Under the Hood: Cloud and Data Center Orchestration and Management – Part 1

This blog continues a discussion of Quali Systems’ solutions for cloud and data center orchestration and management.

This time I had a chance to talk with Hans Ashlock, technical marketing manager of Quali Systems.

Hans Ashlock is pointing to a specified diagram to be created with Quali’s GUI.

My objective with the visit was twofold:

1.      Drill down to understand their products and solutions further

2.      See how their solutions can contribute to energy efficiency in multiple areas

Technical products and solutions can be described at many levels, ranging from the press release to hands-on details. When I went through their websites, I found several papers written at the level of function rather than implementation. My previous blog is about the same level.For this interview, I had more detailed questions to ask him, to get a better sense of the implementation of the software.

Regarding my second objective, because I found Quali Systems at a data center conference, I assumed that their only applicable segment was data centers. But I found out that more industry segments, such as utilities, can use their solutions.  IT can waste or save energy in many industry areas, including the IT segment, as well. My belief is that automation and management of clouds and data centers can reduce energy consumption, if IT is effectively applied in many industries as part of industry control systems (ICS).

So here goes.

Target markets

Even though they can be used for production, Quali Systems’ solutions are primarily targeted to the DevOps market. What this means is that Quali’s CloudShell is targeted at provisioning and orchestrating dynamic and complex environments that require provisioning a wide range of computing resources, such as memory, storage, processors, as well as networking and storage components, both virtual and physical. This is an important point.

In addition to the lab environment with development and testing, Hans shared another example. Typically, a large enterprise has an executive briefing center or Demo/PoC Center where it shows many different demonstrations to visitors. In such an environment, there is a lot of ICT equipment networked together. Each engineer must prepare an appropriate configuration for his/her specific demo. Each demo requires a variety of different configurations on-the-fly and a good use of shared resources. Quali’s solutions support such an environment effectively.

Configuration database

Before available resources can be used, they must be inventoried and the connectivity among them stored in a database. The configuration database contains information of a pool of resources, as shown in Figure 1.

Allocating necessary resources from a pool of shared resources

Quali’s solution automatically finds available resources (down to ports in a switch, OS types and versions, memory sizes, hypervisor types, storage sizes, middleware, and any other relevant information) by utilizing other networking and IT tools. Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) consists of many features, such as inventories, visualization, monitoring, and controlling. The DCIM inventory feature provides automated discovery of ICT equipment and can be used to provide inventory information.

Quali’s solutions and DCIM

A data center has several hardware and software solutions to inventory, automate, monitor, control, and manage. One way to do so is through data center infrastructure management (DCIM). I have written a few blogs on the subject. My understanding is that there are no established standards yet, and some components of DCIM, such as asset management, monitoring, and controlling, are provided by several vendors independently. There is a movement to put them together to provide a comprehensive solution. The easiest way to do this is to have standard interfaces. The next best thing is to publish APIs and write an interface (gateway) program to integrate multiple DCIM components.

Hans told me that some people confuse Quali’s solutions with DCIM. Quali is not planning to be a DCIM vendor, but their solutions are integrated with existing DCIM solutions (see Figure 2).

 

Figure 2: Quali’s solutions can be integrated with DCIM solutions by writing an interface program.

User interface look and feel

The information I got from Alex was at a high level. I was curious to find out how the graphical user interface (GUI) allows a developer to set his/her environment easily. Hans showed me an overall architecture diagram, but I keep it simple here. The user interface is web-based and interacts with several different components on the user and the server sides (see Figure 3).

 

Figure 3: The high-level system architecture.

Note that there can be multiple automation engines. This indicates that scalability is programmed into the system, supporting a large number of users. Also, when we deal with multiple data centers and clouds, each automation engine may run in each data center or cloud, even though that is not required.

Continued to Part 2

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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