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Myth-Busting: The Five-Minute VM

Last week, I came across an interesting blog post written by John Treadway (who launched the CloudBzz blog in 2009) where he asks IT pros an important question about the promise of self-service clouds: Can your private cloud deliver a VM in 5-10 minutes?

So often when we’re talking to customers and prospects, they answer “Yes, of course” when asked this question – until we discuss the many manual processes that still go along with provisioning a VM:

  • Installing and configuring each agent required for operational and security compliance, such as configuration and patch management, server monitoring, security logging, and data backup agents. Many of these agents can’t easily be included in templates and must be installed via manual scripts -- and the typical organization has 5-15 agents per VM.
  • Coordinating with multiple specialized teams in the organization who are responsible for installing certain agents, such as the storage team that handles data backup and recovery. This typically requires submitting change tickets and waiting for approvals.
  • Obtaining approvals and sign-offs to verify that installation and configuration were actually performed correctly.

When you take all these factors into consideration, the true deployment time for a VM can jump to days or weeks.

As John writes, “If you have lots of manual approvals and provisioning, you have not taken the cost of labor out. 5 Minute VMs requires 100% end-to-end automation with no manual approvals.” He also points out that reliability suffers when you have manual processes that are inherently “error prone because humans suck at repetitive tasks as compared to machines.”

This misconception is drawing growing attention from other industry observers. Neil MacDonald of Gartner recently explained that Intuit faced a similar challenge when deploying a private cloud. Although it enabled users to request a VM and have it provisioned within 30 minutes, it took an additional three weeks for the VM to be placed in production because of other configuration changes that were required (at the network level, for example).

And here’s a related challenge: We recently spoke to an IT manager at a major technology company who told us his principal worry isn’t even initial provisioning – “that’s just when the fun starts” -- but rather the ongoing maintenance required to keep agents up-to-date and patched properly on tens of thousands of VMs. Look at it this way: 5-15 agents times 10,000 VMs = 50,000 to 150,000 agents to update!

Another IT manager at a global bank estimates that approximately 20% of all updates are security-related, such as fixes to Java vulnerabilities – which means that skipping updates is usually not an option for IT operations.

Treadway’s parting message is spot-on: “Does that thing you call a cloud give you a 5 Minute VM?  If not, stop calling it a cloud and get serious about building the IT Factory of the Future.”

If this is something your IT team is struggling with, join us for our next webcast on April 4th at 1:00pm ET. We’ll be demonstrating how to make the five-minute VM a reality. Really.

Topics: Cloud