April 21, 2021 By Andrea Crawford
Andrew Ferrier
5 min read

Distributed cloud eases friction that IT and application development organizations encounter as they work across environments.

How can you start applying the technology and move with agility?

Cloud platforms are evolving into distributed services

A distributed cloud enables the customer to consume cloud services in any environment — on-premises, on different cloud platforms and at edge locations. This can bring consistency to how IT teams work in all environments. Being able to use the same cloud services the same way in any environment removes much redundant operations work. 

In providing distributed cloud as a service, IBM Cloud Satellite additionally removes from client teams the responsibility to maintain the software and systems that underlie the cloud services they consume. With a centralized view from which to monitor and manage deployed software and services, Satellite enables operations to grow without the need for many new team members. 

Let’s take a step back to see how IBM Cloud Satellite works. First, Satellite lets you create remote “locations” based on bare metal or virtualized hardware you specify; that can include existing hardware you own, hardware provided and maintained by IBM in your on-premises data center, hardware provided in colocation sites, bare metal or virtualized hosts in different cloud platform vendor sites. Each location becomes a custom region of IBM Cloud to which you deploy cloud services. And everything needed to ensure availability of IBM Cloud services in your locations is managed by IBM remotely, without access to your systems. 

Since all IBM Cloud services work the same wherever you deploy them, IBM Cloud Satellite guarantees consistency. For example, you can run managed Red Hat OpenShift on Kubernetes Service (ROKS) clusters in IBM Cloud and in IBM Cloud Satellite locations in exactly the same way. Deploying a ROKS-based application in any location and across geographies is the same. That consistency reinforces security through repetition of best practices, increases speed in container-based application development and enables automating operations. 

Benefits of distributed cloud with IBM Cloud Satellite

As we work with clients in the IBM Garage, we’re seeing some key benefits of distributed cloud as provided through IBM Cloud Satellite:

  • Keep your data — and your computation — where you want: If for regulatory, legal or internal process reasons you need to keep your data in a specific location, or you need to keep your data close to other systems for latency reasons but want to unlock the capabilities that a cloud platform like IBM Cloud will provide you, Satellite will enable that.
  • Accelerate your cloud strategy: If your organization wants to get going with public cloud — perhaps you even feel you’re behind the curve — Satellite is a way of doing that while retaining more control over where data and processing lives, even if it’s on-premises.
  • Ensure availability and recoverability: If you want to do a lot of your processing on public cloud but need the ability to burst locally (or vice-versa) for availability or DR reasons, Satellite will enable you to do that by providing a consistent experience in which your computation can run.
  • Use IBM Cloud where you like: If IBM Cloud public is not available in your region or country, there are now other options for running public cloud services.

Partnering with experts in distributed cloud services

In the IT industry, we’re sometimes guilty of thinking about infrastructure for its own sake. But the ultimate value comes when we can deploy real applications and data into your locations to serve your customers’ or organization’s needs. 

In the IBM Garage, we never focus on technology alone. Our mission is to help clients quickly achieve business value through cloud services. We have extensive experience using Enterprise Design Thinking; and to ensure a focus on business outcome, we partner our developers and yours with our talented but non-technical designers to align everyone around what your customers need and what production-ready minimum viable product (MVP) we can build together. Architecture, design and business strategy are all part of the conversation. 

We also share our expertise from working with clients across industries on their cloud strategies to help your team shape and define IBM Cloud architectures that can best support your current business goals while still remaining secure, resilient and scalable for future growth.

Here are some ways that using IBM Cloud Satellite is evolving our work with clients. 

Prove repeatable deployments

As an improvement to customer experience, an MVP is no different in operational terms than a final application. To ensure consistency of delivery, our framework for producing an MVP with clients includes deploying Satellite “locations” using best-of-breed automation infused with IBM Cloud leading practices and our Garage experience.

We have been building out coded assets to enable repeatability, predictability and reliability in deployment. In the Garage, we love automation for the time it saves and the reliability it ensures. We have an automated approach for setting up Satellite locations that provides an appropriate testbed. This approach uses Terraform and Ansible to automate the manual process for deploying Satellite and includes installing a ROKS cluster in each location.

Secure target locations

“If you want to halve the security protection of a computer, simply connect it to another one” – Thomas Watson, IBM founder

In our experience, most cloud-based solutions do not exist in isolation; they need to integrate with existing capabilities or data elsewhere. At the same time, for almost every customer we work with, security is a high priority for them when dealing with the cloud and needs to be part of the process from Day 1. 

In the case of IBM Cloud Satellite specifically, you’ll likely want to mix cloud capability provisioned in a Satellite location with IBM Cloud capabilities in IBM’s data centers themselves, where either that capability is not available in a Satellite location yet, or where you need communication between existing apps and systems. Likely, you’ll want to investigate and understand Satellite Link capability, which provides a mostly transparent and secure connection method between your Satellite location and the rest of IBM Cloud, but there are other possibilities, such as connecting via VPNs, over secured public APIs, etc.

Often, your Satellite location will be entirely private from the public internet, but you’ll want to think about how you ensure that’s the case and the best practices for doing so as you provision the initial infrastructure to support the Satellite locations. Sometimes you may want to make the Satellite location — or the ROKS cluster(s) deployed on it — public, and that will bring its own set of questions and considerations. In our experience, a thorough top-to-bottom analysis of the components involved will be needed to make sure this is tamper-proof.

Learn through doing

From what we’ve seen, developers and other practitioners learn best by doing. We believe adoption of new technology should be paired with behavioral and cultural changes to accelerate innovation and plan for future scale. But new ways of working can only endure when our clients have “skin in the game.” We don’t want to set up your IBM Cloud Satellite locations without you; we want to build a solution alongside your team.

Get started

We love talking to clients about what they are trying to accomplish with the cloud, whether it involves IBM Cloud Satellite or another cloud technology. We have a history of unpacking clients’ needs and providing technical leadership in a collaborative setting. If you’re interested in finding out more about IBM Cloud Satellite, we in the IBM Garage would love to hear from you. 

Learn more about IBM Cloud Satellite and IBM Garage. If you’d like to talk to an IBM Garage architect about your distributed cloud strategy, we can set up a short, no-cost conversation to get started. 

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