Why EMC IT Is Going “All In” On Private Clouds – Part 5

This is the final part of a series of posts outlining how our IT organization started its aggressive journey to private clouds. Previously, I described IT’s strategy shift, the trigger for its urgency, navigating through “cloud fog,” and the unusual path IT decided upon.

In this post, we’ll take a look at EMC IT’s overall strategy for actually making this journey.

Roger, “Go” For Throttle-Up!

The key to getting executive buy-in for IT’s Private Cloud journey was keeping things simple: describe what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it—each on a single sheet of paper. At the end of my last post, IT had a single sheet for “why,” and a sheet for “what.” The final one-pager needed was an outline of IT’s plan for making all this happen.

Let’s get right to it. Let’s also set a bit of context. EMC IT is focusing first on building an internal cloud, and then moving on to using compatible partners. Because the Private Cloud external provider ecosystem is still in its infancy, the timing will probably work out pretty well.

EMC IT has six major programs underway to make our own Private Cloud real. The first five are focused on datacenter transformation. The sixth is a use case that some may feel is extra because it’s not something that’s already in our datacenter, but something entirely new. Our IT team views it as necessary for exploiting Private Cloud, though, and they’re convinced many of you will come to see it the same way.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these:

  1. Server Virtualization and Consolidation. The first wave was consolidating 1,250 physical servers down to 50. The second wave, currently underway, is consolidating 1,600 servers down to 40. Over 400 mission-critical applications are being migrated and virtualized as part of this, and 60 percent have already been completed.The goal: be 100 percent virtualized on the Intel platform—by the end of this year. It’s a bold goal. But EMC IT is confident they can get there, or at least close. The result: $13 million in cost avoidance, and $10 million in ongoing savings.
  2. Optimized storage and network virtualization. The goal here is to get to 100 percent virtualized storage by 2011. Using technologies like V-Max, we’re already well on our way there. Doing this enables IT to avoid purchasing an additional 1.5 petabytes of storage on top of the 6.5 petabytes we already manage today.
  3. Management and automation. Managing a virtualized infrastructure like a cloud, and not like a datacenter from 1997, presents a whole new set of challenges, but also some excitement. We’re out to reduce the number of tools we use to manage all this stuff—the bane of IT as far as EMC’s practitioners are concerned.As far as EMC IT is concerned, it’s ease of management that’s going to make a difference—and make or break Private Cloud. So EMC IT is engaged in weekly meetings with the Ionix team to provide feedback on features, functions, and ease of use.
  4. Security. How do we take the security we have in physical world, and transport that to the virtual world so we get same level of assurances, and the same level of compliance? Can we do even better in the virtual world? Our IT group is using every security and compliance product in RSA’s portfolio, including Archer.
  1. Applications and “Cloud Experience.” What experience do we want to present to users? How do we deliver it at scale, and consistently to all of our users around the world? EMC IT is building a virtual applications platform, and is looking to leverage SpringSource, vCloud and Atmos in creative ways to do so. It’s not clear yet (at least to yours truly) what’s being used where, when, and how; but the overall goal is to be able to provision services that traditionally took days, week, or even months in just hours or days.As IT staff goes about deploying new applications or capabilities, they’re constantly paying attention to how well they can deliver them at cloud scale, to any corner of the globe, with consistent performance.Oh, by the way, EMC IT also wants to enable self-service capabilities as soon as possible. As a corporate IT user, I must say that comes as a pleasant surprise. But it actually makes sense for IT, too. It’s the only way to get to cloud-like scale without an IT staff that dwarfs the rest of the employee population.
  2. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. VDI is the Number One use case for Private Cloud in EMC, according to EMC CIO Sanjay Mirchandani. We have a huge number of aging desktops, and we’ll need to replace them soon. Instead of doing that blindly, our IT group wants to enable choice. Allow users to use Mac, whatever device they want. VDI enables us to provide a user desktop experience independent of the device. In fact, our IT organization is striving to get to the ultimate model: “Bring Your Own PC.”Additionally, VDI offers a way to get out of the “Patch Tuesday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday” business. We want to get to where IT can patch once, and it’s used everywhere. So EMC IT wants to get to 100 percent virtualized desktops.

Ok, at this point, you may be thinking, “Yeah, fine. I get the whole Private Cloud thing. What apps do I put on it?” That’s a question worthy of a whole separate discussion. In a nutshell, the order our IT folks suggest would be applications your organization considers “business-supporting,” followed by “business-critical,” and then parts of “mission-critical” until you can get to 100 percent (if feasible).

That said, EMC IT is doing some of this backwards. They’re already working on putting the “tough stuff,” like Oracle on Vblocks. Why? To learn from the experience. Their thinking is, “If we can crack that nut, that’ll teach us a lot.” Our IT organization had Vblocks up and running before they were announced. They’re running a VDI pilot now. (And I’m participating. More on that in future posts.)

The Value of Private Cloud

These are bold programs, with bold goals. 100 percent virtualized servers. 100 percent virtualized storage. 100 percent virtualized desktops. Some in 2010, some in 2011, some in 2012. They’re not just cool but optional stuff separate from IT’s “day job,” either. Our CIO has made it clear EMC IT will not spend a dollar unless it’s aligned with this journey.

As a result, our IT at EMC is being built differently now. And it’s starting to be consumed differently. Conversations between IT staff and users about new applications have already changed. They no longer discuss how many servers or how many gigabytes are needed. It’s now about pooled resources instead of dedicated racks of iron one can touch.

Our IT leadership is also reexamining IT governance, asking some different questions that shake up traditional governance models. How do we bring applications into the cloud? How do we work with external Private Cloud providers? How do we work with public clouds in combination with our Private Cloud?

They’re also looking at evolving the human side of the IT organization. The lines of responsibility are blurring between the server administrator, storage administrator, database administrator, security administrator, and so on. As we move toward an increasing unified infrastructure view, who “gets to it first?” Whose responsibility is it to handle issues that are no longer clearly delineated among IT “cylinders of excellence?” They’re looking at cross-training people so they can expand beyond old boundaries, and better understand the larger context in which they apply their specialized expertise.

Ok, all of this sounds wonderful. But it’s supposed to be about returning business value, right? What value has EMC gained from this journey so far?

To start off, the journey from 2005 through 2009 was really about heavy server virtualization, storage optimization, and overall IT efficiencies. EMC realized about $12 million in cost savings, energy efficiency increased by 34 percent, storage utilitzation improved 19 percent, and we reduced EMC’s carbon footprint substantially. (This was verified independently by ESG in this report.)

The phase we’re in now, running from the middle of 2009 through this year, will gain EMC another $10 million in cost savings and $13 million in cost avoidance according to senior IT leaders’ projections. In 2011 and beyond, as our IT moves on to offer coherent cloud services, completes rolling out VDI and self-service provisioning—taking our IT infrastructure to a whole new level in a fairly short period of time—we anticipate even more gains in savings, worker productivity, and operational agility.

EMC’s IT leadership team hasn’t worked out the economics of the final phase yet. As soon as those numbers are ready, I’ll be sure to share them with you here.

About the Author: David Freund