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Big Data Gold Mine in Cloud Governance and Automation

Re-imagining the Technology Portfolio from a Governance and Big Data Perspective

I've been working on Enterprise Cloud Strategy and in the course of this work identified some interesting and non-obvious opportunities in the Cloud.

One solution I’ve examined is the well-crafted solution that is enStratus. enStratus has built a SaaS Cloud Management / Governance product focused on providing critical management, monitoring, governance capabilities tailored to the needs of the Global 2000 market, rather than the startup market. As I have worked with a current Fortune 500 client to identify Cloud solution components, my assessment is that enStratus is uncannily well designed for the enterprise market. Yet as a result of working with the enStratus team and product I found not just a management tool, but also a deeply insightful perspective as to the how and what of the Cloud.

To put this another way, as a result of using enStratus, teams will learn from the experienced approach enStratus takes to working in the Cloud and align with these successful practices. Yet enStratus remains open and light, rather than didactic. Again, this is a remarkable achievement in itself. As a result of my work with George Reese and John Willis of enStratus, I now have new insights into the Cloud and how Cloud management, governance, and automation fits into the overall enterprise Cloud opportunity. Where I expect to find functionality, I continue to find a deep intelligence and sophistication that runs through each aspect of the enStratus solution.

While the client I’m working with is primarily focused on Amazon as the Cloud provider, enStratus’s vision has resulted in a product that today serves as a single pane of glass for vSphere / VMware, yet also AWS, Eucalyptus, RackSpace, GoGrid, and about 9 other Clouds. At first I was incredulous and probed deeper into the quality of management across these services. Beyond discipline and hard work, what clearly differentiates enStratus is that it takes a very well honed and insightful point of view. In this example, the architecture of the product leverages smart design by creating a Cloud abstraction layer which enables new Clouds and new functionality to be rapidly implemented.

This difference in approach was so striking to me because while I have been working with salesforce.com for years, I remember how early versions of the offering often didn’t quite make sense to me, or didn’t quite align with what was required for enterprise consumption. I asked George Reese, a founding member and Chief Technology Officer of enStratus how it is that the enStratus vision and service stands-out in terms of the depth and finely honed implementation. George stated that at enStratus, the decision to build a product for the enterprise and solve some of the hard problems early, shapes the overall production strategy.

In practice, this vision of “focuses on solving hard problems” bring the enterprise a powerful solution which not only assists the enterprise in “getting to the Cloud,” but also, getting there with a solution that’s comfortable and addresses the needs of multiple stakeholders. In terms of the Cloud ecosystem, the enStratus approach raises sea and removes a number of rocks and barnacles and hazards and enables everyone to start at a much higher level of maturity and to focus on the real business of their Cloud strategy rather than on the bits and pieces.

Early Cloud solution requirements I had in mind, but which I suspected were too ambitious given the relative “newness” of all things Cloud, were not only part of enStratus, but implemented with several iterations more maturity and ambition that I had imagined. In some cases, by thinking about why the tool chose to approach a certain problem or certain capability in a certain way, I came to a sudden revelation that enStratus had solved a problem I hadn’t even realized was a problem and had done so in a very elegant and practical way. A clear example of the enStratus approach is that enStratus not only manages a Cloud, it addresses what should be a core requirement for every enterprise moving workloads to the Cloud: choice of Clouds and the ability to manage workloads wherever they are through a single pane of glass. And enStratus manages not only compute, but also storage Clouds such as AT&T Synaptic Storage, and on-premise enterprise storage Clouds such as EMC Atmos. I think the reason for what might otherwise seem like early support for storage Clouds is pragmatically driven by enterprise requirements for backing up or migrating workloads across Clouds. This plays a key role in where I see the Big Gorilla opportunity for enStratus.

While one might expect to have to sacrifice nuances or specific capabilities of specific Clouds, enStratus enables each Cloud’s unique capabilities to be managed and instrumented and automated. Frankly, most enterprises don’t have this kind of technology for any of their earlier generation technology, and what management tools exist require tedious and time consuming integration—the kind that doesn’t always get done as readily as one might expect.

Yet because enStratus provides multiple cloud provider integration as “table stakes,” the ecosystem of tools for the Cloud raises Cloud to a higher standard and does in fact make the Cloud more immediate, viable, useful, and enterprise ready. And by delivering a solution that manages not just a heterogeneous Cloud, but also vSphere, enStratus addresses a key CIO concern of vendor lock-in and enables a Cloud strategy that can leverage tools rather than requiring the enterprise to build from scratch out of concern for “lock-in.” Moreover, while CIOs look to the Cloud and voice concerns over vendor lock-in, the fact that enStratus also integrates with vSphere makes moving forward so much easier.

In other words, it’s much easier to move forward with an enterprise Cloud strategy by choosing a vendor such as Amazon that meets current needs, but without the concern that in eighteen months more suitable Cloud vendors will emerge. The flexibility of enStratus enables the enterprise to move forward with the Cloud yet with protection from investing heavily in a couple of Cloud service providers, only to find that business units within the enterprise each may require different types of Cloud services, or that some units may use vSphere internally, but also desire to move some application to Verizon / Terremark. These scenarios are very likely and even desirable and inevitable.

A broad and deep Cloud solution enables the enterprise to execute now and manage all the moving and changing components of the Cloud.This kind of operations is remarkably simple to visualize and explore with a tool like enStratus. And where in the enterprise, multiple stakeholders each require specific privileges at a user / role level of granularity, the enStratus approach provides what I consider not only the required level of flexibility and modeling of users, groups, resources, and roles. Clearly enStratus has worked closely with the enterprise and gotten the enterprise stuff right. In my opinion, enStratus delivers a higher quality and more thoughtfully designed compute, storage, accounting, and corporate cost center charge-backs than VMware's vSphere®. And believe I was pleasantly surprised to learn how the service also enables soft and hard budget capping based on corporate (or other) charge-center codes.

Here’s the Best Part, Although at First I didn’t Get it At All: Data Visualization Capabilities Targeted for 2012
At first I thought, wow, big data and data analysis is really getting trendy, Why would someone of George Reese’s caliber choose to focus so intensively on data? Where is the data anyhow, and what is there in a Cloud management solution to visualize? Clearly, monitoring is something that lends itself to charts, but why would enStratus make Data Visualization a central focus area--it seems like a basic capability.

How could powerful data analysis and visualization capabilities enhance enStratus to create significant business value? I see significant opportunity for analytics and data such as Corporate Performance Management metrics to unlock valuable information about a firm’s technology operations, project portfolio, and to monitor and guide such operations so as to realize an unprecedented degree of insight, management, and process monitoring over the enterprise technology portfolio. Think for a moment if the Corporate Performance Management capabilities of a SaaS solution such as Host Analytics were to consume data available to enStratus as a result of enStratus’s role as the management pane, but also for monitoring, and orchestration and capture of events and actions.

Such a solution enables a different and more detailed and more insightful tool for examining corporate performance from an application development lifecycle perspective. Because enStratus also provides structured, flexible containers for modeling, managing, and deploying applications, the context for events is part of the solution and it's naturally available for all activity.

In other words, enStratus offers an organic, bottom-up approach to managing and monitoring and analyzing corporate technology projects and resources. This capability contrasts with the rigid and bureaucratic approach to portfolio management tools such as HP's PPM tool. enStratus, by naturally capturing events and context across an enterprise’s diverse technology infrastructure, and technology environments maintains and readily queries the context of people, project, resources, events. And in this way, the enStratus framework offers the world a new and powerful tool through which to understand and managie the entire technology portfolio. For the first time, Corporate America has the means to track the lifecycle of even the smallest project along the entire arc of its lifecycle. I don’t think I’ve stated this clearly enough, given how important I thinks this is, so I’m going to try again.

As innovation by small teams seems to lead to more beneficial outcomes, enStratus becomes a perspective business can use to understand innovation and to how to stimulate rather than crush it under the latency of bureaucracy. This bottom-up, organic perspective could lead to insights as to what a firm's actual technology portfolio that naturally associates people, projects, costs, and application releases, and yes, return-on-investment and business value and other presently unknown characteristics of the enterprise. I don't know how to begin to qualify the value of a tool for applying such technology, but it is giant. And this last aspect of the model warrants further discussion. Part of the management and governance capabilities of enStratus that may not be readily perceived by those outside of corporate technology managers, is that enStratus provides the layer that abstracts interfaces to third generation build and deployment services such as Puppet and Chef. Through this abstraction enStratus monitors, tracks, governs, and manages the continuous deployment of applications and "infrastructure-as-code."

The second perhaps non-obvious area where I think Data Visualization and the analysis of the data underscores a key opportunity for companies adopting enStratus, is that enStratus provides a platform on which to define and manage workloads to a service level while also managing which Clouds and regions where a given workload can run. This kind of capability suggests a Phase II hidden opportunity emerging from enStratus's positioning strategy and enterprise focus.The non-obvious opportunity lies not in this fundamental management and governance capabilities, or the fact that enStratus is very well positioned in the enterprise market. This non-obvious opportunity lies in that part of the management solution that involves monitoring Cloud services, and also accounting for costs.

Monitoring and managing virtual machines and storage for thousands of enterprises across multiple clouds means that enStratus holds empirical data describing in detail metrics which describe as a commodity, the value of a given Clouds services compared to all other clouds. So in this way, enStratus describes and holds point-in-time market data for the global cloud market. As the market matures, a very real and global spot market emerges for Cloud services. This capability will in turn drive firms to require a vehicle through which to participate in the Cloud Economy. enStratus will serve as such a vehicle for the enterprise, and provide the abstraction, meta data, and automation through which to participate and through which to take delivery of Cloud Services.

In other words, a service like enStratus provides the abstraction and services required to Broker Cloud Services. And in this way enStratus is positioned to enable arbitrage, swaps, futures, and all manner of trading to be performed with respect to Cloud Resources. This level of efficiency will continue to drive Cloud innovation and competition, while services like enStratus grow to a critical mass, or Network Size that becomes difficult to displace, and extremely profitable in the way that enabling, orchestrating, brokering and managing a multi-trillion dollar Cloud marketplace seems like it might be profitable.

More Stories By Brian McCallion

Brian McCallion, founder of New York City-based consultancy Bronze Drum focuses on the unique challenges of Public Cloud adoption in the Fortune 500. Forged along the fault line of Corporate IT and line of business meet, Brian successfully delivers successful enterprise public cloud solutions that matter to the business. In 2011, while the Cloud was just a gleam in the eye of most Fortune 500 firms Brian designed and proved the often referenced hybrid cloud architecture that enabled McGraw-Hill Education to scale the web and application layer of its $160M revenue, 2M user higher education platform in Amazon Web Services. Brian recently designed and delivered the JD Power and Associates strategic customer facing Next Generation Content Platform, an Alfresco Content Management solution supported by a substantial data warehouse and data mart running in AWS and a batch job that processes over 500M records daily in RDS Oracle.”

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