This is the first blog in a series on NetApp IT journey to the hybrid cloud. To read other blogs in the series, click on these links:

Cloud is a major industry disruptor that is forcing IT to rapidly shift from its old operating models to acting as a value-added service provider for the business. The cloud is also generating a huge change in user expectations versus what the traditional IT shops used to deliver.

NetApp IT’s vision is to excel at service delivery, including leveraging a hybrid cloud strategy. We want to empower our business and development communities to deliver on their goals as easily and quickly as possible. (See my previous blog on our hybrid cloud strategy.)

An early consideration for us when delivering hybrid cloud architectures was to ascertain what user experience we were trying to deliver before we designed the solution. A great example of this approach is the iPhone; the design of the device started with the user experience, and the technology followed. Our focus on the user experience of hybrid cloud solutions led us to define the following considerations;

    • What services and use cases do we want to deliver?
    • How do we prioritize the services we deliver?  How do we handle the tradeoffs between features and quality?
    • How do we want our users to consume and track these services as well as perform lifecycle management?
    • How do we deliver a consistent user experience across different public and private clouds?

Our vision is for IT to be a one-stop shop for all our users, irrespective of the service delivery platform-public cloud or private cloud (data centers). We visualized a process where our users would log into a central self-service portal, pick an item from the services catalog, and then get it delivered across any of the clouds we orchestrate. Throughout all steps of the process, the user experience would be at the center.

Centralized Self-Service Portal.png

Central Self-Service Portal

We designed a single user Interface for user interaction. Users can consume and manage (start, stop, terminate, modify, etc.) their cloud services in this one-stop portal. The interface abstracts or masks all clouds and service providers from our users.

It works like this. First, users pick a catalog item and populate the corresponding form (metadata fields). An automated workflow/blueprint uses this metadata to automatically select the right cloud (private or public) and then provision it. Metadata fields are designed to be business and application centric, not technology oriented. The metadata information is used for:

    • Service provisioning (required for right sizing-e.g., S, M, L, XL, etc.);
    • Services routing (required for selecting the right cloud-e.g., Amazon Web Services (AWS), private, etc.); and
    • Service tracking (required for service support and lifecycle management-e.g., chargeback, CMDB, etc.).

portal screen cap.png

Unified Services Catalog

A well-defined services catalog is the key to any successful self-service model. We have built a range of service categories over time as part of our catalog. We offer Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) services across our cloud portfolio. Users can consume individual IaaS components (compute, network, storage) or they can choose a three-tier application stack (web, application, and database layers) from the AppStacks catalog.

We developed a unified services catalog, which means we have common service definitions across all cloud providers. For example, users ordering a Medium-Windows-2012 compute system don’t need to learn the AWS or Azure catalog/naming for that service. Our orchestration engine maps the specification to the correct catalog item. All back-end mappings and updates are transparent to our users.

Consistent User Experience

With a central self-service portal and a unified services catalog, we have been able to build a hybrid cloud platform based on our desired user experience. Automation allows us to integrate governance, streamline the delivery process, and minimize user touch points. Since we’ve implemented the portal, we’ve seen a 98 percent faster service delivery on average-from 24 hours to less than 30 minutes. Our users are more satisfied, and IT has more time to focus on other new projects. In this way, everyone wins.

The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.

Kamal Vyas