Hewlett Packard (HP) Enterprise just refreshed two tools that help CIOs to manage services in a cloud environment. But what does cloud service orchestration mean, and why is it important?
Tools like OpenStack are useful for creating a cloud-based infrastructure, both inside and outside an organization’s premises. OpenStack typically handles the allocation and management of infrastructure, though. This provisioning of server, storage and compute capacity, along with things like load balancing, is infrastructure orchestration. That doesn’t mean much to the average user. There’s another part of the cloud computing story, and that’s service orchestration.
The true promise of cloud is the easy provisioning of services that run on this infrastructure, and that mean something to users. Here, we’re talking about the creation of new testing suites for developers, for example, the management of helpdesk tickets or the onboarding of a new employee account.
Service brokers sit atop cloud infrastructure management software to handle this. HP just refreshed two related products in its portfolio: HP Propel, and HP Service Anywhere. HP Propel makes services available to users in a catalogue, while Service Anywhere is a service management solution that adds support into the mix.
The products provide a service exchange that enables services to communicate across public and private cloud environments. They integrate with Helion, HP’s broader cloud service delivery portfolio, which is based on OpenStack.
Like competitor IBM Corp., HP sees hybrid cloud as a key part of the cloud services model in the future. The firm has published a range of third-party connectors, accessible via APIs, so that service providers can integrate their own software with its system.
“A good analogy of how this works in the consumer space is your email application on a mobile phone,” said Mark Milinkovich, director, product marketing, ITOM, at HP. “The type of email services being received to/from your phone could be coming from Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo mail, or others, and most important capabilities would be handled through my phone. In essence, the email application on the phone is handling hybrid (and heterogeneous) requests. Our brokerage solution works the same way.”
There are some potential challenges facing CIOs that want to cloud-enable their services, though. What about services provided by legacy infrastructure? These must be wrapped with a separate monitoring and policy layer, turning them into something that the cloud orchestration layer understands.
Secondly, what about user management? It’s all very well giving users self-driven access to IT services, but they have to be prevented from running amok and provisioning too much for themselves, putting undue strain on system resources. After all, even cloud infrastructure has its limits.
Milinkovich argues that there are two self-service models being promoted in the industry. The first is ‘self-reliant’. This involves making technical knowledge available to users in the form of technical specifications and best practice documents, but doesn’t allocate billable resources.
The second is the charge-back model, where users can make transactions for goods and services that come out of their budget.
“In the context of IT service management this is a service request, and is governed by the approvals and policies of the organization,” he said. This typically requires some kind of approval process, to ensure that the users’ departmental budget supports the request.
HP Propel is a service broker tool, which makes services available to different types of users based on policies set by a governing body within the company. It’s important to realize that making services available isn’t simply a case of publishing them on the catalogue, he points out.
The service is a series of workflows, starting with the service request and selection of the catalogue item through to fulfilment of the transaction. The service may itself require transactions with a variety of other systems.
The governing policies must be designed into the offer itself, Milinkovich said. “For example, if a mobile device cannot be offered in a certain part of the world due to export rules then that item should not be presenting in the service catalog for employees in that region.”
HP Propel 2.0 is available now. The latest version of HP Service Anywhere was released n August 30, and you can get a free trial for a few weeks more here.