This content is part of the Essential Guide: How to manage cloud workloads and resources from the data center

Offering a path to hybrid cloud with virtual data center service

Virtual data center services can strengthen an IaaS provider's portfolio by giving customers more control within their hybrid environments.

With virtual data center services, IaaS providers can help customers build hybrid clouds. Enterprises need more than basic cloud storage and compute services to build a hybrid environment, and many IaaS providers already have the technology and expertise in place to make that happen.

"IaaS [Infrastructure as a Service] providers that don't have a common service automation platform -- whether it's through VMware or another software platform with management tools -- are forcing customers to have the cloud be a completely separate entity," said Lynda Stadtmueller, program director of cloud computing services for San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc. "Customers want the ability to look at their entire data center -- and all their [cloud] resources -- together."

Virtual data center services: Joining provider, customer environments

Businesses are demanding more sophisticated cloud offerings as they deploy applications over hybrid cloud environments, but they need more than basic IaaS services to accomplish this evolution. They are looking for providers who can offer migration services, different network topologies and common network services, automation and orchestration platforms.

Savvis Inc., a managed hosting, colocation and IaaS provider, recently launched Savvis Cloud Data Center -- a virtual cloud data center service built on VMware vCloud Director 5.1 and Cisco's Unified Data Center technologies. The service expands on the provider's virtual private data center services and offers business customers a unified platform for complex hybrid cloud solutions, said Reed Smith, director of product management and cloud computing for Savvis and who oversees Cloud Data Center services.

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Unlike many generic IaaS offerings, Savvis allows customers to deploy load balancers, firewalls and multi-tiered networks within its virtual data center service, Smith said. "We can handle everything from a basic cloud use case to more complex enterprise environments," he said.

IaaS providers might offer some of these capabilities, but a virtual data center service distinguishes itself by helpings customers build a hybrid cloud by tying these capabilities into their on-premises data centers. Customers buying standalone IaaS often have to invest in additional products to make their environments work together. Virtual data center services provide more of a "one stop shop" for business customers.

A common platform for workload migration and integration between both the provider and the customer is also important, Frost & Sullivan's Stadtmueller said.

Savvis standardized its virtual data center service on VMware because so many enterprises already use VMware within their own data centers, Savvis' Smith said. "It's really easy for our customers that use VMware to buy into their administration model," he said. "Customers can use our portal, or the native vCloud Director portal, to use our Cloud Data Center for their environment."

The virtual data center service: The next stage of IaaS for cloud providers?

Customers still have varying degrees of requirements from their cloud providers, from Amazon-like IaaS with limited user control, to hosted environments in which customers have full access to the infrastructure stack. Virtual data center services are well-suited for customers that not only want the control and freedom to move their infrastructure around their hybrid cloud, but also want services provided for them along the way -- like security and migration, said Dave Bartoletti, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

IaaS and managed service providers are both equipped to offer virtual data center services -- especially if they use a common platform -- like VMware or OpenStack, Bartoletti said. "We are seeing different degrees of these services from providers," he said. "Anyone who offers managed services or colocation has the infrastructure to provide a service like this.

It can be a very comfortable offering for customers, because they don't have to do a lot of conversion to run their workloads in the cloud."

"Data center services are the closest we are getting to standards for IaaS, and [they offer] the ability to move and burst applications across different data center environments," Frost & Sullivan's Stadtmueller said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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