Today at VMware’s Partner Exchange, we launched one of the coolest things I’ve seen in storage – VMAX Cloud Edition. Is it just another storage product in the VMAX family? Nope – rather it’s a bigger idea..
Not everyone quite gets it at first – and frankly some people won’t get it, but you can tell immediately when it finally sinks in (the expressions are priceless). It’s the first piece of IT infrastructure that looks like it was designed for cloud model from the ground up. That’s probably because it was.
Judging by the interest here at VMware PEX and at the EMC Partner Bootcamp where we dove deeper, and talked about where we’re taking the ideas behind VMAX Cloud Edition next, it’s going to make quite an impact on how private IT and service providers build clouds with VMware, Openstack or any other cloud orchestration stack for that matter.
Here’s link to the launch video and a lot of other content if you want to go straight to the details.
Ok, so what’s so different? Read on for more!
To me – one of the most interesting things was the origin of this idea. It literally was born out of some of our customers who were applying pressure on all their partners (EMC included) to deliver all their technology as a service. This was an economic discussion, as well as a technology discussion. BTW – this echoes the same customer pressures that drove the creation of Vblock and VCE.
We started with an idea for multi-tenant self-service with metering and chargeback reporting for service providers operating at scale and private IT doing as-a-service delivery. We then moved beyond the first customers who were the impetus, and talked to a broad constituency – big IT and smaller mid-market IT shops; as well as big established service providers and the fledgling fast growers too.
Guess what. Not many were asking for bigger, better, faster cheaper versions of traditional storage.
What they wanted was for everything we held dear here at EMC to just go away. Not disappear – they wanted enterprise-class and every bit of what we do best to be there – but they wanted it to just happen. Automatically. In a way that was programmable.
VMAX Cloud Edition is different because it’s the first self-service, enterprise-class cloud delivery platform that provides an easily consumable way to access enterprise storage for public, private, and hybrid cloud services.
Those same customers told us that VMAX Cloud Edition really hit the mark with self-service access that’s easy, flexible and fast for non-storage experts to use. All that without giving up sophisticated capabilities of Tier-1 enterprise class storage attributes. We did that by pre-engineering and pre-configuring service levels and packaged them up in service bands. You choose the service bands that are right for you and your tenants, and collectively they form a service catalog for tenants to choose from. All service levels springing from the most powerful, trusted, smart storage brand in the industry – VMAX.
You buy service bands, instead of a collection of different drive types and engines (in fact there can be multiple VMAXes behind the portal!), and you don’t configure FAST VP policies, RAID types, or do zoning. VMAX Cloud Edition has all those things; it’s just that they’re already set up to deliver a stated outcome. In fact, we’ve been engineering all sorts of things that abstract, pool, and even are the basis of multi-tenancy into Enginuity for a while (as an example, see per-initiator QoS in latest release). But – in the end – ideally those all operate “behind the scenes”. I’ve been using the words “Invisible Infrastructure” at VMworlds as far back as 2008 to describe the goals we’re working towards.
After all, that’s why you fiddle with configurations and policy settings in the first place – to get a particular outcome.
The automation of day to day tasks to deliver tenant requests is one of the killer apps here. It’s nice to have those service bands all figured out and presented as a catalog in the UI, but the automated delivery is really the kicker. Oh, and with rich tenant-level RBAC and controls.
In the launch video, you can see a service provider’s (Ospero) viewpoint. Right after the launch, Storagebod (Martin Glassborow) who is an architect at a very large enterprise chimed in with his opinion here. It’s worth checking out!
Let’s take a step back to get the context of this. VMAX Cloud Edition is even more compelling when you consider where most people are today in their Cloud journey. In the past several years, building a cloud meant that you were manically focused on three things:
- Hyper Standardization of infrastructure, apps, and workloads
- Hyper Virtualization to increase the efficiency, flexibility, and speed of delivery
- Automation to drive out friction. Today, most have accomplished that, but there’s something else still holding them back.
The biggest obstacle I hear about day in and day out – from big shops and small – is that there are struggling with a new set of challenges. Or more precisely a new set of opportunities. Now that cloud is real the focus has shifted to:
- Establishing an IT service catalog
- Developing new processes that harness their cloud and connect it to the business they support
- New organization structure that establishes a new set of roles and skills that match to the cloud they have as opposed to keeping the organization designed when they were physically deployed
Maybe that’s why it takes people a moment or two to really get the implication of VMAX Cloud Edition. You really need to view this through the lens of these new criteria.
It doesn’t enable an IT service catalog, or simplify it – it IS a service catalog – at least for the storage element of the stack.
For the VMware aficionados out there – think of how VMware policy-driven storage works. A storage team does a whackload of work (plan, design, configure, provision, manage). Then a VMware admin uses VASA (vSphere APIs for Storage Awareness) to group those datastores into service levels (question – how do they know what the storage team has REALLY done?). Then vSphere places and balances VMs amongst those pools.
… note, the first step was “someone does a lot of work (plan, design, configure, provision, manage” = ultimately presenting storage services.
Ideally – shouldn’t storage itself simply present up to VASA the storage policies, and then VMware (or Openstack, or whatever) consume it?
That’s another way of looking at what we’ve done with VMAX Cloud Edition.
Self-service access from the self-service portal or by using the REST APIs is a process change. And the automation makes it pretty hard to ignore that you people will be shifting from tactical reactive tasks to proactive strategic roles.
The special awesome-sauce: I’m usually the guy that will go straight to the bits and bytes, speeds and feeds (who doesn’t like that ☺)– and then lay out the big strategic idea. For VMAX Cloud Edition, you can go directly to the big strategic idea – preconfigured service levels and service catalog, the self-service access, automation of day to day storage tasks, REST APIs to integrate it into your existing orchestration, and enterprise-class Tier-1 storage attributes.
… Oh, and we as EMC are not stopping here. Feedback is so affirmative that this is the right direction; it begs the question – couldn’t this be the model for ALL storage – both EMC and non EMC? Shouldn’t all storage be pooled, abstracted from a control plane (the stuff that defines policy and management) perspective – in the same way it should be pooled and abstracted from a data plane perspective (think FAST, Federation, VPLEX). Hmmm, if we were to do something like that - what would that represent? Surely that would be an element of a real “Software Defined Storage” strategy? Hint, hint. EMC World isn’t far away.
So the bottom line is this. VMAX Cloud Edition isn’t vision, it is a shipping solution. You can take that energy and passion you had a few years ago when you were building your cloud, and aim it at building your cloud, your way.
Feedback – as always – welcome!