No, this article isn't about Dolly the Sheep, it’s about Cloud Computing. Specifically, about different approaches to virtual server provisioning, and (behind the scenes) the choices and capabilities provided by a provisioning engine (and thus exposed in a service catalog). Let’s get started.
The market has advanced enough in the past 6-12 months where we can now, sensibly and credibly, talk about a prototypical cloud lifecycle solution, with a wide selection of offerings available from vendors great and small. Typically, these solutions house a catalog of offerings, presented to a user for selection, and which is subsequently instantiated through a provisioning process. Many solutions implement this by simply cloning the template, attaching it to the appropriate network, and turning it on. While this sounds straightforward, this immediately should raise a number of questions from those folks in IT responsible for managing and maintaining their organization’s cloud.
First, think about your (internal) customers – typically application developers who build, test, or maintain those applications created to run your business. How standardized are these developers, in terms of the OS and version and they’re using? What about all the additional software components, such as messaging middleware, app or web servers, or databases, which they require as part of their images ? If your organization is like most, there is an enormous variety of software components in use – and the natural result of using a purely image-based provisioning system is that you’ll end up with a combinatorial explosion of hundreds and hundreds images. This isn’t just theoretical -- earlier this year I worked with a system integrator customer, who used our solution to solve exactly this problem at a governmental agency.
So, what’s wrong with having many, many customized images to choose from? Isn’t this exactly the kind of flexibility and responsiveness that cloud computing promised? Look for a continued discussion in Part 2 of this series. Until then, please share your opinion and experiences in this area by submitting a comment below.