Virtualization makes serving business users easier, at least in theory. The server can be commissioned and the business user satisfied more speedily than in the past. But there's still a tremendous amount of complex work for IT managers to do upfront. Behind the checklist that a business user sees lies months of hard IT preparation.
That's probably never going to go away. But what if virtual resources could be added to the data center incrementally, and did not require a lot of upfront configuration and server template assignment? What if a new server rack could be wheeled in, plugged in, and software connected to it that opened it up to user self service?
That degree of ease might never come to pass. But a new architecture, Vblocks, is bringing it a step closer to reality. Vblocks are the result of a design collaboration among Cisco Systems, VMware, and EMC, that began in 2009. By aligning what they could do at an early stage, the three companies--whose partnership now operates as the independent Virtual Computing Environment coalition--have produced a rack architecture that's an example of how virtualized servers will be deployed in the future. At the very least, says a major Vblocks implementer, they've produced a second-generation architecture for the virtual, integrated rack.
CSC in Falls Church, Va., the $16.1 billion-a-year cloud and computer services supplier formerly known as Computer Sciences Corp., is one of the largest implementers of Vblocks and says it can't do cloud computing without them.
"Vblocks are very core to our value proposition," said Sunil Bhargava, global portfolio executive for cloud and hosting at CSC, in a Feb. 1.
Among other things, CSC is offering specialized services to large insurance companies and government agencies that lets the customer run workloads both on premises and in CSC's infrastructure as a service. If a customer wants the latter option, CSC installs a Vblock on the customer's premises and links it to its cloud service. The customer then shifts VMware workloads seamlessly between the two.
That means baseline operations can be executed on premises, and peak loads can be executed with the help of the cloud, without the customer needing to invest in peak-load capacity. CSC charges the same for either service--on premises or in the cloud--eliminating a lot of internal customer debate over which form of service is better.
Bhargava said Vblocks--sets of Cisco servers optimized for virtualization, and including storage and network switching--are good at running dissimilar workloads. CSC is running big virtual desktop installations alongside SAP applications and scientific/engineering applications for its customers.
The integrated components have a management software layer--with an API behind it--that provides a single doorway to all three Vblock resources, virtual servers, networking, and storage. Without close collaboration between the three primary suppliers, that API doorway can't be built. That allows CSC to layer in a "self-service portal and access structure," which in turn leads to more-automated CSC infrastructure operations, Bhargava says.