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IT as a Service Authors: Ashish Nanjiani, Satyen Vyas, Mike Raia, Pat Romanski, John Savageau

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VMware’s Cloud Application Platform, part 2 – Opportunities for MSPs

The VMware Cloud Application Platform is especially key to MSPs (Managed Service Providers). Again, like the previous blog, we can look at some real-world RFP procurement scenarios to identify the key drivers that explain why.

First, a keystone to this is the inclusion of the Horizon App Manager.

This maps to a component that Elections Canada asked for in their traditional web hosting to Cloud migration RFP, that they call the ‘ADC’ – Application Development Controller.

The relationship of this ADC to the DevOps model that drives the business benefits is explained in the Wikipedia entry, where it explains that one of the key foundations of a DevOps architecture is:

“Giving infrastructure more application-centric understanding”

Elections Canada stipulate requirements for this type of capability to be baked into the Cloud hosting services they’re looking for, in three main tiers:

  1. The ADC
  2. Web Services Reference Architecture
  3. Web Business Evolution : iVoting and beyond…

1. ADC

The ADC (Application Delivery Controller) is the core that provides the following main capabilities:

  • Identity authentication and Single Sign-on: Two factor “Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service” and RTSP; SSO Microsoft Active Directory 2003 and 2008.
  • VPN: Support session persistence using source IP, cookie, server, group, SSL session, SIP CALLID, token-based and JSESSIONID; SSL VPN connectivity;
  • Infrastructure: L4 load balancing and L7 content switching, offer hardware clustering features; support AAA for traffic management; WAN acceleration;
  • Data exchange: Supports XML brokering.
  • Security: Incorporate an application firewall with XML security, encrypt SSL data using encryption algorithms that comply with the “Federal Information Processing Standard” at FIPS-140-2 Level 2; and support RSA cipher key.

2. DevOps – Web services reference architecture

The ADC provides a core building block for managing much of the mundane infrastructure work that shouldn’t application developers shouldn’t be concerned with. This makes it easier for the infrastructure and development teams to divide and conqueor their workloads.

Elections Canada also state that on top of this will be their ‘Web Service Reference Architecture’, part of what they call a “Target Multi-tier System Architecture”, where common services for authentication, authorization and auditing are built into the Cloud environment, ie. it provides the frame of reference for the software developers to write code that utilizes these underlying components.

3. Web Business Evolution – iVoting and beyond

The primary business benefit that Elections Canada is seeking what they call ‘Web Business Evolution’, where they are empowered to write more and better web-based software applications, to improve how they work as an organization.

Building these capabilities directly into the hosting environment itself is how Elections Canada anticipate they’ll be able to realize this compelling vision. A strong platform of Identity-centric architecture will be key to the security and features needed to more easily build the future applications they’re looking for, like eRegistrations, and the real flagship scenario: iVoting. The ability for citizens to vote online rather than via paper-based ballots, highlights how thorough the security systems must be and also the full scope of the potential that these technology trends represent.

The opportunity for MSPs is that Elections Canada also want to be able to buy in more ITaaS (IT as a Service) as a result of this. Their RFP is mostly for a specific web Cloud hosting requirement, but they also have a section which basically asks for a shopping list presentation, where they ask for future options in areas such as:

“..new Web services, which includes but not limited to, the following:

a) email such as IMAP; POP3; Exchange; and Web mail;
b) collaboration;
c) content management;
d) document management;
e) file storage and printing;
f) office productivity tools;
g) Internet portal;
h) business intelligence;
i) secure remote access;
j) proxy caching;
k) application packaging and distribution;
l) host EC Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) software;
m) host EC hardware products;
n) security certificate management; and
o) directory services.”

The primary benefit of the Cloud Application Platform to MSPs is the ability to use it to populate and offer a catalogue of services that matches this request list.

This is because components like the Horizon App Manager is that it’s meeting the needs of the ADC role, providing services like enterprise directory integration, it can be used to virtualized and deliver IaaS from the MSP data-centre, and it can also broker in SaaS and other partner Cloud apps too.

For options like ‘office productivity tools’, MSPs are better to federate in existing SaaS apps rather than reinvent the wheel. Where they can specialize and offer real value is in key areas like “‘host EC Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) software; “


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