Tuesday Nov 20, 2012

I.T. Chargeback : Core to Cloud Computing

Contributed by Mark McGill

Consolidation and Virtualization have been widely adopted over the years to help deliver benefits such as increased server utilization, greater agility and lower cost to the I.T. organization. These are key enablers of cloud, but in themselves they do not provide a complete cloud solution. Building a true enterprise private cloud involves moving from an admin driven world, where the I.T. department is ultimately responsible for the provisioning of servers, databases, middleware and applications, to a world where the consumers of I.T. resources can provision their infrastructure, platforms and even complete application stacks on demand.

Switching from an admin-driven provisioning model to a user-driven model creates some challenges. How do you ensure that users provisioning resources will not provision more than they need? How do you encourage users to return resources when they have finished with them so that others can use them?

While chargeback has existed as a concept for many years (especially in mainframe environments), it is the move to this self-service model that has created a need for a new breed of chargeback applications for cloud. Enabling self-service without some form of chargeback is like opening a shop where all of the goods are free.

A successful chargeback solution will be able to allocate the costs of shared I.T. infrastructure based on the relative consumption by the users. Doing this creates transparency between the I.T. department and the consumers of I.T. When users are able to understand how their consumption translates to cost they are much more likely to be prudent when it comes to their use of I.T. resources. This also gives them control of their I.T. costs, as moderate usage will translate to a lower charge at the end of the month. Implementing Chargeback successfully create a win-win situation for I.T. and the consumers. Chargeback can help to ensure that I.T. resources are used for activities that deliver business value. It also improves the overall utilization of I.T. infrastructure as I.T. resources that are not needed are not left running idle.

Enterprise Manager 12c provides an integrated metering and chargeback solution for Enterprise Manager Targets. This solution is built on top of the rich configuration and utilization information already available in Enterprise Manager. It provides metering not just for virtual machines, but also for physical hosts, databases and middleware.

Enterprise Manager 12c provides metering based on the utilization and configuration of the following types of Enterprise Manager Target:

  • Oracle VM
  • Host
  • Oracle Database
  • Oracle WebLogic Server

Using Enterprise Manager Chargeback, administrators are able to create a set of Charge Plans that are used to attach prices to the various metered resources. These plans can contain fixed costs (eg. $10/month/database), configuration based costs (eg. $10/month if OS is Windows) and utilization based costs (eg. $0.05/GB of Memory/hour)

The self-service user provisioning these resources is then able to view a report that details their usage and helps them understand how this usage translates into cost. Armed with this information, the user is able to determine if the resources are delivering adequate business value based on what is being charged.

Figure 1: Chargeback in Self-Service Portal

Enterprise Manager 12c provides a variety of additional interfaces into this data. The administrator can access summary and trending reports. Summary reports allow the administrator to drill-down through the cost center hierarchy to identify, for example, the top resource consumers across the organization.


Figure 2: Charge Summary Report

Trending reports can be used for I.T. planning and budgeting as they show utilization and charge trends over a period of time.


Figure 3: CPU Trend Report

We also provide chargeback reports through BI Publisher. This provides a way for users who do not have an Enterprise Manager login (such as Line of Business managers) to view charge and usage information. For situations where a bill needs to be produced, chargeback can be integrated with billing applications such as Oracle Billing and Revenue Management (BRM).

Further information on Enterprise Manager 12c’s integrated metering and chargeback:

Wednesday Nov 14, 2012

Slap the App on the VM for every private cloud solution! Really ?

One of the key attractions of the general session "Managing Enterprise Private Cloud" at Oracle OpenWorld 2012 was an interactive role play depicting how to address some of the key challenges of planning, deploying and managing an enterprise private cloud. It was a face-off between Don DeVM, IT manager at a fictitious enterprise 'Vulcan' and Ed Muntz, the Enterprise Manager hero .

 


Don DeVM is really excited about the efficiency and cost savings from virtualization. The success he enjoyed from the infrastructure virtualization made him believe that for all cloud service delivery models ( database, testing or applications as-a-service ), he has a single solution - slap the app on the VM and here you go .

However, Ed Muntz believes in delivering cloud services that allows the business units and enterprise users to manage the complete lifecycle of the cloud services they are providing, for example, setting up cloud, provisioning it to users through a self-service portal ,  managing and tuning the performance, monitoring and applying patches for database or applications.

Watch the video of the face-off , see how Don and Ed address s
ome of the key challenges of planning, deploying and managing an enterprise private cloud and be the judge !


Thursday Nov 08, 2012

HDFC Bank's Journey to Oracle Private Database Cloud

One of the key takeaways from a recent post by Sushil Kumar is the importance of business initiative that drives the transformational journey from legacy IT to enterprise private cloud. The journey that leads to a agile, self-service and efficient infrastructure with reduced complexity and enables IT to deliver services more closely aligned with business requirements.

Nilanjay Bhattacharjee, AVP, IT of HDFC Bank presented a real-world case study based on one such initiative in his Oracle OpenWorld session titled "HDFC BANK Journey into Oracle Database Cloud with EM 12c DBaaS". The case study highlighted in this session is from HDFC Bank’s Lending Business Segment, which comprises roughly 50% of Bank’s top line. Bank’s Lending Business is always under pressure to launch “New Schemes” to compete and stay ahead in this segment and IT has to keep up with this challenging business requirement. Lending related applications are highly dynamic and go through constant changes and every single and minor change in each related application is required to be thoroughly UAT tested certified before they are certified for production rollout. This leads to a constant pressure in IT for rapid provisioning of UAT databases on an ongoing basis to enable faster time to market.

Nilanjay joined Sushil Kumar, VP, Product Strategy, Oracle, during the Enterprise Manager general session at Oracle OpenWorld 2012. Let's watch what Nilanjay had to say about their recent Database cloud deployment.

“Agility” in launching new business schemes became the key business driver for private database cloud adoption in the Bank. Nilanjay spent an hour discussing it during his session. Let's look at why Database-as-a-Service(DBaaS) model was need of the hour in this case  -

  • Average 3 days to provision UAT Database for Loan Management Application
  • Silo’ed UAT environment with Average 30% utilization
  • Compliance requirement consume UAT testing resources
  • DBA activities leads to $$ paid to SI for provisioning databases manually
  • Overhead in managing configuration drift between production and test environments
  • Rollout impact/delay on new business initiatives

The private database cloud implementation progressed through 4 fundamental phases - Standardization, Consolidation, Automation, Optimization of UAT infrastructure. Project scoping was carried out and end users and stakeholders were engaged early on right from planning phase and including all phases of implementation.

  • Standardization and Consolidation phase involved multiple iterations of planning to first standardize on infrastructure, db versions, patch levels, configuration, IT processes etc and with database level consolidation project onto Exadata platform. It was also decided to have existing AIX UAT DB landscape covered and EM 12c DBaaS solution being platform agnostic supported this model well.
  • Automation and Optimization phase provided the necessary Agility, Self-Service and efficiency and this was made possible via EM 12c DBaaS. EM 12c DBaaS Self-Service/SSA Portal was setup with required zones, quotas, service templates, charge plan defined. There were 2 zones implemented - Exadata zone  primarily for UAT and benchmark testing for databases running on Exadata platform and second zone was for AIX setup to cover other databases those running on AIX. Metering and Chargeback/Showback capabilities provided business and IT the framework for cloud optimization and also visibility into cloud usage.

More details on UAT cloud implementation, related building blocks and EM 12c DBaaS solution are covered in Nilanjay's OpenWorld session here.

Some of the key Benefits achieved from UAT cloud initiative are -

  • New business initiatives can be easily launched due to rapid provisioning of UAT Databases [ ~3 hours ]
  • Drastically cut down $$ on SI for DBA Activities due to Self-Service
  • Effective usage of infrastructure leading to  better ROI
  • Empowering  consumers to provision database using Self-Service
  • Control on project schedule with DB end date aligned to project plan submitted during provisioning
  • Databases provisioned through Self-Service are monitored in EM and auto configured for Alerts and KPI
  • Regulatory requirement of database does not impact existing project in queue

This table below shows typical list of activities and tasks involved when a end user requests for a UAT database. EM 12c DBaaS solution helped reduce UAT database provisioning time from roughly 3 days down to 3 hours and this timing also includes provisioning time for database with production scale data (ranging from 250 G to 2 TB of data) -


And it's not just about time to provision,  this initiative has enabled an agile, efficient and transparent UAT environment where end users are empowered with real control of cloud resources and IT's role is shifted as enabler of strategic services instead of being administrator of all user requests. The strong collaboration between IT and business community right from planning to implementation to go-live has played the key role in achieving this common goal of enterprise private cloud. Finally, real cloud is here and this cloud is accompanied with rain (business benefits) as well !

For more information, please go to Oracle Enterprise Manager  web page or  follow us at : 

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Tuesday Nov 06, 2012

FOUR questions to ask if you are implementing DATABASE-AS-A-SERVICE

During my ongoing tenure at Oracle, I have met all types of DBAs. Happy DBAs, unhappy DBAs, proud DBAs, risk-loving DBAs, cautious DBAs. These days, as Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) becomes more mainstream, I find some complacent DBAs who are basking in their achievement of having implemented DBaaS. Some others, however, are not that happy. They grudgingly complain that they did not have much of a say in the implementation, they simply had to follow what their cloud architects (mostly infrastructure admins) offered them. In most cases it would be a database wrapped inside a VM that would be labeled as “Database as a Service”. In other cases, it would be existing brute-force automation simply exposed in a portal. As much as I think that there is more to DBaaS than those approaches and often get tempted to propose Enterprise Manager 12c, I try to be objective. Neither do I want to dampen the spirit of the happy ones, nor do I want to stoke the pain of the unhappy ones. As I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t deny vanilla automation could be useful. I like virtualization too for what it has helped us accomplish in terms of resource management, but we need to scrutinize its merit on a case-by-case basis and apply it meaningfully.

For DBAs who either claim to have implemented DBaaS or are planning to do so, I simply want to provide four key questions to ponder about:

1. Does it make life easier for your end users?

Database-as-a-Service can have several types of end users. Junior DBAs, QA Engineers, Developers- each having their own skillset. The objective of DBaaS is to make their life simple, so that they can focus on their core responsibilities without having to worry about additional stuff. For example, if you are a Developer using Oracle Application Express (APEX), you want to deal with schema, objects and PL/SQL code and not with datafiles or listener configuration. If you are a QA Engineer needing database copies for functional testing, you do not want to deal with underlying operating system patching and compliance issues.

The question to ask, therefore, is, whether DBaaS makes life easier for those users. It is often convenient to give them VM shells to deal with a la Amazon EC2 IaaS, but is that what they really want? Is it a productive use of a developer's time if he needs to apply RPM errata to his Linux operating system. Asking him to keep the underlying operating system current is like making a guest responsible for a restaurant's decor.

2. Does it make life easier for your administrators?

Cloud, in general, is supposed to free administrators from attending to mundane tasks like provisioning services for every single end user request. It is supposed to enable a readily consumable platform and enforce standardization in the process. For example, if a Service Catalog exposes DBaaS of specific database versions and configurations, it, by its very nature, enforces certain discipline and standardization within the IT environment. What if, instead of specific database configurations, cloud allowed each end user to create databases of their liking resulting in hundreds of version and patch levels and thousands of individual databases.

Therefore the right question to ask is whether the unwanted consequence of DBaaS is OS and database sprawl. And if so, who is responsible for tracking them, backing them up, administering them? Studies have shown that these administrative overheads increase exponentially with new targets, and it could result in a management nightmare.

That leads us to our next question.

3. Does it satisfy your Security Officers and Compliance Auditors?

Compliance Auditors need to know who did what and when. They also want the cloud platform to be secure, so that end users have little freedom in tampering with it. Dealing with VM sprawl is not the easiest of challenges, let alone dealing with them as they keep getting reconfigured and moved around. This leads to the proverbial needle in the haystack problem, and all it needs is one needle to cause a serious compliance issue in the enterprise.

Bottomline is, flexibility and agility should not come at the expense of compliance and it is very important to get the balance right. Can we have security and isolation without creating compliance challenges? Instead of a ‘one size fits all approach’ i.e. OS level isolation, can we think smartly about database isolation or schema based isolation? This is where the appropriate resource modeling needs to be applied. The usual systems management vendors out there with heterogeneous common-denominator approach have compromised on these semantics.

If you follow Enterprise Manager’s DBaaS solution, you will see that we have considered different models, not precluding virtualization, for different customer use cases. The judgment to use virtual assemblies versus databases on physical RAC versus Schema-as-a-Service in a single database, should be governed by the need of the applications and not by putting compliance considerations in the backburner.

4. Does it satisfy your CIO?

Finally, does it satisfy your higher ups? As the sponsor of cloud initiative, the CIO is expected to lead an IT transformation project, not merely a run-of-the-mill IT operations. Simply virtualizing server resources and delivering them through self-service is a good start, but hardly transformational. CIOs may appreciate the instant benefit from server consolidation, but studies have revealed that the ROI from consolidation would flatten out at 20-25%. The question would be: what next?

As we go higher up in the stack, the need to virtualize, segregate and optimize shifts to those layers that are more palpable to the business users. As Sushil Kumar noted in his blog post, " the most important thing to note here is the enterprise private cloud is not just an IT project, rather it is a business initiative to create an IT setup that is more aligned with the needs of today's dynamic and highly competitive business environment." Business users could not care less about infrastructure consolidation or virtualization - they care about business agility and service level assurance.

Last but not the least, lot of CIOs get miffed if we ask them to throw away their existing hardware investments for implementing DBaaS. In Oracle, we always emphasize on freedom of choosing a platform; hence Enterprise Manager’s DBaaS solution is platform neutral. It can work on any Operating System (that the agent is certified on) Oracle’s hardware as well as 3rd party hardware.

As a parting note, I urge you to remember these 4 questions. Remember that your satisfaction as an implementer lies in the satisfaction of others.

Monday Nov 05, 2012

Clouds Everywhere But not a Drop of Rain – Part 3

I was sharing with you how a broad-based transformation such as cloud will increase agility and efficiency of an organization if process re-engineering is part of the plan.  I have also stressed on the key enterprise requirements such as “broad and deep solutions, “running your mission critical applications” and “automated and integrated set of capabilities”. Let me walk you through some key cloud attributes such as “elasticity” and “self-service” and what they mean for an enterprise class cloud. I will also talk about how we at Oracle have taken a very enterprise centric view to developing cloud solutions and how our products have been specifically engineered to address enterprise cloud needs.

Cloud Elasticity and Enterprise Applications Requirements

Easy and quick scalability for a short-period of time is the signature of cloud based solutions. It is this elasticity that allows you to dynamically redistribute your resources according to business priorities, helps increase your overall resource utilization, and reduces operational costs by allowing you to get the most out of your existing investment.

Most public clouds are offering a instant provisioning mechanism of compute power (CPU, RAM, Disk), customer pay for the instance-hours(and bandwidth) they use, adding computing resources at peak times and removing them when they are no longer needed. This type of “just-in-time” serving of compute resources is well known for mid-tiers “state less” servers such as web application servers and web servers that just need another machine to start and run on it but what does it really mean for an enterprise application and its underlying data? Most enterprise applications are not as quite as “state less” and justifiably so. As such, how do you take advantage of cloud elasticity and make it relevant for your enterprise apps? This is where Cloud meets Grid Computing.

At Oracle, we have invested enormous amount of time, energy and resources in creating enterprise grid solutions. All our technology products offer built-in elasticity via clustering and dynamic scaling. With products like Real Application Clusters (RAC), Automatic Storage Management, WebLogic Clustering, and Coherence In-Memory Grid, we allow all your enterprise applications to benefit from Cloud elasticity –both vertically and horizontally - without requiring any application changes.

A number of technology vendors take a rather simplistic route of starting up additional or removing unneeded VM as the "Cloud Scale-Out" solution. While this may work for stateless mid-tier servers where load balancers can handle the addition and remove of instances transparently but following a similar approach for the database tier - often called as "database sharding" - requires significant application modification and typically does not work with off the shelf packaged applications. Technologies like Oracle Database Real Application Clusters, Automatic Storage Management, etc. on the other hand bring the benefits of incremental scalability and on-demand elasticity to ANY application by providing a simplified abstraction layers where the application does not need deal with data spread over multiple database instances. Rather they just talk to a single database and the database software takes care of aggregating resources across multiple hardware components. It is the technologies like these that truly make a cloud solution relevant for enterprises. 

For customers who are looking for a next generation hardware consolidation platform, our engineered systems (e.g. Exadata, Exalogic) not only provide incredible amount of performance and capacity, they also reduce the data center complexity and simplify operations.

Assemble, Deploy and Manage Enterprise Applications for Cloud

Products like Oracle Virtual assembly builder (OVAB) resolve the complex problem of bringing the cloud speed to complex multi-tier applications. With assemblies, you can not only provision all components of a multi-tier application and wire them together by push of a button, other aspects of application lifecycle, such as real-time application testing, scale-up/scale-down, performance and availability monitoring, etc., are also automated using Oracle Enterprise Manager. 

An essential criteria for an enterprise cloud to succeed is the ability to ensure business service levels especially when business users have either full visibility on the usage cost with a “show back” or a “charge back”. With Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c, we have created the most comprehensive cloud management solution in the industry that is capable of managing business service levels “applications-to-disk” in a enterprise private cloud – all from a single console. It is the only cloud management platform in the industry that allows you to deliver infrastructure, platform and application cloud services out of the box. Moreover, it offers integrated and complete lifecycle management of the cloud - including planning and set up, service delivery, operations management, metering and chargeback, etc .  Sounds unbelievable? Well, just watch this space for more details on how Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c is the nerve center of Oracle Cloud!

Our cloud solution portfolio is also the broadest and most deep in the industry  - covering public, private, hybrid, Infrastructure, platform and applications clouds. It is no coincidence therefore that the Oracle Cloud today offers the most comprehensive set of public cloud services in the industry.  And to a large part, this has been made possible thanks to our years on investment in creating cloud enabling technologies. 

Summary 

But the intent of this blog post isn't to dwell on how great our solutions are (these are just some examples to illustrate how we at Oracle have approached this problem space). Rather it is to help you ask the right questions before you embark on your cloud journey.  So to summarize, here are the key takeaways.      

  • It is critical that you are clear on why you are building the cloud. Successful organizations keep business benefits as the first and foremost cloud objective. On the other hand, those who approach this purely as a technology project are more likely to fail.
  • Think about where you want to be in 3-5 years before you get started. Your long terms objectives should determine what your first step ought to be. As obvious as it may seem, more people than not make the first move without knowing where they are headed. 
  • Don’t make the mistake of equating cloud to virtualization and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Spinning a VM on-demand will give some short term relief to your IT staff but is unlikely to solve your larger business problems. As such, even if IaaS is your first step towards a more comprehensive cloud, plan the roadmap around those higher level services before you begin. And ask your vendors on how they are going to be your partners in this journey.
  • Capabilities like self-service access and chargeback/showback are absolutely critical if you really expect your cloud to be transformational. Your business won't see the full benefits of the cloud until it empowers them with same kind of control and transparency that they are used to while using a public cloud service. 
  • Evaluate the benefits of integration, as opposed to blindly following the best-of-breed strategy. Integration is a huge challenge and more so in a cloud environment. There are enormous costs associated with stitching a solution out of disparate components and even more in maintaining it.

Hope you found these ideas helpful. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.

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