Everyone knows how cloud computing works.
You log onto Amazon Web Services, pick out the resources you want to use, enter your credit card and start working.
But it’s not quite the same thing if you are a global bank planning to move key processes to a cloud environment. For starters, banks tend to be concerned about security and privacy, so many are initiating cloud systems on premises, tucked safely behind their firewalls.
And banks tend to have big, complex applications that may sprawl across numerous servers or even data centers. Managing a complex cloud environment is a task for specialists.
Enter BMC with Cloud Lifecycle Manager (CLM) which helps firms develop Amazon-like cloud flexibility in-house. The company recently released CLM 4 for hybrid clouds that enforces IT compliance and change management policies across private and public cloud services. It enables financial services companies to apply uniform PCI and SOX compliance rules to all workloads within a hybrid cloud environment.
Ronni Colville who follows IT operation management tools at Gartner , said that as virtualization took off some years ago, developers complained IT took too long to provision the resources they needed, so they began using Amazon Web Services.
IT in many organizations responded by offering them a self-service portal with a catalog of servers, databases and infrastructure to allow developers or business user to select what they wanted to use, for however long they wanted to use them. Then when the users are done, IT can reclaim the resources.
“You don’t have stuff sprawling all around, and it enables you to deliver Web-based apps in a more scalable and elastic way in an environment designed for fast changes and scalability.” In short, cloud services ready for the enterprise.
“This market emerged in about 2009 and BMC was one of the first to get there, and of all the vendors probably the only one to stay true to the mission,” Colville added. IBM (IBM -0.67%) is on its second iteration, HP on its second or third and some other firms are on their third or fourth.
Chris Keene, vice president of cloud and data center automation at BMC, said the company is known for helping IT deal with the complexity of different systems.
“In cloud, that is particularly important because in addition to all the other environments companies are trying to manage, they are trying to manage a variety of cloud providers and cloud environments.”
Some firms want to start with on-site cloud and then move off-site, while others are happy to do off-site cloud in development and then move on-premises for production, he added.
“BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management allows you to move apps back and forth between public and private clouds and manage complexity of how to integrate networks and data with consistent compliance.”
Rather than replace legacy systems, BMC often helps a company connect legacy with cloud. Some of the company’s clients want to put on API on the front of a legacy app and set up the network to link with a public cloud on Amazon and be able to access a service running on CICS on the mainframe. Running everything on Amazon is relatively uncomplicated compared to a hybrid environment.
“We help companies build blended environments,” added Keene, “like building an app that runs on the cloud but accesses services or existing apps or existing databases. BMC can turn your existing databases into database as a service.”
Companies are treating cloud as something off to the side, something to experiment with, added Keene.
“But two years from now this will look mainstream, and in order to go mainstream there does need to be a way for companies to integrate public cloud resources into their existing pool of technology.”
Bank of NY Mellon has been using private cloud technology for three years now, said Dr. Swamy Kocherlakota, managing director and global head of infrastructure architecture and engineering at the bank. The bank set three conditions for cloud — it should be self-service, elastic and offer pay-by-the drink.
“In every decision we made sure those three conditions were met. We set a framework and runtime and tools for developers — all fully standardized — and we built an internal platform as a service a couple of years ago. Since then that has been very useful for the corporation,” he explained.
“Using CLM, we were able to rapidly deploy our critical infrastructure on-demand and CLM’s integration capabilities enabled us to extend our cloud as a fully functional platform-as-a-service,” he said. “We made sure that from a compliance perspective it has all the IT service management and a tight change control mechanism. In cloud, if you request a change it still has to go through IT process to open and close a change and it uses standard IT monitoring tools. BMC Cloud Lifecycle Manager manages the cloud itself.”
The apps that are moving to the cloud have an event front end while the core mainframe engine does the processing, he explained.
The bank developed an international social media engine based on Jive, he added.
“Instead of doing it the traditional way, buying the servers and putting up the social platform, the entire social computing piece runs on an internal cloud.”
Cloud development has brought several surprises, Kocherlakota said.
“Because we can now build infrastructure quickly in minutes, our ability to innovate has increased. The ability to try a new idea and fail fast has increased. If it works, we will proceed; otherwise we will repurpose the infrastructure.”
As expected, the bank was able to reduce costs compared to physical and virtual environments, he said.
One surprise was the improvement over virtualization in density on servers.
“In a traditional virtual environment we do 1:20 or 1:25 and we manage that in a static way. In the cloud we were able to increase virtualization ratios on the fly. We have increased our density without having to give up any performance. In our current cloud we get 1:40 or in development 1:60 —60 virtual machines in one server, without compromising on performance.”
Before heading into the cloud, the bank’s technologists understood it would be a new environment and they would need help. The bank ran a proof of concept with three vendors — BMC, HP and Dynamic Ops.
“We weren’t comfortable with HP because of significant management change at the time,” said Kocherlakota. “Dynamic Ops was too small a company (it was acquired by VMware.) We went with BMC and have created a good partnership.”
The banks has learned a few lessons along the way, he said.
“Cloud is all about multi-tenancy, and we are increasing the dial-ups and dial-downs. We have learned about how to manage multi-tenancy from a capacity perspective.”
Cloud operates on a physical infrastructure and at a certain point in density, operations ran into limits on the disk I/O and had to use tools to manage it.
Moving apps to the cloud has reduced the growth in power consumption which had been going up 7 percent per year. Servers are getting more efficient and density is improving and elasticity allows the bank to take the workload up and down.
“Where you need a workload from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can bring them up, run them and take them down. You can squeeze more workload into a smaller area. Since the deployment of cloud and aggressive virtualization, we have been able to bend the power curve. We are a virtualization-first and now a cloud-first environment. We ask of any app that is about to deploy why it can’t be on our internal cloud.”