VMaware.biz – The Coming of Cloud Aware Applications

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The Future of Web Apps

Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

In this great blog from Mike Vizard he describes how IT vendors are engineering their products to directly become a more integral part of the Cloud.

“For that reason, we’re seeing the emergence of application-aware storage services in the cloud. For example, StorSimple has created cloud computing software that is aware of Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server.”

In other words this new generation of software, Cloud Applications, can be thought of as “Cloud Aware”.

VMaware – Enabling Cloud Applications

This same principle is what defines the core product strategy for our VMaware start-up, ie. Create applications that are “VM Aware”, they’re engineered to naturally be a part of a VM environment, and can automate their own operations accordingly.

VM Aware Cloud Applications are enterprise IT products that have been enhanced to exploit the distributed Virtual Machine (VM) environment that exists collectively both internally (Private Clouds) or on external providers (Public Clouds). All it requires is:

  • Baseline SAN or NAS storage resources to support a virtual file system for applications
  • A VM service provider interface compatible with the JClouds standard

An example is Rackspace Cloud Files, which provides a simple file store service on top of their Cloud. Our Esotera Distributed Storage system offers the same, and more. It provides the complete provisioning and billing infrastructure to deliver a highly secure, scalable, portable and verifiable unstructured data storage solution to an enterprise customer from baseline Cloud computing components, straight forward NAS or SAN storage that can support a virtual file system.

VM Aware will be further developed to achieve the same for other applications, providing a unified framework to move any other product “into the Cloud” the same way. It’s a set of APIs, design patterns and skeleton code that build Agent behavior into existing applications that enable them to automate and manage their deployment within VM environments, giving their applications the ability to automatically scale themselves as needed.

VM Aware is mainly analogous to the concept of a “Cloud Orchestrator” as identified in the Cisco white paper, ‘Casting a Ray of Sunshine on Cloud computing‘ (10-page PDF), acting as a Virtual Machine Operating System that can be provisioned and metered remotely, and can then automate delivery of a selection of Cloud Applications that can be distributed as VM images.

SMDP – Virtual Machine Privacy

A core component part of VMaware is the SMDP protocol that will be developed : Session Managed Data Privacy, to help address the core issue currently holding up the explosive adoption of Cloud: Data Privacy in multi-tenancy environments.

SMDP acts as a platform for Cloud Applications, where it can be used to provide “Cloud Secured” IaaS like storage for MS Sharepoint, Exchange and other popular apps.

This will help ensure the security of the ‘multi-tenant’ software architecture that Cloud providers operate, nicely illustrated in this video from Bret Hartman, CTO of RSA. As Bret explains, the key function of organizations adopting Cloud services is that they ‘extend their security perimeter’.

The ‘SMDP’ protocol is intended to provide a ‘secure bridge’ between the private Cloud in the enterprise data-centre for this purpose, and the low-cost storage IaaS operated by Cloud providers.

Through its virtual file system SMDP establishes a secure “data plane” layer between the corporate applications and VM hardware operated internally or leased from service providers.

It reads and writes files only from a secure distributed file system that is unreachable by the VM hypervisor stack and therefore other tenants of the physical hardware on which the VM resides.

Conclusion

This secures the relationship between the Vitual Machines and the disk storage they will use to satisfy the applications they are running. This is particularly suited for ‘unstructured content’, the terabytes of uncontrolled Word files and spreadsheets proliferated across corporate laptops.

This aligns with the view analysts like Gartner are painting about what’s occuring in the real-world, and it’s these specific points that we are designing VM Aware around, most notably:

the current business issues (not the hype) are really about (in order of currency and importance):

1. Maintaining security when the data center goes virtual, both VMWare and SAN issues.
2. Being told “We are going to consume ‘X as a Service’ – go make sure it is secure.

3. A narrower version of (2): “We are looking at Microsoft BPOS or Google Apps Premier Edition for email/office productivity as a service – is anyone like us doing that? If so, what about security?

4. User desire to use consumer-grade services, like free online backup or other advertising support online offerings.

Here is the first draft of the white paper that introduces the Cloud Venture ‘VM Aware’. VM Aware – An Architecture for Enterprise Cloud Computing (11 page PDF).

This will be used to position the technology as part of the venture development process, and also to start the materials we use for promoting and selling Cloud professional services.

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