Amazon first started the concept of IaaS, the model of requesting and delivering servers in the cloud. A number of providers namely Rackspace, Microsoft, Savvis, HP and most recently Google, followed. The common thing with all of these providers, irrespective of when they started offering IaaS services is, at the compute level they still are Virtual Servers or Virtual Machines.
You get to choose from a list of available “templates”, for e.g., considering Windows Server 2008 with 2 CPU, 4 GB RAM and 50 GB of storage, you can choose different variations of these templates. Some of these variations also include applications like SQL server packaged in the basic template. This is a great model when your target audience is the dev / test community or an IT administrator, but, what about the others?
In my interactions with a number of service providers or data centers that would like to become the next Amazon, and who currently count SMBs as their primary customers, the demand is something different. These SMBs want the service providers to provide them a setup where they can house their websites, email or CRM servers. Most of these solutions require more than one type of server template to be deployed. So, how does a CSP do it? The servers are provisioned separately, assigned with IPs, and connected with the right kind of storage. If there are multiple SMBs requesting the same thing there needs to be a better way than always provisioning servers one by one, something that I call Solution Templates.
A Solution Template is something that solves a business problem. The business problem could be to deliver a web server in three-tier architecture. Let the three tiers be the presentation layer, the business logic and database layer respectively, and each of them be a different server. A Solution Template defined by the CSP, will have three servers as part of it, connected to each other so that they are all part of the same IP subnet. The right kind of storage is assigned to the servers, with the fastest one being for the database server. The CSP will also determine a price for this template, possibly by the month. So, if there is a request for a three-tier web server, all that the CSP has to do is to provision that Solution Template. If there is a self-service capability, the customer can do it himself.
Likewise, we can have Solution Templates for almost every business problem – an Email Solution Template, a CRM Solution Template, a scalability testing template, a Big Data Solution Template, a HIPAA compliant Solution Template, and so on.
2013 could be the year to start moving towards Solution Templates. With Solution Templates, the offerings of IaaS providers will become much richer and relevant to folks also outside the dev / test community. With VMUnify, this is the next big challenge that we are addressing, and we will hopefully have a Solution Template that CSPs can deploy in 2013.