What EMC Is Up To With OpenStack Cloud Solutions

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Today, EMC is announcing the availability of a family of EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solutions, including engineered IaaS solutions based on VMware, Microsoft, and OpenStack technologies.  The official press release and “Redefine Hybrid Cloud” launch event rightly focuses on the Federation SDDC Edition of the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution family, given its immediately availability and the importance of VMware to the EMC Federation.  However, I want to provide readers some insights and an early preview of the OpenStack-powered Edition, which will be available in 2015, along with other solutions offerings that will be announced during the upcoming OpenStack Summit in Paris (UPDATED: You can find details on the new Reference Architecture Program here.)

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I rejoined EMC four months ago as a Business Development Manager in the Cloud Solutions Group, focusing specifically on EMC’s go-to-market OpenStack solutions strategy.  Since then, Team OpenStack @EMC has been working on creating solutions that help customers address their challenges with deploying, operating, and supporting OpenStack-powered clouds and enabling developers to be more agile and productive in deploying their applications. Let’s talk about what you might expect from the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud OpenStack-powered Edition.  The caveat is that since the solution has not yet been released, specific implementation details are still in flux.

Solving Customer Challenges

Again, the goal of the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud OpenStack-powered Edition is to help customers be successful with their choice to deploy OpenStack-powered clouds.  Customer reasons for choosing OpenStack can vary from a preference to go the open source route, a desire to deploy multiple hypervisors, a decision to deploy a cloud architecture that aligns to “born in the cloud” workloads, etc..  But no matter the reasons, EMC is committed to honoring customer choice and to providing the best OpenStack solutions in the market.  To deliver on that commitment, we are creating an OpenStack-powered solution to address the needs and challenges of 2 groups of users – the Cloud Administrator and the Developer.

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The primary reason that many enterprise developers have chosen to develop applications on public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services, is how easy it is for them to access and manage infrastructure resources.  For enterprise IT to win users back, they must be able to provide the same self-service and resources on-demand capabilities in their private clouds that their developers have available to them in the public cloud.  However, Cloud administrators question the readiness of OpenStack for enterprise use.  Many of them have attempted the do-it-yourself approach using software from trunk and have recognized that taking this route requires enterprises to assume the burden of being their own systems vendor and integrator, who have to build their own solutions and provide their own support.  This requires a level of engineering, including software development, hardware certification, and system integration that many users do not have the capability or desire to take on.  The other alternative, however, is to choose a product or solution from among existing vendors, many of whom do not have the experience or resources to build and support an enterprise-grade OpenStack solution.

To enable customers to succeed, we are building an engineered turnkey OpenStack solution that address customer use cases for both the Cloud Administrator and the Developer.  This solution will provide the frictionless access to cloud resources that developers need while enabling Cloud Administrators to create a secure and protected infrastructure that can be trusted with the crown jewels of the Business, including confidential data and software intellectual property.  For example, we could give developers the ability to use the OpenStack APIs to self-provision cloud resources but ensure that these resources are provisioned according to policies set in advance by Cloud Administrators.  The same IaaS solution will also be easy to deploy, manage and support so that both groups of users can focus on working together and providing value to their companies. Enabling this type of turnkey OpenStack solution requires innovative engineering around a well-thought-out converged infrastructure system.

EMC Engineered Solution

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Building an enterprise-grade OpenStack solution, that can effectively address customer use cases, must begin with an enterprise-grade OpenStack product as its core.  That core product for the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud OpenStack-powered Edition comes to EMC via the recent Cloudscaling acquisition and their OpenStack-powered cloud operating system, Open Cloud System (OCS).  OCS has been deployed at many customer accounts and has proven itself as a leading OpenStack-powered distribution.  With the Cloudscaling team on board, EMC can continue to innovate and improve on OCS, while leveraging the valuable experience of folks like Randy Bias and Sean Winn.  Randy writes here about the roles of OCS and the Cloudscaling team in accelerating our OpenStack-powered hybrid cloud solution.  Chad Sakac, SVP of EMC Global Systems Engineering also provides his take on why Cloudscaling at EMC.

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With an enterprise-grade OpenStack-powered product, built on OCS as the core, we can then integrate other technologies that can help us build a solution to address all our identified customer use cases.  These technologies may come from the EMC Federation, such as EMC storage and data protection products, VMware NSX, RSA, or Pivotal CF, etc..  They may come from partners such as CliQr or from open source projects, such as Docker or Mesos.  The goal is to choose the appropriate technologies that best address customer challenges and to integrate these tightly into a fully supported turnkey solution.   We want to ensure that any technologies we integrate into our OpenStack-powered solution is fully tested together, configured optimally, and integrated with our deployment and management tools so we can provide the best customer experience and outcomes possible.

Built On Converged Infrastructure

Chad has written in-depth on the vision for Converged Infrastructure (CI) at EMC, offering both a taxonomy for understanding the varieties of CI technologies and a view into EMC’s CI strategy.  As Chad explains, one of the values of CI is to provide the platform for creating turnkey IaaS solutions, including cloud platforms such as OpenStack.  So it should not be a surprise to anyone that the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud OpenStack-powered Edition will be leveraging one or more CI systems.

CI Roadmap

In his most recent post, Chad proposes that Rackscale CI systems are “built for broad disaggregated and flexible commodity hardware and focus on “new application” (aka “platform 3” or “built for failure”) PaaS stacks and data fabrics.”  OpenStack has been designed from the very beginning to be an IaaS platform for these types of new applications and PaaS stacks.  So I would be in full agreement that an OpenStack-powered solution is ideally suited for Rackscale CI and it makes sense for EMC to focus our efforts there as the sweet spot.  It is also not very difficult for me to see an OpenStack-powered solution as the best IaaS platform for driving future Hyper-Rackscale CI systems, allowing enterprises and service providers to scale out resources like the Facebooks and Twitters of the world.

Where I think there may be warrant for further discussion is the ideas of running OpenStack on Integrated Infrastructures, such as Vblocks, and Common Modular Building Block (CMBB) hyper-converged infrastructure systems, similar to EVO:RAIL.  The argument against this would be that since Integrated Infrastructure are designed for traditional Platform 2 workloads and CMBB is designed for ROBO use cases, neither are suitable infrastructure for an OpenStack solution.  Let me make a quick argument for why I would not rule either out and why you may see the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud OpenStack-powered Edition running on multiple types of CI systems.

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EMC has customers who have committed to deploying an OpenStack cloud with arrays such as the VNX and XtremIO and are pushing towards improving or adding features to OpenStack that would enable it to provide more infrastructure resiliency for traditional Platform 2 workloads.  There are other customers who are looking at running multi-hypervisor OpenStack solutions that use KVM for new applications and VMware vSphere for traditional applications.  While I myself have questioned if it makes sense for OpenStack to focus on traditional workloads, in both cases, an OpenStack solution running on an Integrated Infrastructure CI would not only solve real customer problems but could provide a transitional solution between Platform 2 and platform 3 IaaS.

CMBB provides another interesting CI option for hosting an OpenStack solution.  There are a number of customers who wish to start small with their OpenStack deployments, either on-premises or hosted at a service provider.  These small deployments are often proof of concepts, test/dev use cases, or short-term project where starting with a small footprint is preferable.  Successful deployments here could be precursors to a larger scale-out solution.  As chad mentions, a Vblock does not scale-down well and neither does a Rackscale architecture.  So an OpenStack cloud running on a CMBB Hyper-converged system might be an ideal option for providing a turnkey solution at a smaller scale.  In addition, for an IaaS where linear scaling of compute and storage together is not an issue, a CMBB solution can actually provide more than adequate scalability for an OpenStack cloud.

Concluding Thoughts

What is hopefully clear from this blog post is that EMC is serious about supporting customer choice, including providing options for how customers can succeed with their OpenStack deployments.  The announcement of the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud OpenStack-powered Edition is clear indication of that commitment.  Expect to hear me provide more details on our engineered turnkey solution as the release date draws near.  I would also suggest playing close attention to the upcoming OpenStack Summit where we will be announcing additional OpenStack solutions offerings (UPDATED: You can find details on the new Reference Architecture Program here.).

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