If you are building your enterprise data center (DC) strategy around infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to be consumed by application developers, you are building the wrong DC. The days of application developers directly controlling the underlying resources from a portal or API are numbered. Just as software developers no longer keep track of physical memory addressing, the infrastructure will be an abstracted resource. Comments made by legacy IaaS companies such as VMware and cloud solutions by Microsoft and Amazon demonstrate this trend.
Look to PaaS for the value of cloud
Microsoft Azure is an example of where the industry believes the value in DC services lay. It would make sense for the maker one of the world's most popular server operating system to offer virtual machines (VMs) as a service; however, Microsoft's cloud offering Azure initially ignored IaaS. The service originally started with just a platform as a service (PaaS) offering. Microsoft had early success with companies such as Apple taking advantage of the platform for its cloud offering, but it may have been a bit too early in offering a PaaS-only solution. Customers complained about the lack of ability to purchase VMs. The initial IaaS support hasn't stopped them from primarily focusing on PaaS.
When I participate in briefings from vendors that offer multi-technology private cloud offerings, a common question has been: Where is Microsoft with its private cloud offering? Microsoft answered that question with a combined announcement with Dell. Microsoft and Dell have teamed to offerAzure Private Cloud solution based on Dell's server platform — an interesting note is that the emphasis is on PaaS. In addition, Microsoft announced the release of server side .NET to open source. Open source .NET re-enforces the desire for Microsoft developers to program to a framework vs. a specific type of infrastructure.
Amazon's AWS represents the classic IaaS model. The service started with offering VM-centric products. AWS's product catalog has since added a large number of PaaS offerings over the years, including Oracle, SQL, and MySQL databases, along with Hadoop and messaging services to name a few.
Software-defined gets more focused
Even VMware's software-defined data center (SDDC) is becoming more focused on providing a platform that abstracts the individual DC from the software developer. At VMworld 2014, Martin Casado, head of VMware's networking business unit, talked up the benefits of the SDDC to developers. At one point, it was thought the advantages of the software-defined network (SDN) would be the ability to allow software vendors to provision networks as part of the end user application stack; Casado clarified that the advantages to software-defined is the ability to give devops teams the ability to offer abstracted services to end user software.
Casado's view is that the infrastructure is something that software developers don't need to consider as part of code development. The SDDC should better anticipate the needs of the application and adjust DC resources accordingly. Conceptually, the dynamic attributes of the SDDC are what make it appealing to the software developer.
IaaS is a great foundation for building a DC that meets the elastic needs of the application layer, but IaaS is not the end game. The end game is to provide abstracted services that are consumed by the application stack. These services are enabled by IaaS, which is controlled using devops.
As you plan you DC service model, ensure you have the platform as the perspective and not the individual components.
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 Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a BA in computing and a MS in information technology from DePaul University.