Cloud Is Changing the IT Landscape - Q&A with VMware's Mathew Lodge

VMworld 2015 will take place August 30 – September 3 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, bringing together thought leaders, subject matter experts, and IT professionals to drill down on the latest advances in virtualization and cloud technology. Mathew Lodge, vice president of product marketing, Cloud Services, VMware, discussed the conference whose theme is “Ready for Any,” best practices for cloud strategies, and the changes taking place today in IT infrastructure. 

Mathew LodgeCloud seems to be reaching a tipping point. Do the majority of VMware clients have a formal cloud strategy in place at this point?

Lodge: Cloud is the next platform shift in IT, and almost all VMware clients have adopted a cloud strategy. It is important to understand the reason behind cloud adoption and what approach will be adopted, and we offer this knowledge and counsel to our customers.

Across industries, there is a variation on how formal the cloud strategy is. Typically what happens is some part of the business wants to accelerate cloud adoption and they initiate a cloud project. Organizations get a taste for cloud, then they look for greater adoption and a more formal strategy.

My recommendation is to develop the cloud strategy in iterative stages, first addressing important-but-not-critical business cases where moving and delivering quickly is valued. Don’t pick something that is fragile or critical where uptime or some metric other than speed is more important.  The IT department should play a central role in collaborating in the choice of cloud platform, adding value around cloud operations, security and integration.

Where on the path would you say most VMware customers are in their move to cloud computing?

Lodge: The hybrid cloud approach is quickly becoming the industry standard. Organizations see hybrid cloud either as the destination or a critical part of the journey to public cloud adoption.

Almost all VMware customers see hybrid cloud in their future and are at the very least experimenting with private and/or public cloud in parallel. Many customers are looking at the pros and cons of private versus public in terms of effort and return, and looking at ways to reduce the cost and complexity both inside their own data centers and by using public cloud.

How is this progressing?

Lodge: VMware has customers that do not want to own their own data centers long term. These IT executives see hybrid cloud as a faster way to get to an efficient public cloud deployment. This is the minority, however. Most believe they will need to operate public cloud and their own data centers alongside each other for the foreseeable future.

Nearly all of the early majority have at least one application in public cloud. Highly regulated industries and those with high IT complexity are somewhat behind given the non-technical hurdles they face.

Our customers see a difference between “multi-cloud,” which is merely two or more clouds with little to nothing in common, and hybrid cloud where there is commonality of approach between public and private. That might mean sharing management tooling, security and networking constructs, and application execution environments.

What are the biggest challenges customers are facing with their cloud environments?

Lodge: There are unique challenges for both private and public cloud environments. Deploying a private cloud is a substantive expenditure of resources and time. IT organizations that succeed, however, are seen as much more valuable by their business counterparts in helping the organization move faster. Other benefits include greater control over security, auditability and resourcing.

With public cloud, organizations can run into challenges like compatibility issues, long-term application-level lock-in and migration challenges. Despite this, public clouds have great benefits including not having to worry about the underlying infrastructure, greater elasticity, a transparent view on the costs of running an application through metered billing, and a raft of services (e.g., databases as a service) that make it easier and simpler to deploy, iterate and manage an application.

Do your larger enterprise customers tend to take different routes than smaller companies?

Lodge: Large enterprises tend to have a more complex IT infrastructure and applications. Application integration and extension challenges are much more significant for them. Small and midsize businesses tend to be much more aggressive in public cloud adoption because they generally have lower complexity and they see immediate benefits in not having to manage infrastructure. The business always wants to do more with the same staffing level, so it’s a fast way to free up cycles to focus more on serving the business. They can also get much more sophisticated security controls and approaches from cloud providers than is financially viable for their own infrastructure.

A universal challenge is that all systems are interconnected: No application is an island. In an existing business, there really is no such thing as an isolated app that does anything of value and the opportunity for “clean slate” apps is very limited. So integration challenges, re-architecting systems to decompose them into smaller pieces and re-writes require support from the cloud provider.

Larger companies are more likely to deploy a private cloud because they have the resources to do so. They also typically have far deeper pockets and the scale to make significant private infrastructure builds efficient.

Is Docker container technology more meaningful to certain customers in their move to the cloud?

Lodge: Docker technology dramatically simplifies Linux application deployments today, and appeals to developers looking to simplify open source-based development projects. In the future this may also apply to Windows workloads, but today it’s exclusively Linux.

VMware has addressed some of the operational considerations: the objective is to provide enterprise IT customers with solutions that combine the application lifecycle speed and environment interoperability of the Docker platform with the security, reliability and management of VMware infrastructure. 

What does it allow?

Lodge: Containers give organizations a portable application format that is self-contained and quick to start while being smaller than an entire VM, stripping out the OS component. Because of that portability, containers are an excellent hybrid cloud technology for mixed on-premises and off-premises deployments.

The challenges of Docker are more operational: How to manage security, networking and storage integrations, how does identity work, how are containers automated?

With all the recent high-profile breaches, is security factoring in more to conversations about the cloud or IT infrastructure in general?

Lodge: In many ways, cloud environments are more secure than traditional IT systems. Security has always been a part of the conversation around the cloud. What’s interesting is that nearly all of the breaches have happened in private data centers rather than public clouds. The threat landscape for public cloud and on-premises apps is identical: the bad guys don’t care who owns the walls or servers. The critical thing is to have a transparent view of the security offered by your cloud provider (the controls they implement) and a contractual understanding of who does what in the event of a problem. What’s your responsibility as the app owner? What does the cloud provider cover? Then apply this equally to your own infrastructure as well as public cloud.

How is VMware dealing with security issues?

Lodge: VMware vCloud Air approaches security issues with a focus on compliance, industry best practices and transparency for our customers. We have completed a series of audits against industry-specific security standards such as ISO 27001, Cloud Security Alliance, HIPAA, HITECH, and others to demonstrate our compliance both in-general and for industries such as healthcare – with more to come.

When deploying in the cloud, customers need to consider what controls are in place, how the IT functions and what happens in case of an incident. VMware provides our customers with a set of controls and provides an agreement that lays out our responsivities and our customers responsibilities in case of an incident.

What are the next technologies or open source projects that you see as holding promise for the cloud?

Lodge: We are currently contributing to open source projects around cloud-native applications and containers. A lot of technologies are focusing on the developer, while we are focusing on the security and production. Two next generation technology examples are projects Photon and Bonneville.

Project Bonneville enables engineers to choose containers from the Docker Hub and then run them inside virtual machines, thanks to a feature in vSphere called Instant Clone. The benefit is that containers retain the deployment speed of a container, but gain the full isolation and security, network and storage management that a VM offers. It’s the best of both worlds.

Project Photon is a very small, lightweight Linux-based operating system for cloud-native applications. The project is optimized for VMware vSphere and VMware vCloud Air, providing an easy way for our customers to extend their current platform with VMware and run modern, distributed applications using containers.

VMware recently joined Google and the Linux Foundation, among others in the Cloud Native Foundation. What do you hope to accomplish and why is the concept of cloud native applications important?

Lodge: Cloud is no longer just a way of doing computing, it is also an application architecture. Developers have started building cloud native applications and using cloud native architectures and patents to build more scalable and robust software, that is a natural fit with the flexibility of cloud.

VMware is continuing to push for open standards, interoperability and infrastructure that’s secure and scalable within the cloud with the agility of cross-platform interoperability.

VMworld 2015 U.S. is coming up August 30 to September 3 in San Francisco. Is there a central theme or focus for this year’s conference?

The theme for VMworld 2015 is “Ready for Any.” We want our customers to be ready with our one cloud, any application, any device architecture enabling them to develop, deploy and consume all applications, quickly and securely. This approach helps our customers innovate like a startup and execute like an enterprise, allowing them to transform business processes and operations with business mobility.

Will there be anything different this year from last?

Lodge: Developer Operations is taking center stage at VMworld this year. We are hosting a three-day event covering developer operations technology, solutions and leaders. Also, for the first time, we are going to have a hackathon. We are anticipating hundreds of developers to build applications for vCloud Air and customers. VMware views DevOps as a critical influencer in today's IT organization, enabling development teams to deliver applications faster with agility.

If you could give a client in the process of making cloud a bigger part of their infrastructure one key piece of advice what would it be?

Lodge: If you are considering adopting cloud, the priority is being smart about picking an important (but not mission critical) project where speed is a big win.

IT leaders need to equip themselves with the principles and best practices of cloud computing, then pick a project, focus on piloting that project and test, develop and optimize. Organizations should not pick something that is vital to the operations. Use the pilot as a learning experience. That is the best way to understand what cloud can and cannot do. 

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VMware made a slew of announcements during its annual VMworld conference which was held Aug. 30-Sept. 3 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The theme of this year's conference was "Ready for Any," and, in keeping with that tagline, the company's announcements spanned cloud deployments, data center, and devices.

Posted September 08, 2015