Invisible Infostructure #4 - Orchestrate For Simple
Cloud is really here to simplify and improve business life, not complicate it. Organizations see the obvious benefits of the cloud. However, they get stuck in managing the complexity that comes with it. Dealing with issues around integration, security, hybrid deployment, vendors, standards and service levels can absorb so much time that the benefits often appear to be illusive and far off in to the distant future. It requires an orchestrated approach to the cloud, ensuring that cloud complexity is effectively dealt with upfront and that cloud services are provided through a platform of easy-to-consume services. This provides organizations with a path towards leveraging the cloud that they can follow on their own terms. Also, it frees-up their management agendas so they can fully focus on creating new value with the cloud.
By its clinical definition, orchestration is the advanced automation proposition to dynamically organize, provision and integrate a set of IT-based services and solutions in a hybrid cloud environment under policy control to provide coherent, consumable services to enterprise users.
What does it mean in practice? Well, an orchestration platform stitches together various cloud services – public, private or hybrid - to provide easy-to-consume business services. Besides this ‘stitching’ of cross-cloud services, other functions and layers need to be part of the orchestration capability as well. Services from different clouds, different vendors and different providers are abstracted to a common level in order to make them ‘executable’ by the orchestration platform. Integration and aggregation functions take care of exposing traditional data center services to the orchestration platform. Brokering lets the client mix and match cloud services from external cloud marketplaces. Cloud brokers emerge that add value to private and third-party cloud services by unifying service level parameters, reporting and billing.
To Illustrate the relation between orchestration and brokering, imagine the ordering process for a fully configured and ready-to-use server platform being delivered as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This is referred to as resource orchestration. The user triggers the process from a portal that provides access to the service catalog of ready-to-use IaaS components. The orchestration platform handles the end-to-end automated provisioning of these components – such as a specific application server instance - including applying the involved business rules like authorizations, financial controls and capacity checks. The brokering function presents the user with a choice between private and public cloud resources.
Eventually, it’s really all about the workload.
The next, logical step is workload orchestration instead of resource orchestration: business workloads are given the infrastructure resources that they need, based on business policies. The workload orchestration platform ensures that the right workloads are made available to the business (e.g. an ERP solution, a productivity application, a full DevOps environment or a mobile back-end application), providing the workloads transparently across public, private, and on-premise environments. This requires an even higher level of abstracting the infrastructure, another move towards the ultimate concept of an ‘invisible’ infrastructure.
The brokering of third-party, cloud marketplace services is quickly establishing its place within the Business Technology strategies of enterprises; it’s often better to build on these services rather than spending time and money on the in-house design and development of services. The build phase will then be all about integrating and aggregating these services and the more powerful an enterprise cloud orchestration platform is, the easier this transition will be made.
If an enterprise until now has avoided taking the leap into the cloud, it will find that an orchestration platform can significantly help make the transition painless, seamless and as gradual as desired. If the business is already in the cloud, it will finally unleash the full benefits by moving to a purpose-built, rigorously tested and fully integrated, orchestration platform.
With enough time, people and investment, an enterprise could create its own orchestration service from the ground up. But there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when these robust and tested platforms already exist today as commercially available best practices across the cloud industry.
After all, a cloud orchestration platform is a means to an end, not the meaning of life (at least for most of us). Enterprises want to grow and innovate, using cloud services. A cloud orchestration platform enables them to do so without ever losing focus on their business objectives.
It’s as simple as that.