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Storage Informer

Element Management vs. Service Orchestration

by on Jun.25, 2009, under Storage

Element Management vs. Service Orchestration

EMC logo Element Management vs. Service Orchestration

One continual theme that comes up around any strategic discussion of fully virtualized environments and private clouds is management. “There aren’t any tools!”. “There are too many tools!”. “The tools don’t work the way I do!” So what’s going on…

One continual theme that comes up around any strategic discussion of fully virtualized environments and private clouds is management.

"There aren’t any tools!”. 
“There are too many tools!”. 
“The tools don’t work the way I do!”

So what’s going on here?

Some Basics

When we talk about private clouds, of course everyone is interested in resource efficiency, but the real prize is operational efficiency: doing things better, faster, cheaper and more reliably with less human effort.

As we look at other forms of mature infrastructure (power grids and phone networks come to mind), the ratio of people served to management personnel is very attractive.

But, as infrastructure changes, we need to learn to manage it differently.  So one obvious thing I’ve noticed is that some people expect to manage entirely new forms of dynamic IT infrastructure using familiar and traditional tools and techniques, e.g. hacking up a quick script to solve the latest problem.

I don’t think we run the power grid that way …

Too Many Tools

Another complaint I hear is that — whether we’re talking physical, virtual or any combined environment — is the proliferation of too many points of control.

I would argue that this is not going to change — nor should it — but we might want to start refining our conceptual model a bit.

Element Management vs. Service Orchestration — A Simple Example

A while back, I got into home theater in a rather significant way.  Our living room sprouted a pile of electronics, a big screen, and speakers everywhere.

My wife gritted her teeth and tried to smile as I was lost in the world of configuration menus, optimizations and more.  I was having big fun.

About two days later, she came to me and asked “how do I watch a movie?”.  I started to explain how each and every piece of equipment needed to be configured to watch a movie. 

I could tell by her expression that I was missing a key point here.

Harmony_remote I ended up buying a smart remote — the Logitech Harmony.

It has really big buttons on it labeled “watch a movie”, “watch TV”, “listen to music” and so on.

Press the button, things happen.  If they don’t, it walks you through a step by step process to get what you really want. 

You don’t need to know the details of the home theater amp, the slave amps, the LCD TV, the speaker configuration, the Blu-ray player, and so forth.

I consider this a good example of service orchestration vs. element management.

Element Management

Each piece of home theater equipment has a deep menu that exposes all of its functionality.  It’s there when I need it.  However, from my wife’s point of view, none of that deep complexity really matters — or is wanted!

As we move from my living room to the typical data center, there are some similarities.  Every entity has its own element manager that exposes deep functionality.  It’s there if you need it.

Just like you wouldn’t expect the DVD player to do a good job manage the amplifier, you probably wouldn’t expect, say, an operating system element manager to do a good job of, say, managing a network device.

Managing At The Layer That Matters Most

My wife and kids — who are the primary users of the home theater setup — spend 99.9% of their time at the orchestration layer.  And about 90% of “service delivery” problems can be fixed at that layer without needed to go press buttons on individual components.

And, as I think about fully virtualized environments and private clouds, I think the same thing will be true — IT operations people responsible for end user service delivery will spend the vast majority of their time at the orchestration layer, and be able to fix most problems at that level – or at least isolate them!

Big News From EMC Soon

One of the more important product announcements you’ll see from EMC shortly will be around this theme.  Don’t want to spill the beans, but this is a big deal.


Well, I couldn’t really have everyone enjoy my expensive home theater system until I invested in a $400 orchestration layer.

And I think in tomorrow’s fully virtualized private cloud, we’ll see something similar.

Although you probably won’t be able to solve your intergalactic data center orchestration problem for $400 :-)

Thanks to @Callero for inspiring this post!

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