Data Centers

3 hybrid cloud alternatives to AWS CloudFormation

CloudFormation enables impressive orchestration of AWS resources. Here are three alternative solutions for hybrid cloud environments.

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Image: iStockphoto/JackyLeung

A natural side effect of integrating public cloud operations into traditional data center operations is the adoption of cloud practices in the private data center. One such practice is orchestration.

Data center orchestration isn't a new concept. Data center orchestration tools have existed for years. HPE and Dell, for example, have offered tools to automate and orchestrate data center provisioning. Amazon Web Services (AWS) coupled with CloudFormation has evolved both the capability and audience for orchestration. However, on the whole, CloudFormation is focused on AWS and doesn't translate well to private data center orchestration.

SEE: Why AWS Lambda and serverless computing won't kill Docker in the enterprise (ZDNet)

Here are three solutions that integrate with CloudFormation while providing a similar capability for private data center infrastructures.

1. Hashicorp Terraform

Hashicorp may be best known for its Vagrant software. Vagrant is an open sourced desktop virtualization orchestration tool targeted to developers. Boasting integrations with VMware Workstation, Fusion, and Oracle VirtualBox, Vagrant allows developers to more simply deploy environments for development and test. A sample use case is the ability to deploy a three-tier application by only issuing a Vagrant Up command.

At the risk of oversimplifying the entire category, Terraform is Vagrant for the data center. The point of all of these orchestration tools is to take the human element out of provisioning. The tools leverage the data center APIs to deploy application environments. Hashicorp promotes the extensibility of the platform to integrate with the major cloud providers as well as on-premises solutions like Kubernetes and OpenStack. Hashicorp takes an all-API driven approach to Terraform. While Terraform offers a command-line-interface (CLI), the CLI uses the same API as customer integrations. Hashicorp leads a Terraform open source project, but targets Global Fortune 2000 companies for their supported product.

2. VMware vRealize

A major area of expansion for VMware is data center management solutions. VMware has consolidated their management and operations solutions under the vRealize brand. vRealize Orchestrator resides within the vRealize brand, and it is the rebranded vCenter Orchestrator solution. vRealize Orchestrator concepts center on VMware vSphere, and a full vSphere deployment is required to install and use vRealize Orchestrator.

The tight integration with vSphere has appealing attributes for VMware customers, and vRealize Orchestrator offers integrations and automation that may not be possible with other solutions. But, weak API support is a consistent complaint about vSphere. Also, customers looking to loosen their dependence on vSphere may find vRealize strengthening that reliance on vSphere.

3. Redhat CloudForms

CloudForms is Redhat's take on orchestration. Simply based on their position in the Linux community, Redhat is an important vendor to consider. However, it's a misconception to believe CloudForms is a Linux-only solution. One of the significant differences between solutions is the lens from which the platforms consume infrastructure.

VMware's vRealize takes a vSphere-centric view of the infrastructure and helps to place public cloud resources into the environment. CloudForms brings a cloud view of the environment and looks to provide cloud abstractions for existing infrastructure. It's a critical delineation for the operating model your infrastructure team is looking to take.

A theme of these tools is the integration of hybrid infrastructure technologies. In evaluating tools, customers must understand their desired operational end state. Will your infrastructure become an API-driven environment? If so, open source-based solutions might better fit your needs. On the other hand, if your data center strategy will continue to evolve around vSphere, solutions such as vRealize may better fit your long term goals.

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About Keith Townsend

Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fo...

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