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The challenge: matching the public cloud experience on-premises

Many enterprises today have a cloud-first strategy, fueled by their need to improve operational simplicity in a couple key areas. First, ‘self-service’ provisioning ease so application owners get the infrastructure they need, the way they need it, and when they need it. Second, infrastructure management behind-the-scenes, handled by the cloud provider, so application owners can focus on their application versus the underlying infrastructure. And finally, eliminating the headache of purchasing and maintaining servers and storage on different lifecycles so again, focus can be on the application and the business.

However, not all enterprise application data is suitable for public cloud data centers due to concerns around cost, service levels or compliance. In fact, market data suggests that 78% of critical enterprise workloads are still kept on-premises, while other studies have shown that of the organizations who had originally moved their workloads to the cloud, 81% had repatriated enterprise workloads back on-prem. We live in a hybrid cloud world and experts agree that is unlikely to change.

For applications that have to stay on-premises, either in core data centers or at the edge, the reality of these deployments is they are unable to match the public cloud experience, much to the frustration of both application owners and those running the organization’s IT infrastructure. In some ways, IT organizations face an even more difficult challenge than public cloud providers. They have to offer the flexibility of supporting a combination of legacy and modern applications that business owners need to deploy, whether virtualized, containerized or bare-metal. They also have to make these applications available in a variety of data center settings, from centralized or ‘core’ data centers to hosted locations, and now increasingly to the edge. And with the realities of COVID-19, they have to deliver application infrastructure and management with limited accessibility to data centers and remote edge locations, demanding a “zero-touch” approach.

Lessons from the consumer world guide a new approach to deploying and managing on-prem application infrastructure

A unique way of addressing this challenge is to look at innovations in the consumer world, particularly as it relates to smart home or smart car technology. ‘Smart’ infrastructure is all around us. In the case of smart home technology, homeowners can quickly orchestrate temperature, lighting, and security through simple remote management and easy automation – it’s self-service infrastructure. And at the same time, smart home devices get software fixes, security updates and even new features behind-the-scenes, remotely, without affecting the people living in the home. It is infrastructure management-as-a-service. Smart home technology also does not require consumers to worry about the individual management and lifecycles of thermostats, lighting control, or alarm security, it just happens in a coordinated manner.

There are two key enablers for smart home technology. First, embedded IoT endpoints found in thermostats, lighting control, and entry systems are examples. The second is the use of a cloud-control plane that enables a single point of management as well as the ability to remotely update the IoT endpoint devices using a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

A new approach to on-premises application infrastructure that can deliver the benefits of the public cloud experience is possible by leveraging the consumer approach to smart home technology. At Nebulon we call it smart infrastructure.

Smart infrastructure requires new innovation in two distinct areas

In order to successfully deliver the public cloud experience for IT organizations supporting on-premises applications, two new innovations are needed–much like the smart home technology approach. The first is the introduction of a cloud control plane for on-premises application infrastructure with SaaS delivery. The second is a new infrastructure model using IoT endpoint technology embedded into standard servers and the storage within them.

At the heart of smart infrastructure, in order to deliver the public cloud experience for any on-premises application, a cloud-based control plane is required—a hyperscaler-agnostic approach that can achieve massive scale, deliver responsive queries and offer an API-first approach to users. The core cloud architecture leverages open-source database technologies, key value stores, and a containerized approach to maintain use on, and portability to, any public cloud. Scale and performance of the control plane are optimized with sophisticated in-memory indexing, and are capable of ingesting and querying billions of data points per second. The control plane also embraces an API-first approach with no undocumented or ‘secret’ APIs, and are delivered in combination with robust SDKs to ease their consumption.

The second innovation is new server-embedded, infrastructure software running on a PCIe-based storage processing offload engine which acts as a managed IoT endpoint within an application server. This further converges modern application infrastructure, and replaces the software defined storage (SDS) approach found in hyperconverged infrastructure software (HCIS) by effectively embedding data services in silicon within the server. This offload engine, called a services processing unit (SPU), is different from a storage accelerator that can optionally be used with HCIS. An SPU runs all enterprise-class shared and local data services, not just accelerated storage algorithms, and provides access and control of the internal server flash media that delivers both OS (boot) and data drive functionality in a separate fault domain from the server itself. These server-embedded infrastructure nodes can be clustered together via their SPUs for scalability and resilience.

Nebulon is building smartInfrastructure

Nebulon has pioneered the concept of smartInfrastructure—server-embedded, infrastructure software delivered as-a-service—with a cloud control plane, called Nebulon ON, that manages on-premises application server infrastructure leveraging SPU IoT endpoints embedded in each application server. With this approach, application and infrastructure owners can now experience the benefits of self-service infrastructure and zero-touch, remote management-as-a-service for applications that must remain on-premises.

The solution can be cost-effectively deployed anywhere—in centralized, hosted or edge data centers; and supports any application type—containerized, virtualized and bare metal. Nebulon smartInfrastructure is available for purchase directly from your preferred server vendor of choice, including Supermicro, HPE and Lenovo.

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Craig Nunes


Previously 3PAR VP of Product & Marketing, then HPE VP of Global Storage Product Management & Marketing.