Cloud Computing and the Wheel

When you look at the advances in technology the changes in the past two years have been amazing.  The past six months alone have been truly revolutionary with the OpenCompute platform announcement from Facebook, the OpenStack announcement from Rackspace, Dell and others and of course, the new c5000 series and c6145 from Dell Data Center Solutions.  When it comes to turnkey Cloud solutions, the team at Dell Data Center Solutions also has full solutions around Cloud and Big Data with our offerings around Hadoop and Aster Data.  When you look at the opportunity to deploy on efficient hardware with a turnkey solution that is already ready for production (with room for you to add to it) the question then becomes why recreate the wheel?

I often talk with customers who are looking at building a Cloud (either public or private) who are deciding to write their own API’s and created their own Cloud Controller, rather than going with a supported, proven solution.  From a technologist’s point of view, I really respect that.  Creating the code to give you a solution that you can make money on with having to go out and invest in something…that’s a good thing.  But when you look at how much time went into creating that code, and then how much time goes into maintaining it, deploying it, etc., you have to wonder why someone doesn’t just go with a vendor that can bring it all together for them.  Some would say “cost of acquisition” while others would say “I don’t want proprietary lock-in”.  While both are valid, we need to consider the cost of NOT going with a trusted, turnkey solution, and the benefits of going the trusted, proven route that uses open standards as the OpenStack solution does.

Take for example “Company X” (name and location unimportant).  They have an exceptionally talented group of engineers on staff that are very good at what they do.  However, when they went to implement their Cloud, they decided to do it all themselves (including developing their own Cloud Controller, User Portal and Admin Portal) and are now coming to the reality that perhaps this wasn’t a good idea.  Rather than going with a company such as Dell who has reference architectures for turnkey Cloud solutions, they decided they had the expertise to do it all, and in the end, it has cost them tens of thousands of dollars in man hours and revenue spent fixing all the broken parts of it.  In fact, when I met with this customer they were on course to spend what it would have taken to implement a turnkey solution based on a reference architecture.

I would suggest that when you look at creating a Cloud or ANY complex solution that no matter how competent your IT staff is, that you consult the experts and get as much information as possible before you take on the project.  When doing this there needs to be an overwhelming amount of information flowing TO the vendor / expert about your business.  I would also suggest that they…the vendor / expert needs to ask the questions rather than you volunteering all of the information upfront.  My reasoning for this is simple.  If I as an expert don’t ask you all kinds of questions about your business before I every talk about a solution, do you really want to be working with me?  Some of the questions that your vendor / expert should ask include:

  • What is your business (should be asked requiring a detailed)
  • Who is your customer (are they internal or external)
  • What is your growth rate month over month
  • What are their expectations in terms of an SLA
  • What are your guarantees around the SLA
  • Have you been able to meet that SLA
  • What is your growth rate month over month
  • What is your application stack (again…details.  If they don’t know things like Hadoop, etc., be nervous)

As I stated, these are only a few questions they should be asking.  You need to make sure they know (and have the DESIRE to know) your business inside and out before a product or solution is every brought up.  Why?  One size does NOT fit all.  You should not blade everything. This is why I really like the Dell Data Center Solutions approach to Cloud.  We are not box pushers but rather are solution providers.  Before we quote anything or talk product, we want to know you, your business, and your vision of where you’d like to take it. ONLY then, can we legitimately have the discussion around what is and isn’t the right solution for your environment.  When we do come back with that solution it will be based on proven “reference architectures” (meaning we know they work as they have proven themselves before) and it takes the guesswork out of it for you.

Finally, the implementation phase.  Anyone can rack and stack a bunch of servers, but proper implementation of the Cloud stack can be a daunting task for anyone who has not done it several times before.  You may end up with a mess (as in the case of “Company X”) and it might cost you a lot of money fixing what you spent a lot of money on in the first place.  This is where the turnkey Cloud solution really shines.  Dell will come in and install the hardware, the application stack, activate support and ensure that it is FULLY FUNCTIONAL before they walk out your door.  Had “Company X” done that, they would not be in the situation they are now.  

Before you jump to any decision about Clouding your environment, contact your Dell representative and have them put you in touch with the Dell Data Center Solutions team to assist you in the process.  You’ll be glad you did! 

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