Platform-as-a-Strategy: It’s All About Business Capabilities

Developing Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is a vital part of corporate IT operations these days as such operations strive to become more responsive to their internal business customers by shedding the traditional model for IT-as-a-Service. Through the EMC Federation, we have multiple options that we have embraced to support both new and legacy capabilities, including Cloud Foundry from Pivotal which is well-positioned for the Third Platform supporting multiple Big Data and mobility needs and VMware tools supporting the automation of public, hybrid and private cloud management.

While we embrace all of these capabilities within EMC IT, we are also taking a broader, more holistic approach to PaaS. Rather than simply thinking about Platform-as-a-Service, we are thinking about Platform-as-a-Strategy.

With a traditional PaaS model, users request platform capabilities (servers, storage, web capabilities) on a project-by-project basis and IT provides the landscape on which users can develop their applications.

EMC IT is taking a closer look at how we can better link that on-demand process with the overall products and capabilities of our operation and with vendors like VMware, SAP, Microsoft, VCE, Cisco and Pivotal. They all have their individual roadmaps and product capabilities under development, focused on their particular priorities in solving business needs.

The question we are asking is: Are there strategic platforms and capabilities that we have in our data centers that provide build-out capabilities that the business can manage to more efficiently address their PaaS needs? We want to identify and deliver these capabilities to our business units (e.g Sales, Manufacturing, Marketing, Engineering, Services, HR, Finance) so they can leverage these platforms as well as offer feedback on future roadmap offerings.

If we start to develop these platform strategies around high-demand IT capabilities— like mobility, next-generation hosting, data services, Big Data, innovation and integration—then we can become a truly service-oriented IT shop. Rather than the business asking questions about things like zero data loss and recovery time objectives, we will provide already defined tiers of service and support to address those concerns. We are building in capabilities that protect their instances, their data itself within the applications.

Click to Enlarge

Less silos, more efficiency

This Platform-as-a-Strategy approach stems from a concept we created in our EMC data centers about four years ago called Private Cloud Infrastructure. Initially, we converged IT systems and storage functions into a single Private Cloud Infrastructure Group, bridging what was previously two very siloed operations and eliminating the disconnects and handoffs that stymied efficiencies.

Leveraging our cloud infrastructure built on tools like Vblock from VCE, we were able to provide automated deployment of infrastructure resources and environments on which we could, in turn, deploy new applications. But we still had disconnects from the application and middleware components.

Recently, EMC IT transformed its platform approach further by creating a group that handles infrastructure, architecture and build for everything from applications and database services to middleware and Private Cloud infrastructure services in a single workstream. So no longer is it application versus infrastructure. It is a platform discussion where we are supporting all services to our users. Our SAP landscape, database administration, systems build and infrastructure management are now under one group that we call Platform and Big Data.  They are also under one leadership team responsible for ensuring that the end-to-end operations are running smoothly As a result, everything from architecture to operation is under the same management.

This new group acknowledges that platform is the whole management of the application stack, including the application and not just the infrastructure. It’s also the management of the data that lives in those applications and the protection of that data through data services and availability.

We are still in the process of developing our platform strategy, taking input from our vendors and the prioritization from our business units to build capabilities around things like mobility, Big Data, integration, and automation. We are also working to support large programs across the enterprise.

Delivering on business needs

Among the challenges in the Platform-as-a-Strategy approach is rationalizing roadmaps and the competing priorities of vendors. For EMC, we think about the importance of having enterprise-class support services and data protection services.

I oversee a group of architects doing prototypes of platform capabilities to support the deployment of applications that the business is creating. We are working closely with enterprise architects within EMC business units, as well as functional architects who are more domain-focused on individual services.

The goal is to create an Enterprise Platform-as-a-Service (ePaaS) tool that leverages automation and orchestration to provide a business platform where users can request a new application via a self-service catalog, and development, production and test environments with the click of a button. ePaaS will also provide cost centers through which EMC IT can charge users for the services they consume and through which business units can track costs and value.

This will essentially give users a high availability, faster more agile deployment platform and better protection than ever before—an important distinction since we are striving to get business users to use solutions within our private cloud. In the past, users had to make a request of our infrastructure group for Virtual Machines and ask the applications group to deploy the application they were seeking, which could take several weeks. With ePaaS, the process will take minutes or hours instead of weeks.

With our focus on Platform-as-a-Strategy, business users will also have the ability to take advantage of existing applications and capabilities through a robust service catalog of what’s already available so they won’t be wasting resources recreating something that’s already been deployed. And, of course, IT will work with business users to help them develop the applications they need if they don’t want to do it all on their own.

We believe this holistic approach to providing application landscapes is a critical component in our ongoing evolution of ITaaS.

Stay tuned for a more detailed look at the components of ePaaS in an upcoming video blog featuring Bill Reid and team members Darryl Smith and Jim Nuzzo.

About the Author: Bill Reid