Tapping the Power of the Cloud: Lessons from our VMware-based Hybrid Cloud Deployment
In a key next step in its historic merger of Dell and EMC (which created Dell Technologies), Dell IT is in the process of integrating its infrastructure in the cloud to modernize, automate and transform its IT operations.
Six months ago, Dell IT took on the challenge of integrating and modernizing the hundreds of legacy applications from both Dell and EMC still running on traditional infrastructure in existing data centers.
The result is a new hybrid cloud solution that combines Dell EMC hardware platform and VMware software platform to create a modern, software-defined data center that lets Dell IT cut costs and deliver infrastructure on demand. Our cloud model allows us to leverage both on-premises and off-premises IT assets in an agile way to ramp up self-service delivery and accelerate digital innovation.
Shaping Our New Cloud
Like most organizations pursuing a digital agenda, we realize that today’s IT will not succeed if we don’t change the way we do business to become an on-demand service provider with the automation, agility, and flexibility to give our users what they want; when they want it.
That requires a cloud strategy to transform our more than 3,000 applications and leverage modern data center technologies such as software-defined storage, networking and security, automation, and self-service capabilities.
To define and execute our cloud strategy, we brought together all the aspects of our data centers, infrastructure and platforms under a single team, Cloud Infrastructure Services. Since Dell and EMC each had a somewhat different cloud strategy, our team decided to build a brand new, legacy-agnostic hybrid cloud rather than trying to retrofit existing cloud infrastructure.
Our cloud is built on Dell EMC Converged and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure that leverages the VMware Validated Design for Software-Defined Data Center.
On top of this hardware and software platform, we are offering two key services to provide application owners and developers with a choice of how to add cloud capabilities to their apps: Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS and IaaS+).
PaaS is built on Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF), an application development platform designed to simplify writing and deploying modern cloud native apps. This service is for developers who want to write new apps or rewrite existing apps in a way that conforms to cloud-native design standards that maximize the use of cloud features. Using the cloud native framework results in a micro services-based lighter-weight app that can be readily moved on or off premises.
IaaS+ is for existing apps whose owners are not ready to rewrite them to meet the requirements of PCF but who still want to deploy them in a more cloud-enabled format to take advantage of cloud features such as software-defined storage and software defined network. The bulk of our apps fall into this category.
Our IaaS+ is built on VMware’s vRealize Automation, a cloud automation tool. At its core, using IaaS+ means an app is still deployed as a virtual machine (VM) but it sits on top of a software defined data center layer. It is therefore fully automated and leverages the software defined abstraction that separates it from the hardware layer, enabling faster provisioning, more efficient data center space utilization and seamless hardware upgrades.
A Measured Migration and a New Role
Over time, we want to migrate our entire application footprint from our legacy environments to one of these two new environments. However, accomplishing such a transition needs to be a gradual process. We are on track to deploy 25 percent of our infrastructure to the cloud by the end of this year and replace our entire current infrastructure with the software-defined platform within four years.
Central to our approach is tying application modernization to our end-of-service-life initiative. As components serving a particular app—the operating system or compute or storage— reach the end of operating service, our goal is to use that to drive the move of that app to one of these two cloud platforms – PaaS and IaaS+.
Leaving it up to app developers to determine which cloud service they choose is part of our effort to become more of a platform agnostic, competitive service provider. The idea is not to tell our users what they can and cannot do. The message we want to drive is around standardization: “These are the services we provide; have a nice day. We are not the IT police; you pay for it, you get it.”
In fact, at the end of our migration to the cloud, we want the users to be able to log into a portal (service catalog) and choose the services they need without IT even being involved. Our IT effort will instead be refocused on enabling automation, writing code for new services, and monitoring and managing capacity. With a software defined model, we can also better control capacity by leveraging third-party cloud providers as needed to handle demand surges and be more planned and prescriptive.
Lessons Learned In the Cloud
Here are some insights that might help your organization with its journey to the cloud:
- Don’t try to force-fit legacy infrastructure into new frameworks. As you modernize, build in flexible options that work toward software defined features.
- Automation is key. Standardize everywhere to drive that goal.
- Shifting from reactive to proactive IT is one of the biggest pieces of digital transformation.
- Breaking down silos and learning to work collectively is crucial in your cloud journey.
- Change needs to go beyond infrastructure to include more agile processes, self service delivery approach and flexible capacity.
- Consumers will also need to think differently, adapting to prepackaged offerings rather than high-touch customized services of the past.
Our journey to a new hybrid cloud is critical to our infrastructure integration as we continue our IT evolution as a combined Dell EMC IT organization. Across the IT industry, modernizing, automating and transforming IT to enable digital transformation and deliver self-service capabilities is essential for our survival in an increasingly automated, consumer-driven cloud services landscape.