Into the Cloud and Back..... with NetApp

By Sumit Lahiri, Sr. Product Manager, Service Provider solutions

Love it or leave it we are the “cloud”

The usage of the word “cloud” has become commonplace to the extent that it appears in almost every discussion related to providing or consuming IT. That said, I would like to take a moment to express my views with the hope to absolve the facts from the hype.

Been there done that…

In my conversations with customers, colleagues, friends and virtually any one in the business of consuming or providing IT, one would often hear various analogies being drawn to describe the cloud. For some, the cloud is about automation & manageability, others construe it as another name for virtualization and for yet others it is the “network”. Without being specific, the central message almost always has been packaging old wine in a new bottle – “been there done that..”.

I would agree with the statements in general, datacenter automation, manageability, virtualization and such others have been in vogue long before the concept of “Cloud” became prevalent. So this begs the question – what is different about “cloud” that hitherto has remained obscured.

To Cloud or not to Cloud…

If I may be given the carte blanche to provide yet another point of view, my response would be on the following lines… “Cloud is the consumer centric ideology on how IT should be consumed as a service”. Cloud is flipping the perspective from the provider to the consumer. That being said, as we begin looking from the consumer side an entirely new paradigm or ideology of consuming IT as a Service begins to emerge – the parallels are drawn with usage and consumption of any utility based service. The forces of supply and demand engage and dynamics of utility marketplace begin to apply.

Without being overtly pedantic, I have attempted to map the “consumer expectation” to “provider competence”, please refer to the table below. And truth be told, this model doesn’t look different from any other utility we consume, except there is no standard unit of consumption. This makes consuming and providing IT as a Service both complex and interesting.

Consumer Expectation Provider Competence
On Demand Service Rapid Provisioning, Elasticity, Automation
Consume from multiple providers without changes to mechanism
of consumption
Standard Interfaces, Data mobility, Security
Assurance High Availability
Subscription Plans Service Tiering, Chargeback, Smart Bundles

From the provider standpoint all of the existing concepts of automation, manageability and virtualization are still very much applicable. However, to provide the agility, scalability, elasticity and availability, the underlying data center architectures need to evolve.  Such is the evolution of software defined “X”. “Software Defined” is fundamentally a different design philosophy from “Software Implemented “X”. Not to digress, this seems to be good topic for a future post.

NetApp into the Cloud  and Back….

For the providers of IT (here I refer to both enterprise customers and service providers) the last few years has presented unprecedented disruption across all layers of the stack. While the choices for the providers has grown, their decision making process has become far too complex. Most Data Center decisions have long standing effects, and as such, need to be evaluated with a keen eye to discriminate between hype and sustainability.

This is where Netapp, together with our partners, is committed to supporting customers and helping them reshape the future of “Cloud” based IT consumption. While virtualization of compute and network functions helps to orchestrate functionally equivalent topology between on-premise and provider cloud, this needs to be accompanied by the movement of data – remember “Data has gravity”. Moving the data to and fro between clouds needs careful planning and is no easy feat to accomplish!  NetApp enables this with near zero downtime and minimal service disruption. In other words, we help our customers effectively “commoditize compute while personalizing data”. NetApp’s groundbreaking work with Amazon is the testament to this fact.

Tiered storage services, accelerated provisioning, simplified manageability & secure multi-tenancy are just some of the capabilities that NetApp provides out of the box. NetApp and Cisco have taken the best that NetApp has to offer and bundled it with best of breed architecture from UCS and Nexus to develop FlexPod, the “converged infrastructure” building block for cloud. Recently IDC published their quarterly results and are we are #1!

NetApp & Citrix – Winning together

On the open source front, NetApp has a strong commitment to simplify storage integration with OpenStack and CloudStack infrastructure orchestration frameworks. Speaking specifically on CloudStack, NetApp is developing it’s first Virtual Storage Console (VSC) plugin for Apache CloudStack. The plugin is expected to go into closed beta early January of next year.

The VSC plugin for CloudStack is designed to work with both Apache CloudStack 4.3, as well as, Citrix’s supported version of CloudStack (i.e. “CloudPlatform” version 4.3).For more details on the API specifications refer here .

Once the storage controller initial set up is complete, the cloud or the storage administrator may then leverage CloudStack either programmatically or via user interface to create storage pools. The administrator has the option to create different classes of storage (think gold, silver, bronze) based  on a set of technology attributes such as media type (SAS, SATA,FLASH or combination of such), backup & recovery, storage efficiency, auto growth and such others.

After the storage pool is provisioned, the cloud administrator can then create disk offerings from the pre-provisioned storage pools. Imagine if you may, the “disk offering” as an encapsulation of storage profiles and policies.

The “disk offerings” can then be selectively included while defining compute offerings and they serve as storage definitions for the compute. The design decouples the provisioning of storage from the allocation. This facilitates a vendor neutral implementation for providers to expose differentiated services to their customers.

In addition to simplifying the provisioning and allocation of storage, VSC plugin for CloudStack integrates with two hypervisors (XenServer 6.x and ESXi 5.x) to enable volume level backup and restore. The option of hypervisor assisted quiescing is also available.

CloudStack & OpenStack - a tale of two cities

Both OpenStack and CloudStack frameworks are built on common design philosophies: vendor neutral integration, web services based and modular architecture. Customer who have built services on CloudStack continue to reaffirm their commitment. NetApp is closely working with Citrix to further support that commitment. NetApp will continue to enhance our plugins and integrate with our diverse portfolio of storage offerings. Happy Stacking!

PS: David & Chris, our lead architect and lead developer on "VSC plugin" will be at Amsterdam this week attending the Apache CloudStack Collaboration Conference. If you happen to be there, please swing by and introduce yourselves to David & Chris.