The “3 D’s” of hybrid and multi-cloud application deployment

While describing the challenges of enterprise IT application development in his FutureStack keynote, New Relic CEO Lew Cirne addressed the key question: “How to go fast at scale?” He pointed out that it’s not uncommon for DevOps shops to perform HUNDREDS of application deploys per DAY while larger outfits even deploy 1000’s. Listening to Lew describe how New Relic’s customers are rapidly developing and deploying cloud-based applications, it really hit me again that “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

This got me thinking about the “3 D’s” of cloud application deployment:

  1. Dynamic
  2. Distributed
  3. Diverse

Let’s explore each of these and the challenges they are creating for DevOps, ITOps, SecOps and NetOps teams charged with deploying, securing, monitoring and managing hybrid and multi-cloud applications along with the underlying application and network infrastructure.

Dynamic. The basic premise of DevOps is that small, highly focused teams are working separately, but in parallel, continuously developing and deploying independent parts that make up a greater whole. This process itself is dynamic by its very nature, with some teams doing 100’s of deploys per day. More importantly, application run-time environments are becoming increasingly dynamic. In a Docker environment, new containers can be spun up and down in seconds, driven by the ebb and flow of application demands. In a microservices architecture, in which applications are composed of small, modular services, the various interactions between the microservices themselves will be inherently dynamic and unpredictable as new application capabilities are created by different combinations of the supporting microservices.

Distributed. Hybrid and multi-cloud environments are highly distributed, with applications and data possibly residing on-premise in legacy three tier data centers, on-premise in private clouds built using cloud-scale architectures, or in one or more public clouds utilizing SaaS, PaaS, IaaS capabilities and serverless computing. In addition, the underlying cloud compute and application infrastructures are highly distributed in order to ensure high availability and be able to easily scale compute and storage capacity on-demand. The interactions between application components distributed across these different environments can be very complex, both within in a given data center and over the network between data centers. We truly live in an age when “the network is the computer”.

Diverse. Application development is highly diverse, with enterprise IT developers using many different programming languages and run-time environments, including bare metal servers, virtual machines and containers. There are also multiple software frameworks that are used to implement these different environments, and developers may mix and match various components to create their own custom stacks.  Each cloud service provider offers its own set of application services, supported by its own full stack and characterized by a comprehensive set of APIs. There are also many different ways data can be stored and queried, ranging from legacy RDBMS systems to the latest NoSQL Big Data repositories.

Combined, these “3 D’s” are creating serious challenges for enterprise operations teams and have put a premium on monitoring and analytics solutions for gaining real-time visibility into what is happening at the application, infrastructure and network layers, as well as how to correlate anomalies and events at one layer with observed behavior and conditions at another. I think it’s safe to say “we’re not in Kansas anymore”!

Returning to FutureStack, Lew closed his keynote by describing the challenge of “interconnectivity” in “3 D” environments and the use of instrumentation for “transaction tracing” in order to map out the flow of service execution to identify problematic services that may be negatively impacting overall performance. Lew noted that in this area, New Relic is leveraging open source software – OpenTracing – which is a Cloud Native Computing Foundation member project.

The interconnectivity problem is yet another reason why the solutions that New Relic and other APM vendors are developing are so critical. If DevOps and ITOps teams don’t have the tools they need to monitor and manage large-scale deployments of highly dynamic and distributed applications across heterogeneous environments, enterprise IT won’t be able to “go fast at scale”. The result will be higher operating expenses, lost business opportunities and a serious drag on digital transformation initiatives.

 

 

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”

Last week I attended the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) workshop held at NYU in Manhattan. One highlight was Lakshmi Subramanian’s presentation on the impressive and relevant work being done by the researchers in NYU’s Open Networks and Big Data Lab. Lakshmi is also spearheading industry education and training programs in networking, cloud computing, security and Big Data to help address the growing technical skills gap that enterprise IT organizations face as they embrace new application development and delivery paradigms that would have been hardly conceivable ten years ago.

ONUG co-chair Nick Lippis kicked off the workshop with an overview of the upcoming ONUG Fall 2017 event, which will be held in New York City October 17 & 18. Nick described how ONUG’s charter now extends beyond open networking to the full stack of software-defined infrastructure needed to deploy and support a myriad of enterprise IT applications in complex hybrid and multi-cloud environments. As Nick was talking, it brought to mind Dorothy’s line after the tornado drops her down in the Land of Oz: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Faced with a bewildering array of new software technologies and cloud services, combined with the breakneck pace of innovation, there must be times when IT managers feel like they’ve suddenly landed in a metaphorical Oz, but unlike Dorothy, they don’t have magic ruby slippers to transport them safely home to Kansas. Instead, they need to acquire the skills, tools and know-how to thrive in this amazing new world.

Open networking and open compute platforms have proven to be key enablers for migrating enterprise IT applications to the cloud, but ONUG now has four active working groups whose members are collaborating to identify and map out additional user challenges and critical success factors in other areas of interest:

  • Open SD-WAN Exchange (OSE)
  • Monitoring & Analytics (M&A)
  • Software-Defined Security Services (S-DSS)
  • Hybrid Multi-Cloud (HMC)

Software-driven SD-WANs promise to upend the legacy enterprise WAN model and deliver services that are more flexible, adaptable and responsive to the demands of hybrid and multi-cloud applications, while allowing enterprises to leverage ubiquitous, high speed Internet connectivity for SaaS applications and other cloud-based services. However, with so many different vendors developing SD-WAN products and solutions, interoperability is a key concern for enterprise users.

The M&A working group is looking at the tools and techniques needed for application, infrastructure and network monitoring, including new technologies like software-based instrumentation, streaming telemetry, Big Data and real-time analytics. Monitoring needs to extend from the legacy on-premise data center and private enterprise WAN, to private clouds built using cloud-scale infrastructure, across multiple public cloud services and to SaaS applications. This is where I spend a lot of my time these days, and it looks nothing like Kansas to me!

The S-DSS working group is developing a security architecture framework that is intent-based and wraps security policies around workloads that are independent of the underlying compute infrastructure, portable across multiple environments and not tied to physical locations. This work is important because security will ultimately be the gating factor for large-scale hybrid and multi-cloud deployment of mission critical applications.

The focus of the HMC working group brings us back to my Dorothy analogy. This team is looking at the full spectrum of business, people, security, regulatory and technology issues that IT organizations must address in order to successfully migrate their applications to hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Most mainstream IT managers are still living happily in Kansas, but the tornado is coming and before too long they will find themselves in the Land of Oz. Hopefully the HMC working group guidelines and recommendations will help them successfully navigate the complex array of issues they will be facing.

I hope you are able to attend ONUG Fall 2017 in October. The conference features many sessions with enterprise trailblazers and thought leaders who are pushing the envelope and operationalizing hybrid and multi-cloud application deployment. There will also be a series of vendor proof-of-concept presentations and demos, as well as “Right Stuff” awards for vendors in the vanguard who are providing monitoring and security solutions that address key operational requirements as specified by the M&A and S-DSS working groups.

One last thing. You won’t see any flying monkeys at the event, but there’s always a chance Glinda, the Good Witch of the South will make an appearance.