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Wednesday
Mar212012

The Conspecific Hybrid Cloud

When you’re looking to add new tank mates to an existing aquarium ecosystem, one of the concerns you must have is whether a particular breed of fish is amenable to conspecific cohabitants. Many species are not, which means if you put them together in a confined space, they’re going to fight. Viciously. To the death. Responsible aquarists try to avoid such situations, so careful attention to the conspecificity of animals is a must.

Now, while in many respects the data center ecosystem correlates well to an aquarium ecosystem, in this case it does not. It’s what you usually get, today, but its not actually the best model. That’s because what you want in the data center ecosystem – particularly when it extends to include public cloud computing resources – is conspecificity in infrastructure.

This desire and practice is being seen both in enterprise data center decision making as well as in startups suddenly dealing with massive growth and increasingly encountering performance bottlenecks over which IT has no control to resolve.

OPERATIONAL CONSISTENCY

One of the biggest negatives to a hybrid architectural approach to cloud computing is the lack of operational consistency. While enterprise systems may be unified and managed via a common platform, resources and delivery services in the cloud are managed using very different systems and interfaces. This poses a challenge for all of IT, but is particularly an impediment to those responsible for devops – for integrating and automating provisioning of the application delivery services required to support applications. It requires diverse sets of skills – often those peculiar to developers such as programming and standards knowledge (SOAP, XML) – as well as those traditionally found in the data center.

quotes“We own the base, rent the spike. We want a hybrid operation. We love knowing that shock absorber is there.” – Allan Leinwand, Zynga’s Infrastructure CTO 

Other bottlenecks were found in the networks to storage systems, Internet traffic moving through Web servers, firewalls' ability to process the streams of traffic, and load balancers' ability to keep up with constantly shifting demand.

Zynga uses Citrix Systems CloudStack as its virtual machine management interface superimposed on all zCloud VMs, regardless of whether they're in the public cloud or private cloud.

Inside Zynga’s Big Move To Private Cloud by InformationWeek’s Charles Babcock

This operational inconsistency also poses a challenge in the codification of policies across the security, performance, and availability spectrum as diverse systems often require very different methods of encapsulating policies. Amazon security groups are not easily codified in enterprise-class systems, and vice-versa. Similarly, the options available to distribute load across instances required to achieve availability and performance goals are impeded by lack of consistent support for algorithms across load balancing services as well as differences in visibility and health monitoring that prevent a cohesive set of operational policies to govern the overall architecture.

Thus if hybrid cloud is to become the architectural model of choice, it becomes necessary to unify operations across all environments – whether public or enterprise.

UNIFIED OPERATIONS

We are seeing this demand more and more, as enterprise organizations seek out ways to integrate cloud-based resources into existing architectures to support a variety of business needs – disaster recover, business continuity, and spikes in application demand. What customers are demanding is a unified approach to integrating those resources, which means infrastructure providers must be able to offer solutions that can be deployed both in a traditional enterprise-class model as well as a public cloud environment.

This is also true for organizations that may have started in the cloud but are now moving to a hybrid model in order to seize control of the infrastructure as a means to address performance bottlenecks that simply cannot be addressed by cloud providers due to the innate nature of a shared model.

quotesThis ability to invoke and coordinate both private and public clouds is "the hidden jewel" of Zynga's success, says Allan Leinwand, CTO of infrastructure engineering at the company.

-- Lessons From FarmVille: How Zynga Uses The Cloud 

While much is made of Zynga’s “reverse cloud-bursting” business model, what seems to be grossly overlooked is the conspecificity of infrastructure required in order to move seamlessly between the two worlds. Whether at the virtualization layer or at the delivery infrastructure layer, a consistent model of operations is a must to transparently take advantage of the business benefits inherent in a cross-environment, aka hybrid, cloud model of deployment.

As organizations converge on a hybrid model, they will continue to recognize the need and advantages of an operationally consistent model – and they are demanding it be supported. Whether it’s Zynga imposing CloudStack on its own infrastructure to maintain compatibility and consistency with its public cloud deployments or enterprise IT requiring public cloud deployable equivalents for traditional enterprise-class solutions, the message is clear: operational consistency is a must when it comes to infrastructure.

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