Businesses are finally realizing there's a way to recoup some of their costs for building out their private cloud infrastructures. It's hybridization, but in the opposite direction: taking their residual compute power and storage capacity and making it public, reselling it back upstream.
This morning, VMware is introducing a kind of cloud service assembly tool called vCloud Integration Manager (VCIM) that enables businesses to gather their available resources together, from both private pools and participating public cloud resellers, and then present them to their own customers as cloud services. Suddenly, unused capacity is not a cash drain but a potential cash cow.
Clouds as two-way streets
VCIM is an automation tool for businesses that already use vCloud Director to control their services. It presents a fairly simple window for provisioning classes of cloud services for various customers, and tailoring services to each one. The screenshot above shows the Resellers tab, whose principal intent is to enable administrators to supplement resources from public cloud resellers. But as VMware's senior director for cloud services, Matthew Lodge, tells RWW, it can also go the other way.
"The purpose here is to allow service providers to securely delegate the selling and provisioning of cloud services to partners and to the channel," says Lodge. The left pane identifies the various resellers with which your vCloud is aligned; the right pane shows the packages your business is offering via the chosen reseller on the left, with "minus" flags for packages that are not presently viable. A capacity quota appears on the right column of that pane, so you can avoid situations where a reseller overloads you with too many customer requests.
"The beauty of this is, resellers can instantaneously provision their own customers. They don't have to open tickets, make phone calls, go back to the service provider to get the customer up and running. They can just do it themselves... [VCIM] is designed for the kind of situation where, like with any other cloud service provider, you've built up a multi-tenant cloud," he explains. It's quite easy with this tool, he adds, to apportion the part of this cloud that is in-house, and the remainder that gets resold.
You also can set up the terms of sale on a per-customer basis, including offering a customer a trial service - perhaps free - of limited service over a short period, such as 30 days.
We asked Lodge whether VCIM makes it feasible for a CSP to automate the aggregation of capacity - perhaps in excess or overrun situations - from multiple resellers, effectively bringing in capacity on an emergency basis? That's not a VCIM feature yet, he tells us, though it could be implemented in a future version.
The cloud-making API
Equally as innovative as this reverse-hybrid scenario is VMware's inclusion of an API, essentially opening up the provisioning process to entirely different classes of programs - Lodge offers CRM as one example - that may need to provision cloud capacities on an ad hoc basis.
"Your typical CRM system, or customer portal, has a notion of a set of products that you would order for customers, and that you can manage - it'll be the database of record for all your custom data, for example. Your CRM system knows what customers can order, but it doesn't know how to provision them inside of vCloud Director, and it doesn't know particularly all of the technical parameters that vCloud Director needs in order to instantiate a service. That is the gap we're filling with vCloud Integration Manager."
By way of the API, an external front end can provision a customer with sets of products that have been assembled in VCIM (above). From there, VCIM follows the steps outlined here for building that customer's virtual data center with the chosen parameters. "Because this is API-based, you can integrate with the resellers' CRM systems." adds VMware's Lodge.
"We're moving beyond your basic software that sets up a cloud," he remarks. "We're now solving some more business-related issues: How do we increase the speed at which service providers can turn out new customers? How do we reduce their operational costs by automating more of the process? How do we help them create new routes to market using channel partners? And at the same time, resellers are looking to deliver on hybrid cloud. They want to be able to sell hardware and software for installation on-premises for their customers, but they also know they're going to need to have a public cloud component going forward."
VMware is a ReadWriteWeb sponsor.