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A Design for an Agile Cloud Management Platform

Good administration of the control plane so that applications perform and that regulatory concerns and risks are mitigated

In the early part of 2013, EMC announced a new storage virtualization product called ViPR that delivers a software interface to block, object and HDFS storage services layered on heterogeneous storage. As part of that announcement there was an architectural discussion regarding how ViPR would be providing these services to applications that entails breaking out the design into two components: the control plane and the data plane.

The control plane provides common interfaces for provisioning, policy & management while the data plane provides interfaces for data access from applications. In separating out these two layers, EMC creates an architecture that is agile and enables new services to be added over time without impacting production services. Since ViPR is focused on storage, it will, unfortunately, never be expanded to encompass an entire cloud management stack. However, the architecture is interesting and aspects of it lend itself to building a best-of-breed cloud management platform.

Starting with the control/data plane concept, I broke apart the cloud into multiple planes and then focused on how the layers would communicate to enable a cloud management platform that inherently scaled in and out as well as up and down. Figure 1 illustrates the outcome of this effort and each plane is described in more detail below:

Figure 1: Plane-based Architecture

Application Plane – This plane focuses on the deployment, lifecycle and management of the running applications. In today’s lingo, this is part of the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) architecture. The thing about PaaS is that services need to be designed to “plug-in” to the PaaS container in order for them to be made available to the applications. In this architecture, the application plane now has a common interface to manage the data plane and the compute plan. Hence, those services are now available to the application regardless of their underlying location or implementation.

Data Plane – Since this is a comprehensive cloud management platform, I’ve moved the data plane out up in the architecture to become an aggregation layer for all types of data including databases, files, as well as, operational information created by the compute and control planes. Through these two layers’ designs, I can now build business applications as well as a single pane of glass to manage my entire cloud regardless of the physical components that make up the cloud infrastructure.

Compute Plane – This plane manages the resources for operating the application and data planes. The integration of the application and data planes no longer need to rely on a single hypervisor to support its cloud design which provides tremendous freedom for the cloud applications and data to migrate where the economics (performance, costs, etc.) are best.

Control Plane – This plan implements the interfaces for operations staff to configure and operate the underlying hardware platforms that comprise the cloud infrastructure. It implements governance and access controls as well as supports policies for deciding where resources should be allocated from when requested from the compute plane. The compute and hardware planes together deliver a consolidated and unified cloud resource pool regardless of the underlying componentry.

Hardware Plane – This is the physical equipment that will comprise the cloud infrastructure resource pool.

Figure 2 illustrates how the integrated stack would look and how the planes communicate to drive independence and agility.

Figure 2: Integration Pathways

While this is all conceptual, it follows many of the existing patterns from building Service Oriented Architectures (SOA). What’s really interesting to me about this architecture is that everything above the control and hardware planes can scale out in a common manner with a single set of tools and interfaces, hence, driving toward single pane of glass. It also puts a lot of emphasis on good administration of the control plane so that applications perform and that regulatory concerns and risks are mitigated.

More Stories By JP Morgenthal

Mr. Morgenthal has over 25 years of experience in Information Technology spanning multiple disciplines including software engineering, architecture, marketing, sales, consulting and executive management. He has specializations in multiple industry verticals including: banking, brokerage, retail, supply chain management, healthcare and Federal. Mr. Morgenthal also has technical specializations, and is considered a thought leader, in integration, enterprise architecture, service oriented architecture and cloud computing. In the role of Director, Mr. Morgenthal is responsible for furthering Perficient’s efforts in cloud computing with its customers through services development, sales force enablement and training, strategic account support and development of programs to drive cloud computing opportunities. Prior to his role as Director, Mr. Morgenthal was a Cloud Ranger with EMCC’s Cloud & Virtual Data Center service line. In that role, Mr. Morgenthal was instrumental in driving consulting opportunities for EMC around cloud and IT transformation, facilitating workshops and EBCs, and developing statements of work. Prior to EMC, Mr. Morgenthal designed, developed and operated one of the first Platform-as-a-Service for the supply-chain, logistics, multi-channel retail management, loyalty program management and payment cards. Mr. Morgenthal is the author of four trade publications covering topics of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Application Integration, Enterprise Information Integration, and Distributed Systems Management. He has also published over one-hundred articles and is a frequent blogger and has spoken at many of the leading conferences covering these technologies. He has a Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Computer Science from Hofstra University.