Posts Tagged ‘OpenStack’

The Cuban Cloud Missile Crisis…Weapons Of Mass Abstraction.

September 7th, 2012 2 comments
English: Coat of arms of Cuba. Español: Escudo...

English: Coat of arms of Cuba. Español: Escudo de Cuba. Русский: Герб Кубы. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the midst of the Cold War in October of 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union stood periously on the brink of nuclear war as a small island some 90 miles off the coast of Florida became the focal point of intense foreign policy scrutiny, challenges to sovereignty and political arm wrestling the likes of which were never seen before.

Photographic evidence provided by a high altitude U.S. spy plane exposed the until-then secret construction of medium and intermediate ballistic nuclear missile silos, constructed by the Soviet Union, which were deliberately placed so as to be close enough to reach the continental United States.

The United States, alarmed by this unprecedented move by the Soviets and the already uneasy relations with communist Cuba, unsuccessfully attempted a CIA-led forceful invasion and overthrow of the Cuban regime at the Bay of Pigs.

This did not sit well with either the Cubans or Soviets.  A nightmare scenario ensued as the Soviets responded with threats of its own to defend its ally (and strategic missile sites) at any cost, declaring the American’s actions as unprovoked and unacceptable.

During an incredibly tense standoff, the U.S. mulled over plans to again attack Cuba both by air and sea to ensure the disarmament of the weapons that posed a dire threat to the country.

As posturing and threats continued to escalate from the Soviets, President Kennedy elected to pursue a less direct military action;  a naval blockade designed to prevent the shipment of supplies necessary for the completion and activation of launchable missiles.  Using this as a lever, the U.S. continued to demand that Russia dismantle and remove all nuclear weapons as they prevented any and all naval traffic to and from Cuba.

Soviet premier Krustchev protested such acts of “direct aggression” and communicated to president Kennedy that his tactics were plunging the world into the depths of potential nuclear war.

While both countries publicly traded threats of war, the bravado, posturing and defiance were actually a cover for secret backchannel negotiations involving the United Nations. The Soviets promised they would dismantle and remove nuclear weapons, support infrastructure and transports from Cuba, and the United States promised not to invade Cuba while also removing nuclear weapons from Turkey and Italy.

The Soviets made good on their commitment two weeks later.  Eleven months after the agreement, the United States complied and removed from service the weapons abroad.

The Cold War ultimately ended and the Soviet Union fell, but the political, economic and social impact remains even today — 40 years later we have uneasy relations with (now) Russia and the United States still enforces ridiculous economic and social embargoes on Cuba.

What does this have to do with Cloud?

Well, it’s a cute “movie of the week” analog desperately in need of a casting call for Nikita Khrushchev and JFK.  I hear Gary Busey and Aston Kutcher are free…

As John Furrier, Dave Vellante and I were discussing on theCUBE recently at VMworld 2012, there exists an uneasy standoff — a cold war — between the so-called “super powers” staking a claim in Cloud.  The posturing and threats currently in process don’t quite have the world-ending outcomes that nuclear war would bring, but it could have devastating technology outcomes nonetheless.

In this case, the characters of the Americans, Soviets, Cubans and the United Nations are played by networking vendors, SDN vendors, virtualization/abstraction vendors, cloud “stack” projects/efforts/products and underlying CPU/chipset vendors (not necessarily in that order…)  The rest of the world stands by as their fate is determined on the world’s stage.

If we squint hard enough at Cloud, we might find out very own version of the “Bay of Pigs,” with what’s going on with OpenStack.

The “community” effort behind OpenStack is one largely based on “industry” and if we think of OpenStack as Cuba, it’s being played as pawn in the much larger battle for global domination.  The munitions being stocked in this tiny little enclave threatens to disrupt relations of epic proportions.  That’s why we now see so much strategic movement around an initiative and technology that many outside of the navel gazers haven’t really paid much attention to.

Then there are players like Amazon Web Services who, like China of today, quietly amass their weapons of mass abstraction as the industry-jockeying and distractions play on (but that’s a topic for another post)

Cutting to the chase…if we step back for a minute

Intel is natively bundling more and more networking and virtualization capabilities into their CPU/Chipsets and a $7B investment in security company McAfee makes them a serious player there.  VMware is de-emphasizing the “hypervisor” and is instead positioning they are focused on end-to-end solutions which include everything from secure mobility, orchestration/provisioning and now, with Nicira, networking.  Networking companies like Cisco and Juniper continue to move up-stack to deeper integrate networking and security along with service overlays in order to remain relevant in light of virtualization and SDN.

…and OpenStack’s threat of disrupting all of those plays makes it important enough to pay attention to.  It’s a little island of technology that is causing huge behemoths to collide.  A molehill that has become a mountain.

If today’s announcements of VMware and Intel joining OpenStack as Gold Members along with the existing membership by other “super powers” doesn’t make it clear that we’re in the middle of an enormous power struggle, I’ve got a small Island to sell you ;)

Me?  I’m going to make some Lechon Asado, enjoy a mojito and a La Gloria Cubana.

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Incomplete Thought: On Horseshoes & Hand Grenades – Security In Enterprise Virt/Cloud Stacks

May 22nd, 2012 7 comments

It’s not really *that* incomplete of a thought, but I figure I’d get it down on vPaper anyway…be forewarned, it’s massively over-simplified.

Over the last five years or so, I’ve spent my time working with enterprises who are building and deploying large scale (relative to an Enterprise’s requirements, that is) virtualized data centers and private cloud environments.

For the purpose of this discussion, I am referring to VMware-based deployments given the audience and solutions I will reference.

To this day, I’m often shocked with regard to how many of these organizations that seek to provide contextualized security for intra- and inter-VM traffic seem to position an either-or decision with respect to the use of physical or virtual security solutions.

For the sake of example, I’ll reference the architectural designs which were taken verbatim from my 2008 presentationThe Four Horsemen of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse.

If you’ve seen/read the FHOTVA, you will recollect that there are many tradeoffs involved when considering the use of virtual security appliances and their integration with physical solutions.  Notably, an all-virtual or all-physical approach will constrain you in one form or another from the perspective of efficacy, agility, and the impact architecturally, operationally, or economically.

The topic that has a bunch of hair on it is where I see many enterprises trending: obviating virtual solutions and using physical appliances only:


…the bit that’s missing in the picture is the external physical firewall connected to that physical switch.  People are still, in this day and age, ONLY relying on horseshoeing all traffic between VMs (in the same or different VLANs) out of the physical cluster machine and to an external firewall.

Now, there are many physical firewalls that allow for virtualized contexts, zoning, etc., but that’s really dependent upon dumping trunked VLAN ports from the firewall/switches into the server and then “extending” virtual network contexts, policies, etc. upstream in an attempt to flatten the physical/virtual networks in order to force traffic through a physical firewall hop — sometimes at layer 2, sometimes at layer 3.

It’s important to realize that physical firewalls DO offer benefits over the virtual appliances in terms of functionality, performance, and some capabilities that depend on hardware acceleration, etc. but from an overall architectural positioning, they’re not sufficient, especially given the visibility and access to virtual networks that the physical firewalls often do not have if segregated.

Here’s a hint, physical-only firewall solutions alone will never scale with the agility required to service the virtualized workloads that they are designed to protect.  Further, a physical-only solution won’t satisfy the needs to dynamically provision and orchestrate security as close to the workload as possible, when the workloads move the policies will generally break, and it will most certainly add latency and ultimately hamper network designs (both physical and virtual.)

Virtual security solutions — especially those which integrate with the virtualization/cloud stack (in VMware’s case, vCenter & vCloud Director) — offer the ability to do the following:

…which is to say that there exists the capability to utilize  virtual solutions for “east-west” traffic and physical solutions for “north-south” traffic, regardless of whether these VMs are in the same or different VLAN boundaries or even across distributed virtual switches which exist across hypervisors on different physical cluster members.

For east-west traffic (and even north-south models depending upon network architecture) there’s no requirement to horseshoe traffic physically. 

It’s probably important to mention that while the next slide is out-of-date from the perspective of the advancement of VMsafe APIs, there’s not only the ability to inject a slow-path (user mode) virtual appliance between vSwitches, but also utilize a set of APIs to instantiate security policies at the hypervisor layer via a fast path kernel module/filter set…this means greater performance and the ability to scale better across physical clusters and distributed virtual switching:

Interestingly, there also exists the capability to actually integrate policies and zoning from physical firewalls and have them “flow through” to the virtual appliances to provide “micro-perimeterization” within the virtual environment, preserving policy and topology.

There are at least three choices for hypervisor management-integrated solutions on the market for these solutions today:

  • VMware vShield App,
  • Cisco VSG+Nexus 1000v and
  • Juniper vGW

Note that the solutions above can be thought of as “layer 2″ solutions — it’s a poor way of describing them, but think “inter-VM” introspection for workloads in VLAN buckets.  All three vendors above also have, or are bringing to market, complementary “layer 3″ solutions that function as virtual “edge” devices and act as a multi-function “next-hop” gateway between groups of VMs/applications (nee vDC.)  For the sake of brevity, I’m omitting those here (they are incredibly important, however.)

They (layer 2 solutions) are all reasonably mature and offer various performance, efficacy and feature set capabilities. There are also different methods for plumbing the solutions and steering traffic to them…and these have huge performance and scale implications.

It’s important to recognize that the lack of thinking about virtual solutions often seem to be based largely on ignorance of need and availability of solutions.

However, other reasons surface such as cost, operational concerns and compliance issues with security teams or assessors/auditors who don’t understand virtualized environments well enough.

From an engineering and architectural perspective, however, obviating them from design consideration is a disappointing concern.

Enterprises should consider a hybrid of the two models; virtual where you can, physical where you must.

If you’ve considered virtual solutions but chose not to deploy them, can you comment on why and share your thinking with us (even if it’s for the reasons above?)


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AwkwardCloud: Here’s Hopin’ For Open

February 14th, 2012 3 comments


There’s no way to write this without making it seem like I’m attacking the person whose words I am about to stare rudely at, squint and poke out my tongue.

No, it’s not @reillyusa, featured to the right.  But that expression about sums up my motivation.

Because this ugly game of “Words With Friends” is likely to be received as though I’m at odds with what represents the core marketing message of a company, I think I’m going to be voted off the island.

Wouldn’t be the first time.  Won’t be the last.  It’s not personal.  It’s just cloud, bro.

This week at Cloud Connect, @randybias announced that his company, Cloudscaling, is releasing a new suite of solutions branded under the marketing moniker of  “Open Cloud.”

I started to explore my allergy to some of these message snippets as they were strategically “leaked” last week in a most unfortunate Twitter exchange.  I promised I would wait until the actual launch to comment further.

This is my reaction to the website, press release and blog only.  I’ve not spoken to Randy.  This is simply my reaction to what is being placed in public.  It’s not someone else’s interpretation of what was said.  It’s straight from the Cloud Pony’s mouth. ;p


“Open Cloud” is described as a set of solutions for those looking to deploy clouds that provide “… better economics, greater flexibility, and less lock-in, while maintaining control and governance” than so-called Enterprise Clouds that are based on what Randy tags are more proprietary foundations.

The case is made where enterprises will really want to build two clouds: one to run legacy apps and one to run purpose-built cloud-ready applications.  I’d say that enterprises that have a strategy are likely looking forward to using clouds of both models…and probably a few more, such as SaaS and PaaS.

This is clearly a very targeted solution which looks to replicate AWS’ model for enterprises or SP’s who are looking to exercise more control over the fate over their infrastructure.  How much runway this serves against the onslaught of PaaS and SaaS will play out.

I think it’s a reasonable bet there’s quite a bit of shelf life left on IaaS and I wonder if we’ll see follow-on generations to focus on PaaS.

Yet I digress…

This is NOT going to be a rant about the core definition of “Open,” (that’s for Twitter) nor is this going to be one of those 40 pagers where I deconstruct an entire blog.  It would be fun, easy and rather useful, but I won’t.

No. Instead I  will suggest that the use of the word “Open” in this press release is nothing more than opportunistic marketing, capitalizing on other recent uses of the Open* suffix such as “OpenCompute, OpenFlow, Open vSwitch, OpenStack, etc.” and is a direct shot across the bow of other companies that have released similar solutions in the near past (, Piston, Nebula)

If we look at what makes up “Open Cloud,” we discover it is framed upon on four key solution areas and supported by design blueprints, support and services:

  1. Open Hardware
  2. Open Networking
  3. Open APIs
  4. Open Source Software

I’m not going to debate the veracity or usefulness of some of these terms directly, but we’ll come back to them as a reference in a second, especially the notion of “open hardware.”

The one thing that really stuck under my craw was the manufactured criteria that somehow defined the so-called “litmus tests” associated with “Enterprise” versus “Open” clouds.

Randy suggests that if you are doing more than 1/2 of the items in the left hand column you’re using a cloud built with “enterprise computing technology” versus “open” cloud should the same use hold true for the right hand column:

So here’s the thing.  Can you explain to me what spinning up 1000 VM’s in less than 5 minutes has to do with being “open?”  Can you tell me what competing with AWS on price has to do with being “open?” Can you tell me how Hadoop performance has anything to do with being “open?”  Why does using two third-party companies management services define “open?”

Why on earth does the complexity or simplicity of networking stacks define “openness?”

Can you tell me how, if Cloudscaling’s “Open Cloud” uses certified vendors from “name brand” vendors like Arista how this is any way more “open” than using an alternative solution using Cisco?

Can you tell me if “Open Cloud” is more “open” than Piston Cloud which is also based upon OpenStack but also uses specific name-brand hardware to run?  If “Open Cloud” is “open,” and utilizes open source, can I download all the source code?

These are simply manufactured constructs which do little service toward actually pointing out the real business value of the solution and instead cloaks the wolf in the “open” sheep’s clothing.  It’s really unfortunate.

The end of my rant here is that by co-opting the word “open,” this takes a perfectly reasonable approach of a company’s experience in building a well sorted, (supposedly more) economical and supportable set of cloud solutions and ruins it by letting its karma get run over by its dogma.

Instead of focusing on the merits of the solution as a capable building block for building plain better clouds, this reads like a manifesto which may very well turn people off.

Am I being unfair in calling this out?  I don’t think so.  Would some prefer a private conversation over a beer to discuss?  Most likely.  However, there’s a disconnect here and it stems from pushing public a message and marketing a set of solutions that I hope will withstand the scrutiny of this A-hole with a blog.

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill…

Again, I’m not looking to pick on Cloudscaling.  I think the business model and the plan is solid as is evidenced by their success to date.  I wish them nothing but success.

I just hope that what comes out the other end is being “open” to consider a better adjective and more useful set of criteria to define the merits of the solution.


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A Contentious Question: The Value Proposition & Target Market Of Virtual Networking Solutions?

September 28th, 2011 26 comments

I have, what I think, is a simple question I’d like some feedback on:

Given the recent influx of virtual networking solutions, many of which are OpenFlow-based, what possible in-roads and value can they hope to offer in heavily virtualized enterprise environments wherein the virtual networking is owned and controlled by VMware?

Specifically, if the only third-party VMware virtual switch to date is Cisco’s and access to this platform is limited (if at all available) to startup players, how on Earth do BigSwitch, Nicira, vCider, etc. plan to insert themselves into an already contentious environment effectively doing mindshare and relevance battle with the likes of mainline infrastructure networking giants and VMware?

If you’re answer is “OpenFlow and OpenStack will enable this access,” I’ll follow along with a question that asks how long a runway these startups have hanging their shingle on relatively new efforts (mainly open source) that the enterprise is not a typically early adopter of.

I keep hearing notional references to the problems these startups hope to solve for the “Enterprise,” but just how (and who) do they think they’re going to get to consider their products at a level that gives them reasonable penetration?

Service providers, maybe?


It occurs to me that most of these startups are being built to be acquired by traditional networking vendors who will (or will not) adopt OpenFlow when significant enterprise dollars materialize in stacks that are not VMware-centric.

Not meaning to piss anyone off, but many of these startups’ business plans are shrouded in the mystical vail of “wait and see.”

So I do.


Ed: To be clear, this post isn’t about “OpenFlow” specifically (that’s only one of many protocols/approaches,) but rather the penetration of a virtual networking solution into a “closed” platform environment dominated by a single vendor.

If you want a relevant analog, look at the wasteland that represents the virtual security startups that tried to enter this space (and even the larger vendors’ solutions) and how long this has taken/fared.

If you read the comments below, you’ll see people start to accidentally tease out the real answer to the question I was asking…about the value of these virtual networking solutions providers.  The funny part is that despite the lack of comments from most of the startups I mention, it took Brad Hedlund (from Cisco) to recognize why I wrote the post, which is the following:

“The *real* reason I wrote this piece was to illustrate that really, these virtual networking startups are really trying to invade the physical network in virtual sheep’s clothing…”

…in short, the problem space they’re trying to solve is actually in the physical network, or more specifically bridge the gap between the two.

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Cloud & Virtualization Stacks: Users Fear Lock-In, Ecosystem Fears Lock-Out…

June 7th, 2011 No comments
Cover of "Groundhog Day (15th Anniversary...

Cover via Amazon

I don’t think I’m verbalizing something very well…so I decided to write it down. I still don’t think I’m managing to stick my point, but perhaps clarity will come by discussion.

Simon Wardley has written about market dynamics and behaviors associated with the emergence and ultimate commoditization of things many, many times, but I’m not sure that I’ve found satisfaction in being able to accurately describe the dysfunctional co-dependency between consumer, leading vendor and ecosystem supporters to my liking.

Here’s an example…

There’s an uneasy tension that seems to often become nothing more than wink-and-nod-subtext in discussions relating to the various stacks offered by leading cloud and virtualization vendors.  Even those efforts with the “open” or “open source” descriptor bolted on for good measure.

It occurs to me that this can be attributed to many things; the business and licensing model of the solution provider, the ultimate “consumer” the offering targets, the area(s) of differentiation around technology, the maturity of the ecosystem, and the amount of self-integration versus vendor support required to successfully operationalize and maintain the solution.

More directly, the tension I refer to is the desire (or at least oft-verbalized complaints) on the behalf of “consumers” of cloud and virtualization stacks to not be “locked in” to a single vendor balanced against the odd juxtaposition — but not entirely unreasonable requirement — of simultaneously not being subject to the “integrator’s dilemma,” and having to support it all themselves.

Stir in the ecosystem of ISVs and solutions providers who orbit around these stacks, adding value where they have the “permission” to do so before either the stack provider obviates their existence by baking those features in directly, or simply makes it increasingly more difficult to roadmap given engineering dependencies they can’t control or count on.

I alluded to some of this in my blog titled Cloud Computing, Open* and the Integrator’s Dilemma wherein I mused:

I am just as worried about the fate of OpenStack and its enterprise versus service provider audience and how it’s being perceived as they watch the mad scramble by tech companies to add value and get a seat at the table.

Each of these well-intentioned projects are curated by public cloud operators and technology vendors and are indirectly positioned for the benefit of enterprises, but not really meant for their consumption — at least not if they don’t end up putting enterprises right back where they were trying to escape from in the first place with cloud computing: the integrator’s dilemma.

If you look at the underlying premise of OpenStack — it’s modularity, flexibility and open design — what you get is the ability to craft a solution finely tuned to an operating environment of your design. Integrate solutions into the stack as you see fit.  Contribute code.  Develop an ecosystem. Integrate, manage, maintain…

This is as much a problem as it is a solution for an enterprise.  This is why, in many cases, enterprises choose to use a single vendor with a single neck to choke in order to avoid having to act as an integrator in the first place or simply look to outsource to one or more public cloud providers and avoid this in the first place.

Chances are, most are realistically caught up somewhere in the nether-regions in between the two.

This all sounds so eerily familiar…

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Cloud Computing, Open* and the Integrator’s Dilemma

April 11th, 2011 4 comments

My esteemed co-tormentor of Twitter, Christian Reilly (@reillyusa,) did a fantastic job of describing the impact — or more specifically the potential lack thereof — of Facebook’s OpenCompute initiative on the typical enterprise as compared to the real target audience, the service provider and manufacturers of equipment for service providers:

…I genuinely believe that for traditional service providers who are making investments in new areas and offerings, XaaS providers, OEM hardware vendors and those with plans to become giants in the next generation(s) of Systems Integrators that the OpenCompute project is a huge step forward and will be a fantastic success story over the next few years as the community and its innovations grow and tangible benefits emerge.

I think Christian has it dead on; the trickle-down effect with large service providers leveraging innovation in facilities and compute construction looking to squeeze maximum cost efficiencies (based on power, density, cooling, and space efficiency) from their services will be good for everyone, but that it’s quite important to recognize why and how:

…consider that today’s public cloud services and co-location providers are today’s equivalent of commercial airlines, providing their own multi-tenant services, price structures and user experiences on top of just a handful of airframe and engine manufacturers. OpenCompute has the potential to influence the efficiency and effectiveness of those manufacturers by helping to contribute towards ideas and potentially standards that can be adopted across the industry.

Specific to the adoption of OpenCompute as an enterprise blueprint, he widened the bifurcation between “private clouds operated by service providers as public clouds” (my words) and “private clouds operated by enterprises for their own use” with a telling analog:

Bottom line ? To today’s large corporate IT shops; those who either have, or will continue to operate on-premise or co-located “private cloud” environments, the excitement levels around the OpenCompute project (if anyone actually hears of it at all) will be all-to-familiarly low as sadly, to wake some of these sleeping giants, it will take more than a poke from the very same company who’s website their IT teams are trying to prevent employees from accessing.

This is the point of departure for OpenCompute — it’s not framed for or designed for enterprise consumption.  In an altogether fascinating description of why Facebook open-sourced its data center design, the Huffington Post summarized it thus:

“[The Open Compute Project] really is a big deal because it constitutes a general shift in terms of what how we look at technology as a competitive advantage,” O’Grady said. “For Facebook, the evidence is piling up that they don’t consider technology to be a competitive advantage. They view their competitive advantage in the marketplace to be their users.”

Here we see the general abstraction of technology in line with Nick Carr’s premise that “IT Doesn’t Matter:”

“Sharing its blueprints may gain Facebook not only free manpower, but cheaper equipment. The company’s bet, analysts say, is that giving away intellectual property will help it foster an ecosystem of competing vendors that will drive down the cost of parts.”

With that in mind, I am just as worried about the fate of OpenStack and its enterprise versus service provider audience and how it’s being perceived as they watch the mad scramble by tech companies to add value and get a seat at the table.

Each of these well-intentioned projects are curated by public cloud operators and technology vendors and are indirectly positioned for the benefit of enterprises, but not really meant for their consumption — at least not if they don’t end up putting enterprises right back where they were trying to escape from in the first place with cloud computing: the integrator’s dilemma.

If you look at the underlying premise of OpenStack — it’s modularity, flexibility and open design — what you get is the ability to craft a solution finely tuned to an operating environment of your design. Integrate solutions into the stack as you see fit.  Contribute code.  Develop an ecosystem. Integrate, manage, maintain…

This is as much a problem as it is a solution for an enterprise.  This is why, in many cases, enterprises choose to use a single vendor with a single neck to choke in order to avoid having to act as an integrator in the first place or simply look to outsource to one or more public cloud providers and avoid this in the first place.

Chances are, most are realistically caught up somewhere in the nether-regions in between the two.

I wish to make it clear that I am very much a proponent of Open* but I realize that the lack of direct enterprise involvement in standards bodies, “open” initiatives and a lack of information sharing and experience for fear of losing competitive advantage is what drives enterprises to Closed* in the first place; they want to lessen their developmental and integration burdens and the Lego erector-set approach in many ways scares conservative, risk-averse CxO’s away from projects like this.

I think this is where we’ll see more of these “clouds in a box” being paired with managed services to keep it all humming, regardless of where it lives. [See infrastructure solutions from: Dell, VCE, HP, Oracle, etc. paired with "Cloud" distributions layered atop]

Let’s hope we see enterprise success stories built on leveraging OpenCompute and OpenStack…it will be good for all of us.


Update: I just saw that my colleague, James Urquhart, wrote a blog titled “Cloud disrupts, creates channel opportunities” in which he details the channel’s role in this integration challenge. Spot on.

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