Iaas vs Xaas – What’s Behind the Buzzwords
IaaS and XaaS are more than just industry buzzwords. They’re real concepts that can be implemented with relative ease through solutions like vCloud Automation Center (VCAC). Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) represents the deployment and lifecycle management of server workloads – whether they are a traditional vSphere virtual machine in an organization’s internal private cloud, a cloud workload in VMware vCloud Air, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Workspace Services, or another provider, or even physical servers. Anything as a Service (XaaS) represents virtually anything else that isn’t IaaS.
How does vCloud Automation Center tie into literally anything? The simple answer here is vCenter Orchestrator (VCO). Orchestrator has been described as the most powerful product that VMware (n)ever released, given that it has been bundled with vCenter Server 4.0, yet many vSphere administrators aren’t even aware that they have it installed. With Orchestrator, it is possible to quickly integrate with a variety of third-party systems with minimal to no scripting or programming. A simple drag and drop interface allows administrators to construct powerful workflows that integrate with third-party systems.
VCO is what enables XaaS inside of VCAC. The relationship between the two works like this: VCAC is the request and approval portal, VCO is the orchestration engine. XaaS catalog items can be one-time workflows, or workflows that provision custom resources types. These are then managed through VCAC by additional actions which trigger VCO workflows that manipulate the object in some way. The approval framework in VCAC, based on a user’s security group membership, allows certain items to require management approval. This approval framework applies to both IaaS and XaaS catalog entries. Multiple tiers of approvals for certain items can be created if there are multiple layers of management required to approve a certain service. Whiteboarding and planning sessions can help determine approvals required for different types of catalog items.
VCO plug-ins can help expand the XaaS capabilities of VCO by providing access to different third-party systems. The VMware Solution Exchange has a listing of available plug-ins: you can view them here.
If an XaaS use case is not covered by an existing VCO plug-in, it is still possible to create VCO workflows to integrate with that system without any sophisticated programming by using externally-interacting workflows such as REST, SOAP, PowerShell and SSH. The VCO team blog has an example of using VCO’s Dynamic Types feature to essentially teach VCO what different Twitter data types are (such as Tweets, Mentions, etc.) and perform actions on those items (such as Retweet) all from within VCO without requiring any scripting or coding. This may not be a great real-world example of using VCO in a business environment, but it does show how powerful the Dynamic Types feature can be when combined with a business application’s REST or SOAP API.
The key point to remember here is that anything that can be manipulated in VCO (which is almost anything, as we’ve previously established), can be made available in the VCAC request catalog, to the appropriate people that should have access to it, and with the appropriate approval required. Essentially, imagination is almost the only limit to what can be done with these powerful tools.
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