IBM's Open Clouds: The Sky Really Is the Limit

IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator offers smart, automated cloud service management via extensive support for open standards

Service Management in Action

IBM has long championed the critical role of open standards in IT service management. And at Pulse 2013, that support became particularly apparent, as IBM announced going forward its cloud services and software will be based on an entirely open cloud architecture: OpenStack.

A suite of technologies addressing key functionality such as distributed processing, storage management, and network management, OpenStack is now a juggernaut of industry momentum with support from organizations ranging from Intel to Cisco to VMware. All share IBM's belief that open standards ultimately lead to superior interoperability, and promote customer choice by preventing vendor lock-in.

Also embraced by IBM at Pulse 2013 was TOSCA, the Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications. TOSCA is used by cloud solution providers to establish how different elements of the service will contribute to the service as a whole, increasing overall interoperability and allowing applications to be more easily ported across clouds.

And for proof of IBM's commitment to open standards, you need look no further than a new offering: IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator (Link resides outside of ibm.com). Based on open source technologies and standards, IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator makes creating, deploying, and managing cloud-based services simpler, faster, and less costly than ever.

That's a value proposition very likely to attract organizations today. Increasingly, they're aware that IT services are trending up in complexity and cost. While cloud represents a theoretical response to that problem, it's a response that, to bear out in practice, must address specific concerns like ease of use and management, integration between operations and development across the full application lifecycle, cost-tracking and capacity planning, and others.

IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator delivers exactly these capabilities. By automatically combining different cloud functions, doing so in a way that fulfills best practices based on predefined patterns of deployment, and empowering users with intuitive cradle-to-grave management at every stage, the management focus is lifted from the level of technical detail. Instead, it's placed where it belongs: the service itself, and how well that service is fulfilling business goals, reducing risks and costs, and creating value for end users and external clients and customers.

Build and oversee new cloud services rapidly and easily using a graphic interface

Whether a cloud works via public, private, or hybrid models, IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator offers a fast, straightforward way to create and deploy new services running within it.

As new services are created and deployed, and resources to those services are provisioned and utilized, SmartCloud Orchestrator continually keeps tabs on the costs associated with all of those functions.

How does it work? Essentially, managers request a new service via an intuitive user portal based on a graphic interface. SmartCloud Orchestrator, in turn, executes the various processes that are required for that service to be generated. To do so, it includes built-in patterns of application deployment involving compute, storage, and network resources, and utilizes those patterns to ensure that the new service will not only create the intended value, but also be deployed and managed in the optimal fashion over time given its specific requirements.

As a simple example, imagine that a line-of-business manager wants a new cloud service and requests it using the portal. SmartCloud Orchestrator can then create the appropriate number of virtual servers in the cloud, themselves based on the appropriate server images.

Subsequently, SmartCloud Orchestrator can allocate (provision) suitable storage and network bandwidth to that service to fulfill the expected demand. And all of this takes place without the original manager having to consider any of the technical details—only the abstract nature of the cloud-based service being requested, and the expected number of users.

This, in essence, means that SmartCloud Orchestrator is delivering "workload-aware" services—that is, services that are not provisioned and managed in a generic fashion, but rather in a fashion that actually takes into account the nature and requirements of the actual workload.

And over time, as demand levels for that workload change, it will automatically receive more (or fewer) resources in proportion to that demand, in very close to real time. Thus, SmartCloud Orchestrator delivers a truly elastic cloud response to changing business conditions, and one that helps to minimize both resource waste and operational costs.

Track cloud costs in granular detail—and get accurate departmental chargeback and smart capacity planning

What's more, the extent of those cost reductions is not a matter of guesswork.

This is because IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator also includes granular, quantified tracking of costs of many kinds. So, as new services are created and deployed, and resources to those services are provisioned and utilized, SmartCloud Orchestrator continually keeps tabs on the costs associated with all of those functions.

This translates into key insight needed to ensure that cloud services really are delivering the expected value. If costs are trending up, for instance, SmartCloud Orchestrator can be used to determine why—whether costs are related to storage, for instance, or bandwidth—thanks to support for quantified metering. Not only does this help keep organizations continually aware of costs in as much detail as necessary, it also provides the information needed for departmental chargeback, and helps quantify capacity management and planning as well.

If, for instance, the cloud requires more resources such as storage or computational hardware, that can be clearly established; if on the other hand existing resources can be made to suffice, through smart reconfiguration, that too can be shown.

Integrate development and operations seamlessly to improve the success of new rollouts

Organizations that create and deploy their own software in a cloud have long struggled with how best to integrate the development and operations teams. Here, too, support for solutions based on open standards is obviously paramount.

IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator helps to address this issue thanks to support for OSLC (Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration) in particular. This standard provides a foundation for solutions used by the operations and development teams to integrate, sharing data in new ways as needed so that both groups are better informed about what’s happening with the other. As a result, new applications rolled into production are much more likely to perform up to expectations—instead of needing to be rolled back to an earlier version while extensive and costly revisions are made.

To accomplish this, SmartCloud Orchestrator—via OSLC—integrates with IBM SmartCloud Continuous Delivery, another OSLC-enabled offering, to accelerate, simplify, and automate key phases of the application lifecycle, such as building, testing, and deploying new applications.

The business benefits SmartCloud Orchestrator can deliver as a result are impressive, to say the least. For instance, IBM estimates that in many cases, up to an 80% reduction in time-to-market for new business service delivery can be achieved—a tremendous win for organizations looking to get a competitive edge in today's super-competitive market.

And once deployed, those services are much more likely to remain available, and continue generating value. That’s because due to SmartCloud Orchestrator’s optimized workload deployment and management patterns, technical change is much less likely to create inadvertent failure. IBM's analysis, in fact, suggests a 70% reduction in change-related outages of all kinds.

Now in open beta, IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator is soon to be available as a formal release! See IBM's Open Beta for more information.

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