Orchestrating the Orchestration Stack

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    It seems that orchestration is everywhere in enterprise circles these days. Whether it’s on the cloud, the software-defined infrastructure, or higher up the application stack, organizations are looking to coordinate an increasingly unwieldy set of resources into something resembling a unified data environment.

    But with the plethora of orchestration tools hitting the channel, each targeting a different aspect of the data ecosystem, is it possible that we will eventually need to orchestrate our orchestration platforms?

    According to cloud orchestration provider Qualisystems, upwards of 75 percent of the IT industry cannot deliver appropriate Dev/Ops infrastructure within a typical workday due to the broad array of systems and resources that must be compiled. At the moment, about 40 percent of application environments contain a broad mix of physical and virtual requirements, while 34 percent are network-intensive. The company says this demonstrates a strong need for sandboxes in the Dev/Test lab, which is one of the things that Qualisystems builds, so that users can mimic complex cloud architectures from app development to production.

    This idea of production readiness in the development process is starting to drive many orchestration functions. GigaSpaces’ Cloudify 3.3 offers a single pane of glass to oversee app development and management across heterogeneous architectures, and then backs it up with rapid scalability, advanced snapshot management and role-based access control to ensure users are keyed into the appropriate APIs. At the same time, the Cloudify manager can be run natively on CentOS and RHEL for deployment on Linux-based environments and is fully integrated with their native Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) platforms for improved repository management.

    But just when orchestration across virtual and cloud platforms starts to come into focus, along comes container technology to gum things up again. This is where companies like Britain’s Flexiant hope to score, with a Kubernetes orchestration system called Concerto that manages clusters of Linux containers as if they were a single entity. The company recently launched the platform-as-a-service-based offering (Kubernetes Orchestration as a Service, or KOaaS) that is designed to offer container-based Dev/Ops on any cloud within minutes. The system also automatically installs a load balancer on each node to instantly expose services to the Internet and features built-in integration with the Weave network management stack for fast SDN configuration.

    Orchestration is also available through the new cloud brokerage services that are popping up on major infrastructure platforms. HPE recently launched a new one for its Helion private cloud offering, creatively dubbed the Helion Managed Cloud Broker. The system offers visibility and control over the growing number of services that are hitting the enterprise, often without IT approval, while at the same time providing asset orchestration for improved response times, financial control, and quality of service. In fact, the platform was created using HPE’s existing Cloud Orchestration software, the ITSM management stack and various bridge and operations tools.

    Despite these advances, fully optimized application, service and resource orchestration is likely to remain more of a journey than a destination for the time being. The enterprise is likely to create even more specialized environments in the cloud than what currently exists on physical infrastructure, so any attempt at orchestration will require a high degree of customization.

    But it is a journey that must be undertaken nonetheless, because the alternative is chaos.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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