Services and hardware complement each other to get enterprises up and running in a cloud environment.
Written by Chris Smith
Stephen King wrote a short novel called The Mist about New Englanders trapped in a supermarket enshrouded in fog that hides dangerous creatures. I can't help but think of this story when I read IBM literature about the cloud.
Is the IT cloud fraught with danger as AS/400 founder Frank Soltis suggests? Are security vulnerabilities so insurmountable that a public cloud can never be safe? That very well could be the case, considering the intelligence and determination hackers and malware authors are showing today. But courage is a requirement in challenging new frontiers, and limitations constricting today's data centers go beyond economics and include impending energy and even labor shortages. In today's distributed environments, where up to 85 percent of computing capacity sits idle, there is a tremendous amount of waste, waste that companies no longer can afford. Maintaining current IT infrastructure sucks up about 70 percent of today's IT budgets while new solutions and capabilities go begging. Storage requirements are growing at more than 50 percent annually.
Some believe the cloud is the answer to many of these challenges. If it just weren't for the problem of security.… However, even naysayers believe in the safety of internal clouds that allow companies to accelerate service delivery through Web-based portals; provide standard services from a single repository across the enterprise in a catalog fashion, giving users the freedom to find and request services they need; and have a single interface for IT to manage physical and virtual workloads for quick provisioning.
Not everyone out there is using IBM i running on a Power Systems server; many have a fleet of PCs or Intel-based servers running Windows and UNIX. Regardless of what they have now, many are hearing management discuss the cloud and the fact that it promises to save money, better utilize resources, and offer greater levels of responsiveness and scalability. Let's face it, more than one company has invested in a server and infrastructure based on IBM's recommendations only to find within a year or two that it's inadequate for what the latest job requirements are now. Having easy and vast scalability through a cloud infrastructure can help avoid such a dilemma.
IBM has been experimenting with the cloud at client sites for a couple of years now. In June 2009, IBM offered a private cloud solution for development and testing—the IBM Smart Business Development and Test Cloud, which is a private cloud service behind the client's firewall. It also has been beta testing development and testing on the IBM Cloud, and as of this month announced plans to go online with a commercial cloud service for software development and testing. The company now will allow enterprise and government clients to test and develop on an IBM Cloud. The company says that its beta test was successful and that it is working with partners in "cloud management, cloud security, and software development and testing support" to support development and testing on the IBM Cloud.
While IBM and others such as Amazon are dipping their toes in the public cloud waters, most companies are moving forward or considering a move ahead with private cloud initiatives that they deem more secure. If somewhat more expensive than public cloud solutions, they are less expensive than today's distributed environments.
Late last year, IBM introduced what it is calling IBM CloudBurst, and it has a complementary hardware appliance called WebSphere CloudBurst. The hardware portion of CloudBurst, while today based on System x IBM BladeCenter blades, will be expanded to Power Systems running AIX. No word yet whether it will run on IBM i, but you never know.
The base CloudBurst hardware configuration resides in a 42U rack configuration with a BladeCenter chassis, 3650M2 management server with eight cores, and 24 GB of RAM. There is a single HS22 CloudBurst Management blade with eight cores and 48 GB of RAM along with three managed HS22 blades with eight cores and 48 GB of RAM. It is configured with one DS3400 FC attached storage SAN. For a medium-sized configuration, it jumps from three managed HS22 blades to 13 blades, and for a large configuration to 28 blades.
The Cloud software configuration interestingly sits on Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux SP10, uses either VMware or KVM hypervisor for virtualization support, and is controlled with IBM Systems Director 6.1.1 with Active Energy Manager, IBM ToolsCenter 1.0, and IBM DS Storage Manager for DS4000 v10.36. It comes preconfigured with a self-service portal and service catalog; automation software and pre-packaged automation templates; metering, usage, and accounting software (IBM Tivoli Usage and Accounting); enterprise scalability software; and optional high availability and cloud management security. It supports the ability to manage other heterogeneous resources outside the IBM CloudBurst environment.
Readers can learn more about IBM CloudBurst at IBM developerWorks through the CloudBurst user guide, white paper, and customer paper. For a reasonably priced online class on configuring the WebSphere CloudBurst appliance, see CloudBurst.
The world is changing, and though the cloud may pose some risks, there probably aren't any life-threatening monsters in the mist (that we know of!).