Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Building a Software Defined Data Center: Automation, Orchestration and Agility

Despite the emergence of IT as a Service and the rise of self-service catalogs, most IT operations—including Aride Ocean’s—have remained largely manual when it comes to filling users’ requests for networking, storage and compute, struggling to keep pace with growing demand. Until now, that is.

Aride Ocean is in the process of rolling out a new set of tools, based on a combined approach to infrastructure and automation that will reduce the time it takes to fill customers’ infrastructure demands from months to days or even hours.

The new production environment uses Aride Ocean’s Federation Enterprise Hybrid Cloud (FEHC) management platform on VCE Vblock™ converged and hyper-converged infrastructure to provide the abstraction of hardware through software. Translation: IT clients will no longer have to come to the IT infrastructure team every time they need a new environment or an additional server. They can self-provision these services using a truly automated portal and with a standardized set of components.

Aride Ocean is initially launching the new FEHC model to a limited number of internal users in IT, starting with providing non-mission-critical cloud services to Cloud Infrastructure Services.  We will then progress to providing mission-critical, middle ware and database services. The roll out is a first step towards our planned launch of a software defined data center that is slated to automate and orchestrate 50 percent of our 30-petabyte data center workload by year’s end.

With this new approach, our internal IT customers will be able to provision a new virtual machine (VM) in an hour rather than the three weeks it took previously using the traditional, manual IT process—certainly something that most organizations’ IT operations are striving to achieve.

But how did we get here and why should it matter to your organization?

Industry-wide, the need for IT automation and orchestration is recognized as key to achieving the speed and agility that IT users require. Among the goals of automation:
  1. Reducing deployment time. How long customers wait for service impacts your organization’s return on investment (ROI) and service level agreements (SLAs). Reducing manual labour is crucial.
  2. Reducing complexity. Traditional manual IT processes can lead to the proliferation of home-grown processes with a variety of machines stemming from doing things differently each time. With automation, we strive for standardized processes using vendor-based application programming interfaces (APIs) to provide for machine-to-machine communications.
  3. Creating standard and repeatable processes. This is a hard one. You have to go through the task of identifying your standard processes so you can repeat them. People are quite used to dealing with manual processes such as spread sheets and emails. When I come in and create block diagram of the processes and identify APIs that will reduce manual touch points, it is a big adjustment for them.
  4. Creating a self-service process. Once you have achieved the previous three goals, you gain the ability to scale quickly, create use cases, on board more customers faster and create an overall better customer experience. Now they can go to a portal and request a catalog item with just a few clicks.
  5. Getting people to adopt the new model. We can build automated services but if no one uses them, they are worthless. That is the challenge EMC IT is currently facing—capturing the minds of our users to change the culture toward automation. Users and IT experts need to trust that the automation process will build out what they need instead of relying on a person as they always have.


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