Orchestration Takes the Cloud to New Heights

Leading vendors like Brocade, Big Switch Networks, and F5 are developing orchestration solutions aimed at making the cloud more than just a scaled-out data center.

By Arthur Cole | Posted Jun 4, 2013
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Cloud computing places many resources at the enterprise's fingertips. So many resources, in fact, that thoughtful minds might start to wonder, "How do we keep tabs on all of this?" More to the point, "How do we get all of our infrastructure, middleware, applications, and services to behave in a coordinated fashion?"

Ideally, enterprises will accomplish this in such a way that end users need never be without the resources they need to do their jobs, but without the extensive overprovisioning that drives up cost and complexity in the traditional data center. That's where cloud orchestration comes in.

Cloud orchestration has seen a flurry of activity lately, as enterprises of all stripes grow more comfortable in the cloud. Now the pressure is on to deliver a cohesive, end-to-end data environment before the cloud begins to take over mission-critical functions.

Big Switch Networks and F5 recently announced an integrated solution aimed at orchestrating private cloud networks in support of automated virtual workloads. The solution combines the Big Virtual Switch, the BIG-IP application delivery networking (ADN) services portfolio, and the OpenStack format to provide a unified orchestration layer that crosses multi-vendor environments. With tools like dynamic provisioning and support for the REST API and the OpenStack Horizon management dashboard, the vendors hope to provide a fully programmable cloud with intelligent network management and seamless application delivery.

Meanwhile, a company called fluidOps is utilizing the relatively new field of semantic technology to enable increasingly sophisticated cloud orchestration. The company’s eCloudManager stack promises to encode system relationships and interconnection programs separately from data, content, or application code, enabling a highly flexible, highly intuitive networking environment well suited to the fast-moving data exchanges that take place in the cloud. Brocade has already teamed up with fluidOps to implement cloud orchestration and network automation for EMC VSPEX environments aimed at SMEs.

In addition to its work with fluidOps, Brocade is also moving forward on the OpenStack platform with an eye toward furthering orchestration capabilities on the VCS fabric platform. The company has issued a new plugin for the OS Grizzly release that enables native VCS features like networking automation and elasticity for rapid deployment of cloud-based infrastructure. Brocade is also working with the OpenStack development community to devise a Fibre Channel blueprint for zone management and other functions for FC-based storage networks.

Orchestration is also emerging as a key component in new software defined networking (SDN) platforms. Juniper, for example, is out with a new Contrail controller designed to provide broad network automation and orchestration services across internal and external infrastructure. The move is somewhat risky for Juniper, since the system does not support the OpenFlow protocol backed by the networking community and as a key component to broadly interoperable virtual networks. However, Juniper expects to support OF on future SDN releases.

The rapid development of orchestration platforms provides evidence that the cloud is not merely a collection of disparate parts, but an integrated, organic entity that will grow and change with each passing generation. Leading cloud experts long ago gave up the notion that such a beast can be managed manually. Only a robust, dynamic automation system can drive the cloud to its full potential.

Without orchestration, the cloud is merely a scaled-out data center: useful in its own way, but not capable of fully meeting the demands of twenty-first century data environments. With orchestration, however, the cloud becomes a different story altogether.

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