Chad Sakac: 7 Surefire Ways to Thrive in the Hybrid Cloud

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Chad Sakac is a bona fide celebrity in the rarefied world of IT.

As the star of the cult-hit web series “Chad’s World,” Sakac has turned his penchant for technology and precision geek-speak into amusing video adventures in cloud computing, big data, IT transformation, and enterprise virtualization. He’s revered around the globe by techies-turned-groupies, including a fan who recognized Sakac in Tokyo and gestured excitedly until he got an autograph.

“Wherever you go where nerds congregate, that is a weird thing that does actually happen,” Sakac says, adding with his usual modesty, “I mean I’m just a dude, like anybody else, but I’m willing to do stupid things out of my love of technology. And I love interacting with customers. But it is weird to have somebody ask you for an autograph.”

Now the “dude”—his formal title is EMC Vice President, VMware Technology Alliance—takes center stage at VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas, where this year he expects attendees to include not only customers and CIOs at every step of their journeys to the cloud, but also more application developers than ever before.

Since he’ll likely be the target of admirers once again, it seemed like a good idea to queue up early and ask Sakac (pronounced “Sack-atch)”) about the top topic on his fans’ minds—his step-by-step roadmap for successfully navigating the cloud. And it is—in “Chad’s World” parlance—an excellent roadmap indeed.

7 Surefire Ways FOR CIOs to Thrive in the Hybrid Cloud

1: Jump in with both feet
The journey to the cloud begins with a single step, but it has to be the right step, not a half step. Go all out to the cloud. Realize that this is something you have to do—otherwise IT becomes an impediment to your business. There’s one thing that characterizes the companies that do this really, really well—they have a leader who realizes they have to jump into this with both feet. And don’t try to transform the legacy infrastructure. Create something new and make the new so compelling that the legacy becomes something on life support.

2: Put things in piles
This is the process and planning step and you can’t succeed without it. You start by assessing your applications, what should go first to the cloud, what should go later. Put things in piles and go from there. Start with first phase applications—test and dev, R&D, things that IT controls. Web servers, active directory, etc. Move that stuff first. Then things that carry SLAs—more heavy duty but not the crown jewels of the enterprise. And then move on to virtualize everything and move toward IT-as-a-service.

3: Hyper-standardize down
The third step toward cloud nirvana—and this is ironic coming from someone who’s in the infrastructure business—is to realize that infrastructure is a commodity, and you have to hyper-standardize on it and stop mucking around with it. There are two ways to approach hyper-standardization, first through converged infrastructure offerings such as the VCE Company’s Vblock, where people have converged the virtualization layer, the server, network, and storage layers.

The other way is to make your own decisions around the VMware, server, network, storage infrastructure stack. But as the CIO, whatever your decision, hyper-standardize down into your infrastructure. If you look at the large scale clouds, the one thing they all have in common is not how they’re constructed or orchestrated—it’s the fact that unlike most customer data centers, there’s almost no variation. They’re almost completely homogeneous. If you don’t do that you won’t be able to automate sufficiently inside your infrastructure.

4: Hyper-standardize up
Set strict rules about limiting the IT choices for your business consumers so you can achieve the agility your business is looking for. In other words, hyper-standardize upward to your consumers.

You’ll get requests for “I want application X to run in the cloud,” but application X requires something different from what you’re offering with your cloud service. Like you’re offering four vCPUs and they want ten. In reality, applications don’t need that level of variability.

Give consumers standardized containers—VMs in specifically designed sizes. Pick small, medium, or large. But don’t get hung up on the fact there’s no medium plus-plus. Application teams are so used to hyper-specifying exactly what they want they say, “If it can’t be a medium plus-plus, I’m not interested.”

Then the leader has to say, “OK, don’t put it in the cloud.” Project teams that insist on a configuration exactly like what they’re used to, six months later are still trying to stand up their application. The guys who said I’ll just try the medium are off and running in five minutes. When customers see the cloud’s value, pretty soon they see a change in the way people look at infrastructure. This is both technological and psychological—humans do what they’ve done before. You’ve got to change that in the cloud.

“The journey to the cloud begins with a single step, but it has to be the right step, not a half step. Go all out to the cloud.”

Chad Sakac
Vice President, VMware Technology Alliance

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5: Go public
The next step is to determine which applications are a fit for public cloud offerings in a hybrid cloud environment. Now you’re starting to consume public cloud services from a variety of sources. Physically it’s not just about private clouds within the enterprise, but also about public clouds from service providers. Some workloads are a good fit for public cloud offerings. At EMC and VMware, we think it’s important to build these on open APIs both in the enterprise and in the cloud service provider. That means you can take workloads inside and move them out to the service provider, and pull them out and move them to another service provider when you need to.

We’re making the vCloud API open and available to service providers and to customers. So if you stand up your internal cloud and you’ve started to do some external cloud offerings, you have the option of federating your workloads from the enterprise to your public cloud and back again. The reality is everybody will have some blend, depending on their business and their applications.

6: Move to the app layer
Once you’ve jumped in with both feet, hyper-standardized looking down and up, and started consuming public cloud offerings, you’re at a point in the journey that is common to a lot of companies right now. The next step is what the leaders and CIOs are investing in now.

At this point, the biggest thing is the application layer. So far we’ve put IT into a container, virtualized it, and made the infrastructure elastic, but the app itself is not elastic. If you have an application that was developed traditionally five years ago, it’s very difficult to “cloudify” that.

There’s as much change going on in application development land as there is in infrastructure land right now. People are developing in new frameworks, on new tools that are inherently more cloud-like. I’m describing this like it comes in sequence but the smart leaders are investing in parallel to what they’re doing on the infrastructure side, so that it happens much earlier—they have their developers retooling with new application frameworks.

Examples are the Spring and vFabric tools from VMware, Azure from Microsoft, and others. Building applications with those tools is more transformative that all the infrastructure stuff put together. Developers churning out revs of applications based on old frameworks—very difficult. If you don’t have developers working on these new frameworks, your applications won’t be what they should be.

7: Make it easy
The changes in apps and infrastructure enable the consumerization of how people get at stuff. There are already tools and facilities available that would allow you to access everything I’m talking about on an iPad. You need to create an app store for your enterprise.

How do you make it easy to consume these things on a broad variety of devices and form factors? First you virtualize the client. Say you’re virtualizing the traditional Windows client—at the same time you’re standing up next generation portals that represent a way to get next generation apps. You’re working on how you consume those on different end-user computing devices.

One More Question…

Thanks for the roadmap, Chad. Now one last question—before we ask for your autograph: What’s next?

Sakac sees three big themes making technology news in the coming year. First, he says, is “consumerization of IT—you’ll see it go into overdrive. People are going to say I want to do my own thing and you can’t stop me. That puts pressure on IT organizations, on security, on applications. But it’s also a huge opportunity.”

He also expects the cloud application wave to catch its stride, big time. “In fact I’ve already seen it,” he says. “We have a customer using commodity components and hardware, cloud application frameworks, and scale-out database models that can support the transactional load of their database at basically one-tenth the cost. And that’s not just about cloud and virtualization—it’s about new application models.”

And finally, says Sakac, “You’re going to see huge strides from EMC and VMware as industry leaders, and from the industry as a whole, toward making infrastructure invisible. That freaks out some infrastructure administrators but it’s an opportunity to do something that’s more exciting. Who wants to be the person who provisions a LUN every 15 minutes?”

In the midst of all this change, Sakac says, the point is this: “You can virtualize monster VMs and mission critical workloads at very large scales with confidence—now. In the virtual world you can solve the macro level problems of security that are starting to plague us. And you can take the savings and agility from your transformed IT infrastructure and invest it in the things that will transform your business, which is big data.

“It is possible to achieve cloud agility within your business,” Sakac concludes. “Agility is something people want more than even straight up cost reduction. Cost reduction is how you fund everything, but the end goal is better business agility.

“We’re managing this with boatloads of integration. We’re making infrastructure more and more invisible. We’re moving toward the iPad and App Store experience of IT. But the one thing I would underline at the bottom is this: This is a huge technology wave of change and it’s an irresistible force bigger than anybody, bigger than us, bigger than VMware, bigger than EMC. And part of that journey is having the right technology partners. I think I can convince you that EMC and VMware have the best cloud credentials to take you on that journey with us.”

“When customers see the cloud’s value, pretty soon they see a change in the way people look at infrastructure. It’s technological and psychological—humans do what they’ve done before. You’ve got to change that in the cloud.”

Chad Sakac
Vice President, VMware Technology Alliance

“This is a huge technology wave of change and it’s an irresistible force bigger than anybody. I think I can convince you that EMC and VMware have the best cloud credentials to take you on that journey with us.”

Chad Sakac
Vice President, VMware Technology Alliance

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