Which Cloud – so many options!

Cloud Computing, or ‘The Cloud’, has become ubiquitous over the past couple of years. A term that was coined and took off within the IT community has taken hold among the general populace and even your granny will be on about storing information in the cloud. But which cloud is the right one? There’s so many different definitions of ‘The Cloud’ that I’d be writing for the next week just to go through them alone. For me, the keys to cloud involve scalability, shared-resources, automation, software/profile driven and provide a self-service function.

For the majority of end-users ‘The Cloud’ is where you store extra backups of your photos or documents on your laptop/smartphone which allows you to both recover those items if needed or access them quickly and easily on another device. Creating a seamless user experience between devices is key for these types of solutions. However for IT professionals it’s not only about these two features.

Cloud technology provides organisations the opportunity to expand their infrastructure and platforms quickly and dynamically while moving the cost model from CAPEX to OPEX. A situation that management are happy to see occur. The use-cases for using cloud technology are numerous but generally center around backup, disaster recovery, test and development, scalable applications and more recently virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The options for cloud have been defined as Public, Private and Hybrid. Public Cloud has hit the market hard during the past 3 to 4 years and has the backing of IT heavyweights like Microsoft (Azure), IBM (Softlayer), Google (Google Cloud Platform) and a relative newcomer but absolute beast Amazon (Amazon Web Services). For web-based applications or even start-up companies public cloud is a great way to go as it’s easy to scale and the infrastructure was designed more specifically for modular applications. The shining example of growth, AWS, has a success story with Netflix. Netflix grew rapidly and if it was running on a traditional platform it’s growth would definitely have been limited. However, thanks to using the public cloud to stream their content to the end users it was possible to satisfy the demand for Netflix and now Netflix is responsible to 80% of Sunday night internet traffic in the United States, all running from AWS and managed by a minimal support staff.

The majority of companies will have their own Private cloud or will at least be moving in that direction by having a fully virtualised platform. However, virtualisation is not the same as Cloud. A lot a people make that mistake. Virtualisation provides the mechanisms to allow cloud technology to exist. It leverages the physical resources into a shared virtual resource pool that allows greater utilisation of compute, storage and network resources. Where most Private Clouds fall down is in the area of automation and self-service provisioning. There are a large number of infrastructure providers that fit into the Private Cloud space. Cisco & Netapp teamed up to create Flexpod which has been an extremely popular and has helped Cisco become the leading blade infrastructure provider globally in just 5 years. Cisco UCS’s policy driven platform has helped organisations quickly and easily scale their infrastructure using templates. This has been seen to be the ‘legacy infrastructure’, a term I don’t necessarily agree with because to me it’s a nice marketing term. In just the past 2 years there’s been a huge shift in the storage market that has impacted how storage is now delivered. Hyper-converged infrastructure has been growing rapidly with Nutanix leading the charge. Other similar systems such as the recently announced VMware EVO:RAIL and even Simplivity, which has teamed up with Cisco earlier this year, are creating waves in how infrastructure is delivered. They all bring storage closer to the compute layer and modularise RAM, CPU, Networking and Storage into one unit so that growth is easily scalable at a low-cost entry point. The hyper-converged platforms are definitely going to change how Private Cloud is deployed and managed in the coming years. And the upside to these new players on the market is that some of the older, larger players in the IT market have had a virtual kick in the arse. So expect lots more innovation in the future.

Hybrid cloud has been on a similar trajectory to hyper-converged platforms in the past 2 years or so, on the up and up in terms of popularity. There are many reasons for organisations to utilise the capacity, scalability and resources of public cloud platforms but usually security reasons, internal politics, infrastructure complexities or even application restrictions mean that it’s not possible to move the entire production infrastructure. However, having the opportunity to open up your environment to leverage some public resources in a private capacity and under the control and security of just one IT team. As an engineer at a company that suffers from tombstone applications (applications that have been left in the environment with no owners and no responsible person but cannot be moved or upgraded) and valid security concerns around sensitive data the only option regarding cloud technology is Hybrid. I’m currently looking into our options around this and some very recent announcements have really tweaked my interest. I plan to go into more detail around some of these over the coming weeks but some worth a look at VMware’s new vCloud Air announcement and also NetApp Cloud OnTap and Private Storage.

So if you’ve read this far you have to right to ask if I’ve told you which Cloud you should choose. I haven’t. I can’t tell you that. There’s just far too many options. Nowadays IT, and in particular Cloud, is the equivalent of a menu at the Cheesecake Factory, absolutely immense and when the waiter asks what you want you blindly point at the menu hoping that you get something you wouldn’t mind eating as you couldn’t get past reading the second page. Cloud is just the same. So many options, not enough time. You really have to analyse your environment, your requirements and your desired roadmap so that you can match the type of cloud you need.




vForum – Melbourne

Earlier this week I attended the VMware vForum roadshow as it came to Melbourne for the first time. As part of the 10 year anniversary of vForum in Australia VMware have decided to bring the show on the road and do a whistle stop tour in each of the state capitals. This is a great idea. Even if it’s only a one day event and not the two-day event that normally takes place in Sydney it’s still good to have easy access to the event. The last vForum I went to was 2 years ago working with a vendor so it’s a different experience being on the opposite side and also getting the time to take in as many of the sessions as I could. Maybe it’s more experience and better knowledge on my part but I felt that I got far more out of the sessions at this vForum that any other conference/roadshow I’ve attend.

The biggest announcements were tied to VMware’s bid for a Hybrid Cloud and device mobility with a focus on Airwatch by VMware.  Last week at vForum Sydney VMware announced that they were partnering with Telstra to deliver the first vCloud Air environment in Australia early next year. This week it was confirmed by Telstra that the datacenter is located in Clayton in Melbourne and that vCloud Air is scheduled for the first quarter of 2015. I attended a session by Telstra and it was interesting that they announced VBlock as their platform for vCloud Air. I know Telstra has a mixed environment and it’s not immensely surprised that VMware’s sister company EMC would the storage vendor of choice. Telstra also announced that their NextIP customers would not incur any extra costs for moving data in and out of the vCloud Air service. A bonus really for those clients. I’ll come to the configuration specifications of vCloud Air in a moment. As with all of these events there are some dud sessions but some that really open your eyes. Likewise with vendors. I had some really insightful chats with the guys from Veeam, PernixData and AirWatch. These 3 vendors are adding something new to data center or mobile technologies and are the ones that link into what I’m working on at the moment. The main take-aways for each of these were:

  • Corporate App Store
  • Control app and desktop access via policies
  • Don’t think of it from a technology perspective but from a use case perspective – this was constantly reiterated by Rob Roe of Airwatch
  • Allows single sign-on with SAMIL so that when you launch the app it logs in automatically
Pernix Data
  • Creates a flash cluster from locally installed cache to take the workload off of the storage
  • It uses flash for read write and provides flash resilience as data is copied between flash and later flushed to persistent storage
  • Great for exchange, SQL and oracle
  • Zettagrid have implemented it for their environment for exchange and have seen immense improvement.
  • VMware are also working with SanDisk on a something similar to this solution. Pernix Data’s argument is that they  are more evolved so will still be relevant


  • Netapp snapshots run 18x times faster than commvault for full and 12x faster for incremental. No need to do full scans of volumes before hand like commvault does.
  • Agentless always awesome
  • Doesn’t have to present the snap back up to the hypervisor. Veeam manages it’s snapshots through CBT
  • Has new cloud connect platform to backup over wan to cloud. Within cloud you can deploy veeam and quickly and easily restore back.
  • Now has a free endpoint backup software for laptop backups to either local or remote backup. Swaps restores back to the end user. Currently free but is still fully supported with Veeam. Can also be used on physical servers. There is no central management console right now but most likely will be in the next year. Veeam have a history of making free editions of apps to bring in new customers

Before I get into vCloud Air one of the other sessions I went to was around the vRealize Suite which helped to clarify what they are trying to do in this space and what some of the new features are. VMware has essentially packaged all their peripheral software into on bundle which now provides massive value-add to the end user. You now have the choice to use VMware for the infrastructure, cloud, monitoring, BI, automation and virtual networking. They are going for the whole show. Some of the new features of Operations Manager (formerly vSOM) are:

  • Now can be clustered and scale on ops manager
  • No more appliance, just one box
  • Ops mgr will be released at the end of the year
  • Can now handle 64000 objects compared to the current 6000
  • Log insight is the splunk of VMware, not charged on a log data amount but on instance numbers
  • They took out the numbers in the status badges as it was too confusing.

vcloudAir options

So vCloud Air. vCloud Air will utilise VMware vCloud Director to create multi-tenant environments with isolated resources. This will make it easier, and is VMware’s argument, to migrate to vCloud Air without having to change any configuration of the VM or the application, there’s no performance change on VMs when transferred to cloud. There’s also no need for the admins to learn new tools as vCloud Air is just an extension of their current VMWare environment. vCloud Air will run on ESXi just as your own production systems do. This is also where VMware differs from the other cloud providers. If you’re not running VMware then chances are you not going to be looking at vCloud Air as an option. As mentioned already it will be hosted by Telstra and it can be a dedicated cloud or virtual private cloud. There are also options to use just the Disaster Recovery option or just Desktop as a Service from vCloud Air. It runs on logically separated storage for the virtual private cloud. Everything is shared. If dedicated storage required a cross connect from Telstra colo required. vCloud Air will have 11 sites globally and will have HA built in. The migration options to vCloud Air are using OVF imports one at a time or offline transfer or to use vCloud connector to move VM or template one at a time, over https uploads via APIs.

You can get more information on vCloud Air from here:



To me vCloud Air is promising and is a good first step from VMware. I’ve been researching a few other potential Cloud solutions over the past few weeks and it fits into a potential use case for us. There are other possiblities such as just using Amazon or Azure, or even using NetApp Cloud OnTap in Amazon AWS or even other cloud providers such as AT&T, Telstra. And lets not forget Cisco InterCloud Fabric. I’ll try to review some of these in the coming weeks.
vForum to me was a success and I hope that VMware follow a similar formula next year and bring vForum to the masses.

New Challenges and career focus

As with all careers there comes a point when you make a decision about what’s really important to you. This decision involves looking at what’s important to you from a work perspective and also, and I’d argue more importantly, from a home/life perspective. Today we are seeing a shift from the 9 to 5 worker to the always on/work from anywhere worker. While this is great for flexibility, it does mean that your work and home life intermix quite a lot. As a father to a young daughter and another one on the way I have decided to prioritize my family time over my work time. This may change in the future but right now it’s the right decision for me. I have worked as a client-facing consultant for small consultancy firms for the past 3 years and this has involved a large commitment of my personal time into being able to perform the role to the best of my ability and to provide our customers with the service levels they both expect and require. It has been an amazing learning experience to see how different consultancy firms work out their place in the market and how they also deal with the challenges of growing the companies. As an IT person there’s a requirement, and shall I add enjoyment, to keep on top of what’s currently available on the market, who the competitors are and how these products fit it with or compete with your product portfolio or product strategies. This means that IT is part of my life and I love what I do but my family life and time was suffering due to work expectations. And so my decision has been to leave a consultancy role and join the dark-side as a permanent staff member.

I’ve recently started in a new role for a large pharmaceutical company as a Senior Systems Engineer. Within the role my primary focus will be on VMware, Cisco UCS, Netapp MetroCluster and also driving the data center and application/desktop virtualization strategy and roadmaps. I’ve worked with Flexpod for the past 9 months with two very large clients, one of which was using Flexpod as their platform to deliver a public cloud offering wrapped up in a Rackspace style managed service. Flexpod is a complex system. There are a number of other IT systems on the market which are far easier to use and deploy but they don’t provide the same level of knowledge of storage, networking, compute and virtualization. To work with Flexpod you need to understand all components within the Pod and this leads to a better understanding of technology as a whole. In my new role I’ll be working with UCS Director for automation to improve the efficiency of the infrastructure deployment and also focus on chargeback components to help convert the IT department into a cost center that can make departments responsible for their own IT spend.

My new role is a step up from my previous position and I’m looking forward to the challenge and responsibility. As with all new roles it takes a bit of time to find your feet and make your mark. I’m looking forward to getting to grips with all the systems that need to be supported and figuring out how to improve processes and technology to drive innovation within the IT department. All while enjoying time with my family and getting to see my daughter and soon to exist child grow and develop. I’m excited about the possibilities over the coming years and my role within those.

For anyone that has been on this blog in the past you will know that I’m not the most prolific blogger. Over the next while I do intend to keep the blog up to date a bit more and try to develop at least one decent blog post a month. At the moment I don’t have a strategy in place for what I want this blog to be other than a placeholder for some work I’ve carried out, issues I’ve faced and managed to resolve, or just general chat about technology that is coming out. Maybe down the road it will become a bit more specific. Hopefully with a bit of extra time that I now have I can blog a bit more 🙂