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Configuring infrastructure for cloud needn't be complex: F5 Networks

The complexity of the cloud is a rising concern among IT professionals, but, according to F5 Networks, infrastructure vendors shouldn't be adding to it.
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Written by Michael Lee, Journalist on

Australia's lead in virtualisation and cloud adoption compared to the rest of the world means that it has greater challenges to deal with, but despite what IT professionals are saying, greater challenges don't have to mean greater complexity, according to F5 Networks.

Speaking with ZDNet at VMware's vForum 2012 in Sydney this week, F5 Networks director of business development Phil de la Motte said that moving apps to the cloud needn't be as complicated a task as professionals make it out to be.

Forrester's recent research has shown that integration of cloud services is even surpassing security as one of the top concerns and barriers to cloud adoption in its VMware-sponsored Cloud Index 2012, and that close to 70 percent of IT professionals believe that cloud is making their jobs more complicated.

Similarly, IDC vice president Sandra Ng, who discussed concerns that CIOs are raising in the Asia-Pacific region at a Verizon media day in Singapore earlier this month, said that organisations are facing problems with finding staff that could deal with what are perceived to be increasingly complex cloud problems.

However, de la Motte said that from F5 Networks' point of view, at least when having to tackle configuring infrastructure to support cloud applications, technology has already matured to the point where the process should be so simple that it shouldn't be a bottleneck.

He highlighted the complexity in his company's own BIG-IP line of infrastructure products, which assist with application-delivery networking, saying that administrators don't simply walk up to them and perfectly configure it the first time they see it.

It can often take administrators months to configure infrastructure products like these, so they will work with cloud platforms, holding up the time that applications can be rolled out. However, de la Motte said that the majority of that time isn't being spent on overly complicated tasks.

"We think it can all be done in weeks. If you look at each of the individual actions that happens, and if you get rid of all the communication breakdowns, you get rid of all the emails, you get rid of all the phone calls and the trouble tickets, and you say what is the actual work that happens, it's probably an hour's worth of total work. Maybe two or three hours total," he said.

"What makes it weeks or months is the fact that I don't understand what services I need as an application owner, or as a network admin, I don't understand what your application is and what you're trying to do."

However, de la Motte highlighted that when it comes to commonly used applications, many administrators are configuring services in very much the same way, asking the same questions, and repeating the work that others have done time and time again. To assist in quickly configuring for these apps, F5 Networks' approach has been to create pre-assembled configuration packages that it calls iApps — which form a kind of abstraction layer between the infrastructure product and VMware's vCloud Manager — that administrators can then immediately implement or use as a baseline for further customisation.

"We have Exchange in the lab, we have SharePoint, we have SAP, we have Oracle, all of these applications in our development labs, and we know this is the best way to configure a BIG-IP for this particular application."

Configuring infrastructure products this way should have been exactly what vendors should have done in the first place, de la Motte said, highlighting that when it comes to making products communicate with vCloud, it's necessary to do some of the ground work that administrators have been lumped with anyway.

"The dirty little secret is that every single infrastructure vendor is going to have to create that abstraction layer before they'll be able to [make services provisionable] with any cloud platform. You can't just say, 'well, here's 480 dials and switches, go and figure it out.'

"98 percent of the tech vendors out there don't have any abstraction layer. The only way to configure their product is to go into the GUI and start clicking drop-down boxes and typing in IP addresses."

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