
"VCE is competing directly with Oracle's Exadata and Exalogic offerings, the whole app-plus-hardware in a box. It's competing with HP's CloudSystem Matrix and IBM's CloudBurst platform," states Trevor Bunker, CA's chief technology architect, in an interview with RWW. "And why CA's partnered with VCE is, we're the only software ISV at this point to have this level of software integration and partnership with VCE."
Everybody, get in the box
VCE's Vblock systems combine ready-to-deploy cloud infrastructure systems from multiple vendors, so specialists in their respective fields may participate in an all-in-one option. The hardware is provided by Cisco's Unified Computing System with its Nexus brand switches; its storage is EMC Symmetrix VMAX and Symmetrix VNX; and its virtualization layer is based on VMware vSphere. What Private Cloud Accelerator adds to this mix is an almost turnkey approach to provisioning hardware for specific roles in just a few days' time.
Bunker tells us that scalability is often the easy part. The hard part comes when an enterprise has to present a storefront for its customer. At that point, big or small doesn't really matter so much as whether the service is available, reliable and personal.
"How can they put up a storefront - offer up services, charge for services, measure and manage the demand for those services? You can think of CA Private Cloud Accelerator as a sales office inside an apartment complex. We're accelerating the deployment and the operation of the Vblock."
Bunker's company is known for advising customers on how to jump-start failed virtualization and cloud migration projects. So he notes that one of the problems CA has often helped customers face down is the lack of content - more specifically, the trouble with getting a working service started once the hardware is provisioned.
"We can show a customer all these great end-to-end workflows, these wonderful integrations that they can do. And they'd look at it and say, 'I love it! I want that!' They'd buy it. But what the industry would sell them is a big, blank canvas. And that upset customers, because they were engaged in months - if not years - of customization, professional services. They never really got what they want, so there was a sort of general dissatisfaction with a lot of automation solutions."
The system which CA jointly developed with VCE is centered around a self-service portal that CA demonstrates being used on an iPad rather than a PC. The portal serves as a simple catalog for spinning up a role, such as a database server, a test environment for SAP software, or a lab environment for Oracle E-Business suite. "We take all the processes of provisioning, configuration and automation all the way through the Vblock, and actually deploy those services," says Bunker. "If you're going to run a big platform like the Vblock that will run multiple applications or, if you're a large enterprise, support multiple departments, there's common tasks like creating virtual machines, provisioning storage, loading the software, setting up the storage, common, operational IT tasks that everyone has to do. We saw an opportunity to use our combined best practices and industry knowledge to embed those process workflows into the solution."
Since CA expects its Accelerator customers to either immediately or eventually resell their services to their own clients, it integrates billing procedures and business services. "A lot of billing solutions out there typically tend to support one, and only one, approach to billing. But it's not a one-size-fits-all world. We actually support both assets for resource-based billing and consumption-based billing," the chief architect explains. One example of the difference involves a customer providing e-mail as part of its service. The customer could pay a flat fee per month for a given number of users, or subscribe to the service on a per-user, per-megabyte basis. The former involves pre-allocation and more conventional asset-based budgeting, which some customers prefer, and which quite a bit of legacy software still requires; the latter helps businesses move the billing process from capital to operating expenditures.
A few weeks ago, we reported on public sector entities, such as cities and municipalities, that are recouping their costs for cloud migration by pooling their resources for multi-tenancy, and also selling their over-provisioned services back to storage and compute pools for use by other agencies. We wondered, would CA's billing system enable these cities to set themselves up as cloud service resellers more quickly?
"One of the things we designed into our system is the ability to take that apartment model that I mentioned before - like having multiple houses with a common water and electric supply, and be able to support n-tier tenancy," answers Trevor Bunker. While some multi-tenancy models only support "parents" and "tenants," the n-tier model enables "super-tenants" to lease services to other businesses, and also business divisions to lease services to other divisions within the same business. "We provide that visibility into the assets, the licensing, and support that from a provisioning and configuration perspective."
The overarching point that Bunker makes here is that the CA system's catalog, unlike others, offers services intended for use by administrators, not just by end customers, especially the newly-crowned IT managers who are scrambling to just get started. "How do I actually set this up, take this stand-alone application on the physical server, migrate it into the Vblock, virtualize it, and then make it ready for multiple people to consume? There's not many others out there who are looking to help those people with content."