Welcome!

Big Data Journal Authors: Jason Bloomberg, Roger Strukhoff, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, John Savageau

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, Linux, Virtualization, Security, SDN Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Why Intelligent VM Routing Is Critical to Your Private Cloud’s Success

Hosting decisions are far too important to be left to simplistic, best-efforts approaches

Virtualized and private cloud infrastructures are all about sharing resources - compute, storage and network. Optimizing these environments comes down to the ability to properly balance capacity supply and application demand. In practical terms, this means allocating the right amount of resources and putting workloads in the right places. These decisions are critical to ensuring performance, compliance and cost control.

Yet most organizations are using antiquated methods such as home-grown spreadsheets and best guesses to determine which infrastructure to host workloads on and how much capacity to allocate. Not only do these approaches hinder operational agility, but as hosting decisions become more and more complex, they are downright dangerous. The typical strategy employed to stave off risk is to over-provision infrastructure, and the thinking behind this is that having an excess of capacity on hand will ensure that enough resource is available to avoid any performance problems. This is not only expensive, but it actually doesn't prevent key operational issues and many of the performance and compliance issues that are caused by incorrectly combining workloads.

In essence, this management challenge is the same one faced by hotel operators. Hoteliers need to constantly align guest demands with hotel resources and amenities. A hotel could not operate without a reservation system to manage resource availability and match that with guest needs, and yet this is exactly how companies manage their virtual and internal cloud environments. Imagine if a hotel didn't have the operational control provided by their reservation system, and was constantly forced to build more rooms than necessary in order to meet "potential" guest demands, rather than basing their decision on an actual profile of historical and predicted demand. Or if they put clients in rooms without enough beds or required amenities. This should start sounding familiar to anyone who has managed a production virtual environment.

Hotels have had the luxury of a long history to refine their operations, and by using reservations systems to properly place guests and manage current and future bookings, they have gained a complete picture of available resources at any point in time. In doing so, they have optimized their ability to plan for and leverage available capacity, achieving the right balance between supply and demand.

Why Workload Routing and Reservations are Important
By applying the same principles used to manage a hotel's available capacity to their own operations, IT organizations can significantly reduce risk and cost while ensuring service levels in virtual and cloud infrastructures. There are five reasons why the process of workload routing and capacity reservation must become a core, automated component of IT planning and management:

1. Complexity of the Hosting Decision
Hosting decisions are all about optimally aligning supply with demand. However, this is very complex in modern infrastructures, where capabilities can vary widely, and the requirements of the workloads may have a significant impact on what can go where. To make the optimal decision, there are three important questions that must be asked:

  • Do the infrastructure capabilities satisfy the workload requirements? This is commonly referred to as "fit for purpose," and is required to determine whether the hosting environment is suitable for the kind of workload being hosted. This question has not always been top of mind in the past, as the typical process to deploy new applications has been to procure new infrastructure with very detailed specifications. But the increasing use of shared environments is changing this, and understanding the specifications of the currently running hosting environments is critical. Unfortunately, early virtual environments tended to be one-size-fits-all, and early internal clouds tended to focus on dev/test workloads, so fit for purpose decisions rarely extended beyond ensuring the environment has the right CPU architecture.
  • Will the workloads fit? While the fit for purpose analysis is concerned with whether a target environment has the right kind of capacity, this aspect of making hosting decisions is concerned with whether there is sufficient free capacity to host the workloads. This is a more traditional capacity problem, but with a twist, as virtual and cloud environments are by nature shared environments, and the capacity equation is multi-dimensional. Resources such as CPU, memory, disk, I/O, network I/O, storage capacity, etc., must be considered, as well as looking at the levels and patterns of activity to ensure that the new workloads are "dovetailing" with the existing ones. Furthermore, any analysis of capacity must also ensure that the workload will fit at the point in time it will be deployed and it must continue to fit beyond that time.
  • What is the relative cost? While fit and suitability are critical to where to host a workload, in a tiebreaker the main issue becomes relative cost. While many organizations are still not sophisticated enough to have an accurate chargeback model in place, a more precise way to determine cost may be to consider the relative cost of hosting a workload as a function of policy and placement.

2. Capacity Supply and Application Demand are Dynamic
Nothing stands still in virtualized IT environments, and any decisions must be made in the context of ever-changing technologies, hardware specs, service catalogs, application requirements and workloads. This is becoming even more prevalent in the age of the software-defined data center.

Because of this, capacity must be viewed as a pipeline, with inbound demands, inbound supply side capacity, outbound demands and decommissioned capacity all being part of the natural flow of activity. Handling this flow is a key to achieving agility, which is a goal in the current breed of virtual and cloud hosting infrastructure. The ability to efficiently react to changing needs is critical, and the lack of agility in legacy environments is really a reflection of the fact that previous approaches did not operate as a pipeline. If it currently takes two to three months to get capacity, then it is a clear indication that there is no pipeline in place.

3. Meeting Your Customers Expectations
Application owners today have expectations that capacity will be available when required, so it's necessary for IT to have a way to hold capacity for planned workload placements to be available on the date of deployment (like advance booking a hotel room).

Sometimes the concept of a capacity reservation is equated with the draw-down on a pool of resources or a quota that has been assigned to a consumer or internal group. This is dangerous, as it simply ensures that a specific amount of resources will not be exceeded, and does not guarantee that actual resources will be available. This is analogous to getting a coupon from a store that says "limit 10 per customer" - it in no way guarantees that there will be any product left on the shelf. Organizations should beware of these types of reservations, as they can give a false sense of security.

Capacity reservations are extremely useful to those managing the infrastructure capacity. They provide an accurate model of the pipeline of demand, which allows for much more efficient, accurate and timely purchasing decisions. Simply put, less idle capacity needs to be left on the floor. It also allows infrastructure to be managed as a portfolio, and if a certain mix of resources is needed to satisfy the overall supply and demand balance (such as buying servers with more memory), then procurement can factor this in.

4. Even Self-Service Needs Reservations
Self-service can create a highly volatile demand pipeline. But a bigger issue with self-service models is the way organizations perceive them. Many early cloud implementations focus on dev/test users or more grid-type workloads, and the entire approach to delivering capacity takes on a last-minute, unplanned flavor. But these are not the only kinds of workloads - or even the most common - and for a cloud to become a true "next-generation" hosting platform it must also support enterprise applications and proper release planning processes.

The heart of the issue is a tendency for organizations to equate self-service with instant provisioning. Although instant provisioning is useful for dev/test, grid and other horizontal scaling scenarios, it is not the only approach. For example, an online hotel reservation site provides self-service access to hotel rooms, but these rooms are not often being booked for that night. For business trips, conferences and even vacations, you book ahead. The same process must be put into place for hosting workloads.

Rather than narrowly defining self-service as the immediate provisioning of capacity, it is better to focus on the intelligent provisioning of capacity, which may or may not be immediate. For enterprise workloads with proper planning cycles and typical lead times, reservations are far more important than instant provisioning. And deciding where the application should be hosted in the first place is a solution critical decision that is often overlooked. Unless an organization has only one hosting environment, the importance (and difficulty) of this should not be underestimated.

5. Demand Is Global
There is a huge benefit to thinking big when it comes to making hosting decisions. The long-term trend will undoubtedly be to start thinking beyond the four walls of an organization and make broader hosting decisions that include external cloud providers, outsourcing models and other potential avenues of efficiency. But the use of external capacity is still a distant roadmap item in many IT organizations, and the current focus tends to be on making the best use of existing capacity and purchasing dollars.

Operating in scale also allows certain assumptions to be challenged, such as the requirement for an application to be hosted at a specific geographical location. Geographical constraints should be fully understood and properly identified, and not simply assumed based on past activity or server-hugging paranoia. Some workloads do have specific jurisdictional constraints, compliance requirements or latency sensitivities, but many have a significant amount of leeway in this regard, and to constrain them unnecessarily ties up expensive data center resources.

Unfortunately, the manual processes and spreadsheet-based approaches in use in many organizations are simply not capable of operating at the necessary scale, and cannot properly model the true requirements and constraints of a workload. This not only means that decisions are made in an overly narrow context, but that the decisions that are made are likely wrong.

Moving Past Your "Gut"
Hosting decisions are far too important to be left to simplistic, best-efforts approaches. Where a workload is placed and how resources are assigned to it is likely the most important factor in operational efficiency and safety, and is even more critical as organizations consider cloud hosting models. These decisions must be driven by the true requirements of the applications, the capabilities of the infrastructure, the policies in force and the pipeline of activity. They should be made in the context of the global picture, where all supply and demand can be considered and all hosting assumptions challenged. And they should be made in software, not brains, so they are repeatable, accurate and can drive automation.

More Stories By Andrew Hillier

Andrew Hillier is CTO and co-founder of CiRBA, Inc., a data center intelligence analytics software provider that determines optimal workload placements and resource allocations required to safely maximize the efficiency of Cloud, virtual and physical infrastructure. Reach Andrew at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@BigDataExpo Stories
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, ...
SYS-CON Media announced that Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow, has launched a new ad campaign in Cloud Computing Journal. The ad campaign, a webcast titled 'Is Your Data Center Ready for the Application Economy?', focuses on the latest data center networking technologies, including SDN or ACI, and how customers are using SDN and ACI in their organizations to achieve business agility. The Cisco webcast is available on-demand.
Datapipe has acquired GoGrid, a provider of multi-cloud solutions for Big Data deployments. GoGrid’s proprietary orchestration and automation technologies provide 1-Button deployment for Big Data solutions that speed creation and results of new cloud projects. “GoGrid has made it easy for companies to stand up Big Data solutions quickly,” said Robb Allen, CEO, Datapipe. “Datapipe customers will achieve significant value from the speed at which we can now create new Big Data projects in the clou...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science f...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness,...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP ...
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your onlin...
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by minin...
Software Defined Storage provides many benefits for customers including agility, flexibility, faster adoption of new technology and cost effectiveness. However, for IT organizations it can be challenging and complex to build your Enterprise Grade Storage from software. In his session at Cloud Expo, Paul Turner, CMO at Cloudian, looked at the new Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) market and how it is changing the storage world. Now Software Defined Storage companies can build Enterprise grade ...
Hardware will never be more valuable than on the day it hits your loading dock. Each day new servers are not deployed to production the business is losing money. While Moore's Law is typically cited to explain the exponential density growth of chips, a critical consequence of this is rapid depreciation of servers. The hardware for clustered systems (e.g., Hadoop, OpenStack) tends to be significant capital expenses. In his session at Big Data Expo, Mason Katz, CTO and co-founder of StackIQ, disc...
Companies today struggle to manage the types and volume of data their customers and employees generate and use every day. With billions of requests daily, operational consistency can be elusive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Dave McCrory, CTO at Basho Technologies, will explore how a distributed systems solution, such as NoSQL, can give organizations the consistency and availability necessary to succeed with on-demand data, offering high availability at massive scale.
Vormetric on Wednesday announced the results of its 2015 Insider Threat Report (ITR), conducted online on their behalf by Harris Poll and in conjunction with analyst firm Ovum in fall 2014 among 818 IT decision makers in various countries, including 408 in the United States. The report details striking findings around how U.S. and international enterprises perceive security threats, the types of employees considered most dangerous, environments at the greatest risk for data loss and the steps or...
CodeFutures has announced Dan Lynn as its new CEO. Lynn assumes the role from Founder Cory Isaacson, who has joined RMS and will now serve as chairman of CodeFutures. Lynn brings more than 14 years of advanced technology and business success experience, and will help CodeFutures build on its industry leadership around its Agile Big Data initiatives. His technical expertise will be invaluable in advancing CodeFutures’ AgilData platform and new processes for streamlining and gaining value from gro...
Cloud and Big Data present unique dilemmas: embracing the benefits of these new technologies while maintaining the security of your organization's assets. When an outside party owns, controls and manages your infrastructure and computational resources, how can you be assured that sensitive data remains private and secure? How do you best protect data in mixed use cloud and big data infrastructure sets? Can you still satisfy the full range of reporting, compliance and regulatory requirements? In...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that ...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core...