Thursday 11 November 2010

IT as a Service and "The Cloud"

We were discussing in the office this morning Marnix Wolf's post about TechEd day 3 and "The Cloud" as well as some of the videos of the sessions at TechEd that Marnix was blogging about.

That got us talking about just how far off "The Cloud" are we in our infrastructure.

So I finally got home from the office and thought I'd blog our discussion, but as I routinely do, I thought I'd check the other various blogs first and what do I see?
Only a post on the System Center Nexus blog that is almost a list of everything we discussed this morning!

Basically we discussed this morning that we're not that far away from being considered to be running a cloud environment.
  • Our infrastructure is already virtualised, apart from some key Tier 1 apps like Exchange and our SQL Clusters meaning we can rapidly commission servers as users request them.
  • We deploy applications via Configuration Manager 2007 R3 meaning we can rapidly deploy applications to large volumes of users/devices as Service Requests come in and are looking forward to ConfigMgr 2012 and user targeting.
  • We monitor our estate using Operations Manager 2007 R2 giving us that insight into the estate and how it's performing, along with using distributed application monitoring as we move our mind set towards monitoring applications and their performance as a service that we deliver so we can talk about Application Service SLA's rather than "This server had 99.9% uptime" which means nothing to the user.
  • We've got Opalis that we're using to help us automate our common tasks, as well as the more complex and time consuming processes.  This also helps strengthen our ITIL implementation by ensuring things are in ITIL terms, Standardised, Repeatable & Auditable.
  • We've started moving from 2003 Terminal Server with XenApp 4.5 to 2008 R2 Terminal Services with XenApp 6 and utilising App-V to isolate our applications on those servers.  This allows us to rapidly deploy corporate applications (Using ConfigMgr, App-V and the Citrix connector) to large numbers of users, both within our Intranet and remote users with no downtime.
  • I was also asked the other day about user virtualisation.  Well we already re-direct the users documents, pictures etc to a central network store, enabling easier backup and security.  We don't really need to use roaming user profiles as the desktops are that locked down and most apps are published via Citrix that there isn't that many user settings left that we get asked why they don't follow the user, except Outlook signatures that I really need to get following users.
  • I'm in the process of implementing Service Manager 2010 with pre-production working with our customisations etc and waiting to move into live production.  This will help by dragging all that data from AD, SCCM & SCOM and giving us not only a better insight into the CI's in our environment, but be able to finally relate them all together and see what changes affect what and automate/streamline our processes (We're also going LEAN at the moment).

So what are we missing?

Well really we're just missing the Self Service components.  There's some self serve features in Service Manager and some in ConfigMgr 2012, but these are around software deployment rather than the data center.

So we'll be taking a look at System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0

Now to enable this we really need to look again at Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2.
We've looked at it before, and even though we're a VMWare estate, we was impressed by it.  However we were really looking forward to the integration with Operations Manager, but hit a major fault/bug and had to shelf it as there was no way to fix it.

With those two additions we should have an estate that allows for quick provisioning of services in a streamlined process with monitoring and automation to provide for capacity increases on demand/response, erm, isn't that a cloud?

Moving forward from there, the 2012 roadmap of System Center products are only going to help make this even easier to achieve with even more integration and focus on "The Cloud". Add to that Azure and Server Application Virtualization that allow you to re-host or repackage your existing applications so they can run in Windows Azure and I can see exciting times ahead!

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