IBM Cloud Computing Reference Architecture: what’s in it for me?

Let me start by sharing a real story with you, although it is a little bit embarrassing on my part.

I joined IBM in 1989 as a young IT graduate. One of my first assignments was to present IBM’s networking products at a small local IT event, focusing on how those products conformed to open standards. My cubical in IBM was next to a wall and on the wall there was a big poster: “OSI 7 Layers Reference Model For Network Communication.” While looking at the poster with fascination and trying to get some pointers for my presentation, I said to myself “This is your clue! You should start with the OSI layers, impress your audience with all the technical details of this reference model and finish it off with positioning the IBM networking products within those layers.”

One week after I had this “brilliant idea,” I was in front of my audience, talking about OSI layers with all the gory technical details. Somewhere between layers 2 and 3, I turned my back to the audience, explaining interactions of those layers on the whiteboard with a bunch of technical details. All of a sudden I heard a pretty loud sound. When I looked back at my audience, I saw a guy snoring, a few of them almost falling asleep and the rest of them looking at my face and trying to say “SO WHAT?” or “What is in it for me?”

And there were still 4 more layers to go!

That day I learned my lesson. If you want people in any business to invest their time with you, in all fairness first you need to answer the question “What is in it for me?” So, in this article about the IBM Cloud Computing Reference Architecture (IBM CC RA), I mostly focus on answering this question.

Reference architecture
First of all, what is a reference architecture? I think the simplest definition is, it is a proven template solution for architecture for a particular domain. A more detailed definition of a reference architecture is as follows:

  • Provides a blueprint of all the components and decisions that must be made to construct particular functionality or area of interest.
  • Documents the architectural decisions, business functions, and operational requirements needed for a well-defined scope.
  • Consists of a set of models and/or work products to address those functional requirements in scope.

Following our “What is in it for me?” approach, let’s quickly answer why a reference architecture is important for your business.

  • It delivers best practices in a standardized, methodical way.
  • It ensures consistency and quality across the development and delivery process.
  • It mitigates risk by taking an asset-based approach to solution development.

IBM Cloud Computing Reference Architecture

So what is IBM CC RA?

Let’s use the definition used in the IBM Cloud Computing Reference Architecture 2.0 document submitted to the Cloud Architecture Project of the Open Group: “The CC RA is based on real-world input from many cloud implementations across IBM. The Architecture Overview Diagram provides overview of the fundamental architectural building blocks making up the CC RA. It also defines architectural principles serving as a guideline for creating any cloud environment.”

One of the most important things we should recognize about IBM CC RA is that it represents the aggregate experience across hundreds of cloud client engagements and the implementation of IBM-hosted clouds. Moreover, it is not a static architecture. Real-world implementation experiences and technology developments in IBM products are being integrated into IBM CC RA through continuous improvement process.

Consisting of 21 detailed documents representing best-of-industry knowledge and insight on how to architect, design and implement clouds, IBM CC RA focuses on cost reduction, achieving high degrees of security, reliability, scalability and control in cloud implementations.

There is a well-defined, 12-step process for using IBM CC RA to implement a cloud service. For example, it has been used in the design of many cloud-related products and services such as:

  • IBM-hosted cloud services
  • Clouds IBM implements for clients
  • IBM cloud appliances
  • IBM cloud service management products

As shown in the figure below, IBM CC RA defines basic elements of any cloud service environment. You can use it to identify the physical components of a cloud implementation such as network storage, virtualization and also the software components that are required to run and manage the cloud environment. In addition, it defines governance policies tailored for the environment or organization.

IBM CC RA covers the business and technical requirements needed for various cloud roles and responsibilities including the cloud consumer, cloud provider and cloud services creator. Cloud services includes the full spectrum of cloud service models, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and business process as a service (BPaaS). Common Cloud Management Platform (CCMP) defines operational and business support services commonly needed for delivering and managing any cloud service.

IBM CC RA provides product and tool recommendations for one common architecture that can be used across all cloud deployment models. We do not go into details of these in this article, but if you want to learn more about IBM CC RA I highly recommend that you read the IBM Cloud Computing Reference Architecture 2.0 document. Another good resource is the Getting cloud computing right white paper.

Now, let’s put on our “What is in it for me?” hat again. Using this architecture will save you time and money, as well as reduce your implementation risk because you will be building on IBM’s experience in creating public, private, and hybrid clouds instead of reinventing the wheel every time you build those services.

In short, IBM CC RA can make your cloud experience more successful by:

  • Improving time-to-value and reducing errors during the implementation
  • Providing fast, on-demand access to the functionality your customers are requesting
  • Facilitating functional gap analysis
  • Enabling cross-charging for IT services
  • Creating a highly efficient service delivery and service support infrastructure
  • Ensuring replicability and integration across private, public, and hybrid cloud environments
  • Benefiting from open standards

Anybody sleeping yet?

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