Ease of Cloud Computing; Without the Annoying Jail Time

  • Oh inflammatory article titles, how I love you. But aside from getting some attention, what I want to talk about is how to address the needs that many businesses face: a need for what is a perceived benefit of going to "the cloud" combined with regulatory requirements that require them to maintain their systems in house and fully managed by their own team. Can these two things go together?

    In fact, they can; and hyperconvergence may play a significant role in making that a possibility. Many hyperconvergent platforms (or HCI as it is beginning to be known; Hyper Converged Infrastructure) naturally play into this need by addressing what many businesses are finding to be their key value in the cloud computing space: simple, fast self provisioning of resources.

    Cloud computing and its focus on multi-tenancy has a natural affinity for businesses that want to make provisioning quick and easy. In the modern IT landscape this idea that new services can be “spun up” in minutes, rather than days, that provisioning is a trivial task and that testing new systems requires no special accommodations has become common and ubiquitous and, most importantly, an expectation of management. Maybe they know other companies have these features, they used them at their last job or they have just been hearing about them in the trades – they know that many of the problems around traditional system provisioning have been tackled in the cloud space and want these features for their company as well.

    What companies rarely are looking for is the actual features that make something cloud computing: namely API-based automated provisioning for elastic scalability. These features are often only needed by extremely large or niche organizations. In reality, what companies are often seeking is the simplicity that generally comes with cloud computing but are not looking to fundamentally reinvent how their IT department will work.

    This is where HCI can come to the rescue. Modern HCI most often takes all of the complicated moving parts associated with a full infrastructure stack and combines them into a single unit. Things like the hypervisor, load balancing, high availability and failover, storage, performance tuning, monitoring, remote access for administrators, inventory, templating, and more. The same features that many SMBs and SMEs are looking for from cloud computing services.

    We then combine this overlap in functionality with the challenge faced by many organizations that are under strict regulations as to how they must manage and contain their data or communications. In the US this is commonly associated with defense department contracts but may come up due to financial PCI compliance or medical HIPAA compliance or industry specific compliance needs or even contractual obligations with business partners who require this outside of compliance concerns or even simply business owners or investors that are averse to hosted services for their own reasons. Outside of the US one of the most common factors is concerns over hosting of services transferring into the US and the lack of security and control associated with that or local laws, such as in the EU, that put much onus onto individual companies to contain their own data. In any case, these regulations, whether formal or emotional, are very real and must be tackled.

    HCI comes to the rescue meeting the needs of compliance while bringing the traditional ease of use of cloud computing without the unnecessary overhead of service provisioning automation that generally has no place in the SMB or SME markets. HCI can, of course, be hosted on premises and this is normally how businesses picture it being used. This will probably account for the majority of use cases – self contained, easy to use datacenters on premises.

    Another great use case for HCI is off premises with a colocation facility. Colocation can take the last piece of “hands on work” that is unnecessary at the premises and move it to a dedicated team at an enterprise datacenter. This can also be an easy path to acquiring high availability power, WAN connections and HVAC systems along with commonly 24x7x365 on site “remote hands” that can work on hardware or provide oversite to vendor repair personnel when needed. By moving to a good colocation partner and housing a well chosen HCI solution there, many companies can accomplish the full value that they wanted from cloud computing solutions while also maintain the compliance or self containment that they are required to have.

    HCI, and especially HCI combined with colocation, can create the self contained, highly available, easy to use single compute platform for many businesses that have struggled with combining their technical needs with their business desires and their compliance requirements.