The past few Tech Talks have been around the infrastructure building blocks of the software defined data center (SDDC).  Today we are going to tackle a real use case for the SDDC and give an example of a vendor offering a solution to this business challenge.

Software development and test has always been a challenge for the infrastructure.  Development cycles have many challenges from not having enough developer resources to not having the agility or infrastructure resources to meet the needs of a fast moving development cycle.  Basically, most enterprises lack the elasticity to meet the business needs of software test and development.  This is where Cloud computing can come in and add some muscle.

For cloud providers such as Google and AWS, these types of cycles are not a challenge from a resource perspective.  You can go to having no infrastructure resources for test and development to having hundreds of VM’s to support a bug fix or leverage a significant opportunity via a product enhancement.  However, if you watched episode 19, you’ll remember there are hidden costs and administrative overhead to moving from one model of compute (say VMware) to another such as Google’s IaaS platform.  The service models are different and require a translation layer.  The layer is provided in the form of engineers performing changes to the application that will fit the design of the Cloud infrastructure.  This has the opposite effect of speeding development cycles.  You may gain the resources needed, but waste precious developer resources modifying the application for the infrastructure.

Even when developing applications designed for non-cloud environments, the desire is to hide as much of the infrastructure from the developer as possible.  The developer only cares about the availability and quality of service of the infrastructure as it pertains to the application resources.  This is being “Nested” virtualization or the abstracted data center comes into play to provide SDDC capability.

Instead of designing an application development environment around the infrastructure what if you could just lift the application “as is” into your preferred Cloud provider’s infrastructure?  This is exactly what Ravello Systems allows for you today.  Ravello’s solution creates a VMware compatible hypervisor that sits atop of a 3rd party service provider such as Amazon.  The basic concept is that you upload the native VM files (OVS or VMDK) the make up the application and Ravello creates an environment that mimics your production environment.  This includes all of the networking, VM’s and storage needed to run the application.

Of course, since this is basically virtualization running inside of virtualization you can’t expect production performance but it’s perfectly adequate for test and dev.  What makes Ravello’s solution more than just virtualization are the controls provided by the platform.  Ravello allows complete administration of the environment from both an administrative console and a set of REST API’s.  This means you could front end your virtual environment with OpenStack or VMware vCloud Automation Center (vCAC).  This allows self-provisioning of entire test environments directly from the application developer without ever talking to an infrastructure engineer.

As vendors such as Ravello continue to add value atop of traditional virtualization and Cloud providers performance options continue to improve, I start to accept that the SDDC isn’t vaporware.

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