Provisioning IT resources was once a manual, time-consuming and tedious process. A developer or business manager requesting resources had to wait days or weeks while the requests were passed around between server and network admins or whatever department was responsible for signing off on the additional resource.
This approach no longer cuts it. In our instant-access, Amazon–Dropbox–Google Drive world, IT pros and employees alike have little patience for completing tedious processes just to get their jobs done. Many IT teams have created private-cloud infrastructures in an effort to provide the same ease of use and agility as public-cloud tools, without having to sacrifice full control, including control over costs. But the quality of the services you can offer with a private cloud depends largely on underlying infrastructure choices.
This fact is especially true when introducing the concept of self-service. Building self-service portals to provision resources can help IT teams replace manual processes, free their time from mundane and complex tasks, and improve overall efficiencies. But before investing in a self-service portal, an organization must evaluate its underlying infrastructure.
Four Requirements to Build a Self-Service Portal
Traditional infrastructures are unfit to serve as a foundation for a self-service portal, as they simply can’t meet the requirements outlined below. On the other hand, it’s hard to find classic features, including space-efficient snapshots, replication and other value-added capabilities, in public-cloud environments, as they seldom operate at the right granularity. To get the best of both worlds, organizations should build their own cloud—based on an enterprise cloud platform, which runs in its own data center—allowing for both the control of private cloud and the agility of public cloud.
- Core features: Your platform must be built with a web-services approach that offers important core features, including snapshots, clones, replication and other elements. These features can be tremendously beneficial in setting up self-service portals, and they provide capabilities that are difficult to achieve in a public-cloud environment.
- Granularity: High granularity is crucial to your storage system. Storage that operates at the VM and container level is much easier to incorporate in a self-service portal, and the results are easier for users to understand and consume.
- Abstraction: Clean REST APIs are also necessary for all enterprise cloud capabilities to ensure all functions can be automated no matter what self-service platform is at the front end.
- Integration: Another important element of self-service is integration with high-level tools and platforms. In addition to REST APIs, the right platform should integrate with OpenStack, vRealize Operations and Orchestration, Python SDK, and PowerShell. Doing so provides the elements for integration, satisfies any automation requirements and makes enterprise clouds easier to automate and consume in a wide variety of situations.
The True Advantage of Self-Service Portals
At a consumer level, self-service has already become commonplace, and public-cloud providers have added convenient portals to their offerings, enabling purchase of services in seconds. Many businesses are looking to replicate this model to make the internal provisioning of IT resources as easy as just a few clicks.
A benefit of a self-service portal is that users who aren’t IT experts can provision IT services without any knowledge of managing complex IT infrastructure. For instance, a user can simply provision a VM, set quality of service (QoS) for that VM and specify a snapshot and replication schedule, all in an intuitive fashion—without being an expert.
DevOps environments can also benefit hugely from self-service. Provisioning and refreshing of development environments are common tasks that should be automated to streamline and accelerate the process. Automation, with the right tools, allows DevOps teams to refresh data in development and test environments within minutes. Doing so accelerates continuous integration and the deployment of new software features. A self-service portal can make the right features available to developers to create and update development and test environments with current code and data whenever needed.
Private Enterprise Cloud: A Basis for Self-Service Platforms
The adoption of a private enterprise cloud platform is the right solution here. This type of platform fully satisfies the requirements for features, abstraction, granularity and integration, allowing it to be easily incorporated into a self-service portal. The granularity enables self-service users to provision each VM with the exact services they require. Administrators who have to guarantee performance for all business applications at all times can even see performance problems and eliminate them.
An organization’s infrastructure has a direct impact on the viability of self-service portals. A modern enterprise cloud platform built from scratch for virtualization and cloud-native workloads overcomes the limitations of conventional infrastructures by providing the right set of core features operating at the right granularity. This approach allows IT teams to easily expose a rich set of IT services through self-service. Higher-level integrations simplify the automation process to address needs across a range of operating environments. With the right platform in place, organizations can even automate advanced IT functions and make them available through self-service in ways that traditional platforms can’t.
About the Author
Chuck Dubuque is VP of Product Marketing for Tintri, which he joined in 2014. Before that, he was at Red Hat, where as director of product marketing for the virtualization business unit he was responsible for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform (RHEL-OSP) market strategy. Before Red Hat, Chuck worked at a value-added reseller for VMware, NetApp and Cisco and also spent several years in biotechnology in marketing and business development.