Invisible Infostructure #4 - Orchestrate For Simple
Organizations clearly see the benefits of the cloud in cutting costs, improving agility and boosting innovation. What organizations don’t like to see is the complexity of providing and consuming cloud services. Integration of cloud services from different providers, security aspects, hybrid deployment and varying service levels are no simple issues. This is where ‘service orchestration’ comes into play, providing the power of the cloud through a platform of simple, easy-to-consume services. Such a platform provides organizations with a path towards leveraging the cloud that they can follow on their own terms.
A cloud orchestration platform organizes, provisions and integrates various cross-cloud cloud services – public, private or hybrid - to provide easy-to-consume business services. Besides this ‘stitching’ of horizontal services (Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service), supporting functions and layers are part of the orchestration platform 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.
Part of the orchestration capability is the cloud ‘brokering’ function, allowing the organization to mix and match horizontal cloud services from external cloud marketplaces. Cloud brokers add value to private and 3rd-party cloud services (such as those of Microsoft Azure, AWS, IBM SoftLayer, Virtustream or CenturyLink) 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 instances - 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, and lets customers leverage their existing technology investments.
We will soon see solutions that are tailored to market sectors like Banking, Insurance, and Retail, enabling the dynamic organization of horizontal services such as Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service with specific sector relevance. These ready-to use cloud solutions can then be deployed by standardized templates and configured to customers’ specific needs to reduce their total cost of ownership.
Orchestration as enabler of higher-order concepts
The next, logical step to resource orchestration is workload 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 step towards the ultimate concept of an ‘invisible’ infrastructure. Cloud orchestration takes care of the management and consumption of infrastructure such that it is self-service, elastic, Internet-accessible and highly automated.
Organizations typically will be better of building on a ready-to-use cloud orchestration platform, rather than spending time and money on the in-house design and development of such a platform themselves. The build phase will then be all about integrating and aggregating these services and the more powerful an enterprise-grade cloud orchestration platform is, the easier this transition will be made.
With enough time, people and investment, an enterprise could however create its own orchestration service from the ground up. A European governmental organization built an orchestration platform over the recent years, allowing them to benefit from the agility of a cloud infrastructure in software development. The objective was to solve the issues of slow infrastructure delivery and massive demand for infrastructure by their big development projects. DevOps and ‘agile’ did not even exist as concepts at the time that design of the orchestration platform started; there were only unsatisfied customers. Also, there were no commercial platform products available in the market at that time. The in-house developed orchestration service was developed by infrastructure professionals – rather than software engineers - and it is truly fit-for-purpose. It does require a lot of expertise to maintain it though, and off-the-shelf solutions more and more become a viable alternative.
Off the shelf
Indeed, today there would be no reason to endeavor on such a challenging development journey, because robust and tested platforms are available. Contributing to this growing availability of platforms is TOSCA – the Topology Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications – that is governed by the OASIS organization. TOSCA is the base for defining a standard container orchestration specification that is portable across various cloud environments and container providers.
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.
After all, a cloud orchestration platform is a means to an end. An end to rigid and complex infrastructure management, that is. 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.