High IQ, Getting Higher: The IBM SmartCloud Foundation Family

High IQ, Getting Higher: The IBM SmartCloud Foundation Family

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

If you consider how well cloud computing capabilities map to emerging business needs, it's surprising clouds haven't been adopted even faster than they have. Private clouds offer exceptionally compelling answers to questions such as these:

The underlying point is clear: private clouds succeed if and when they empower businesses to create more value, using fewer resources, in less time.

IBM SmartCloud Foundation technologies let you build and optimize a private cloud—smoothly, over time

This being the case, it's no surprise that this is the fundamental premise behind IBM's SmartCloud Foundation family. This integrated suite of solutions offers a soup-to-nuts range of cloud capabilities that can be combined to integrate smoothly with an organization's current infrastructure, strategies, and perceived needs—not rip-and-replace, but blend-and-improve.

"The faster and more accurately virtual servers can be provisioned, the faster they can begin creating business value, and the lower the risk that they'll generate problems that might compromise that value."

Furthermore, because the SmartCloud Foundation family is comprehensive and growing rapidly, SmartCloud solutions can also be deployed over time, in logical layers. This way, an organization can roll out fundamental cloud capabilities first, then add more advanced and specialized capabilities later, to create the kinds of new value that will best support emerging goals and increased utilization.

The result is a cloud that's not just more powerful, but also more versatile and proven to justify using it to field more (and more kinds of) workloads.

Virtual server provisioning

Among the most basic functions of any cloud is provisioning—the process of populating newly created virtual servers with the complete software stack they'll need to support applications and services.

As a fundamental capability, it’s no place for compromise; this task must be executed with the highest possible levels of both performance and consistency. The faster and more accurately virtual servers can be provisioned, the faster they can begin creating business value, and the lower the risk that they'll generate problems that might compromise that value.

IBM SmartCloud Provisioning delivers just such advanced provisioning capabilities—the innermost layer of the cloud onion. It supports the provisioning of thousands of servers per hour, if need be, translating directly into a more responsive and agile cloud that can scale to field almost any unpredictable spike in business workloads. And because it also includes advanced image analytics, it can also help managers ensure that the image library used for provisioning is as optimized as the cloud itself, by identifying duplicate images, pinpointing images that contain out-of-date elements, and many other ways.

Recent improvements in SmartCloud Provisioning make the case for it even stronger. For instance, the range of virtualization environments it supports has increased, and now includes not just VMware, ESXi, KVM (Linux), and Xen, but also Microsoft Hyper-V, IBM PowerVM, and IBM zVM. This is an incredibly diverse range, and all but guarantees that whatever virtualization environments an organization may currently be using, they will all be supported in the new private cloud—meaning little to no initial spadework is needed to migrate images across environments.

Other enhancements include improved deployment of middleware topologies, policy-based quality of service management, and a simplified drag-and-drop interface.

Application performance management

How well are applications/services performing in the cloud—and when performance isn't acceptable, what's the shortest path to a fix?

That's a tricky question to answer, partly due to the way clouds utilize a shared architecture and allocate resources within it dynamically. Traditional troubleshooting methodologies and tools, which often assume single-application servers and were never intended for a cloud context, will likely yield inadequate results.

IBM SmartCloud Application Performance Management can do far better. This offering supports five different forms of analytics, from discovery to transaction tracing to diagnostics, allowing a rapid and accurate identification of the root cause of performance bottlenecks and a similarly rapid fix. And don't be fooled by the solution's name—it can accomplish this for any IT infrastructure, from traditional/single-server to private clouds and everything in between.

SmartCloud Application Performance Manager, released this year, has already been improved significantly. This solution now creates performance reports, for instance, to illustrate how applications have measured up to business goals over extended periods in granular detail. It also integrates with related offerings, including IBM DB2, IBM WebSphere, IBM DataPower Appliance, and even SAP enterprise resource planning, so that applications based on those platforms can more easily be assessed, diagnosed, and improved as well.

Workload automation

In a perfect world, an IT infrastructure would be completely self-sustaining and self-managing—automatically recognizing and solving any developing technical problem with no help from IT team members.

And while we're not quite there yet, clouds are closer than ever thanks to the way they utilize automation at a deep level.

With IBM SmartCloud Workload Automation, that argument becomes a great deal stronger. This solution can track the way workloads proceed through a cloud in logical stages, ensuring that each stage is functioning as intended and, if it isn't, taking rapid action to improve matters. For instance, it can recognize that a cloud's virtual server has become unresponsive, and then stop/restart that virtual server, or if necessary, route a job to an alternate server predefined as a backup. It can also simulate workloads accurately, helping an organization create the most effective (and cost-efficient) workload path in advance and thus get more value from that workload—faster.

New features for this solution include a self-service dashboard—very helpful for non-IT cloud users chartered with overseeing a given service—and new integrations with third-party solution providers including SAP, Oracle, and Informatica, to automate relevant workloads to a greater degree. Workloads can now also be automated with operational costs in mind, thanks to a consumption-based pricing model.

Cost oversight and management

For even more powerful and granular insight into costs, organizations should take a close look at IBM SmartCloud Cost Management.

In today's turbulent economy, every dollar counts—and a cloud that's supposed to reduce costs over time had better do it. This solution not only tracks costs of all kinds in a complex cloud infrastructure, however many virtual servers there may be and however quickly that number may change, but it also does so with remarkable granularity.

Costs can be tracked by application, by service, by specific resources, by business groups, by projects, and in many other ways—all of which constitute actionable intelligence needed to keep those costs as low as possible, while still hitting business targets.

And the latest version of SmartCloud Cost Management is smarter than ever. Among other new features: enhanced price tiering (to support volume discounts for cloud customers), historical price rates (to allow for lower rates at off-peak times of use), and new platform support (now including VMware vSphere 5, IBM's new PureFlex Systems, and IBM SmartCloud Provisioning).

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