EMC OnDemand: OnDemand versus Amazon EC2

As you can imagine, potential customers have a lot of very legitimate questions when considering the move to EMC OnDemand.  For both new customers as well as those who are migrating their existing content into the EMC secure private cloud one of the questions we hear a lot is, “Why would I choose EMC OnDemand instead of Amazon EC2?”.

I love this question.  It gives us a chance to talk about all the EMC OnDemand value-add without the appearance of grandstanding.  And in the end, it is clear to everyone this is an apples to oranges question, but the explanation allows us to highlight some key points that resonate very deeply with an EMC customer evaluating cloud offerings.

Cloud Service Models

This diagram illustrates the various flavors of cloud service models, at the left sits an on-premise installation of your IIG software.

You control everything from top to bottom: from power to networking, OS patching, databases, IIG product installation and upgrades, backup and disaster recovery planning, high availability, and client access.  As you well know, it takes a lot of specializations all coming together to run this smoothly.

The next column is IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), which is where EC2 resides.  Instead of requiring rack space in your own datacenter which traditionally is very strictly controlled by your internal IT groups, you can pay for virtual computing in one of Amazon’s data centers.  They handle the power, rack space, core networking, perhaps basic operating system and patching, and availability of your server.

There are many reasons IaaS can be attractive.  It offers elastic computing power for custom applications, initial capital expense can be lower, it can often give application groups more control than their internal IT group is willing to offer, has very defined SLA contracts, can provide datacenters in multiple world geos, etc.

On the other side of the spectrum is SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).  An offering made hugely popular by Salesforce.com, companies are able to outsource an entire business need (e.g. CRM) to a vendor who handles all facets of running the application: availability, backup, security, networking, analytics, etc. for a usage fee.  Functions that are not core or a competitive advantage can be converted and the long-term maintenance costs of an application can be avoided.  However, there is limited capability for customization and control.

OnDemand straddles the gap between PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) and SaaS.  It is typically not a pure SaaS play, although D2 or solution customers such as EPFM may fall under this category.  In our experience, enterpise customers usually require a level of customization and control, and there are still desktop clients apps that usually need to be exposed.  And because the management, operations, EMC Support teams, and select products are tuned specifically to a stack built by our Engineering group we refer to it as a “purpose-built” PaaS.

At this point in the conversation with customers, it becomes clear that simply replacing the on-premise hardware/OS supplied by their IT department with a cloud provider’s hardware/OS does not address the problems they are looking to solve.  It does not alleviate the risk, offset responsibility, or ease the internal maintenance/operations effort.

And for those customers who understand the cloud service model but were really asking the question “Why wouldn’t I buy computing resources at Amazon and simply install the software stack myself?”,  again it comes back to analyzing the root cause of why you are investigating cloud solutions in the first place.  Taking on more departmental work by building your own IIG software solution stack on cloud hardware (to enterprise specifications) means taking on risk and responsibility that doesn’t match your business goals or budget.

Back to the Big Picture

So let’s go back and discuss why customers are prompted to evaluate moving IIG products out of on-premise datacenters and into the cloud in the first place.  I’ll speak to the challenges with Documentum since I am closest to that product, but similar stories could be told for Captiva and xPression.

For those who have been in the trenches of support and application development for Documentum, it is well understood that it takes a lot of people to keep the doors open.  I don’t mind saying this because it is common for any Enterprise product: SAP, Oracle, Informatica, SharePoint, etc.  There are so many layers of integration and infrastructure it takes multiple teams collaborating together to run a successful solution.

It is not uncommon to call a meeting with a customer to address a specific set of concerns and have 8-12 people sitting around a single table: a DBA to offer insight into underlying index performance, the hardware storage guy to address SAN driver info and latency, an  IT operations resource who can answer why the OS was patched to a specific level over the weekend, 2 Documentum architects to explain the docbroker and ACS configuration, and several Java/WDK developers to talk to the exact application logic which is showing problems.  Add the Project Manager and you can see how a room can fill up quick.

Additionally, maintenance becomes an internal chore that requires a great deal of time and expertise.  You must have someone working on short-cycle projects to patch the system, and then very large projects centered solely on upgrade paths which can take months in order to avoid problems with availability and data loss.

All this requires a great deal of expertise and effort.  You must trust your internal infrastructure teams to provide the best backup solution, disaster recovery plan, storage performance, database tuning, and network configuration to serve Documentum’s needs.  Then you must rely on your group of Documentum SME to design the correct docbroker balancing, CS instance sizing, patch planning, large upgrade planning, and custom application development.

OnDemand allows Customers to focus on their ECM Requirements

Now contrast that to the OnDemand purpose-built PaaS, with EMC transparently providing not only the underlying IaaS but also:

  • An appropriately sized and scalable Content Server instance(s) that is monitored for availability and performance
  • A tuned database that is continually improved based on feedback from global customer field experiences
  • Dynamic storage capacity based on EMC storage hardware
  • A flexibly scheduled patch and upgrade release cycle, planned and executed by EMC OnDemand resources
  • Purpose built modules that add search, rendition, annotation, and retention services
  • Integration modules for Webtop, D2, Outlook, Mobile, and SharePoint
  • Vertical solutions modules such as EPFM can be simply bolted on to your environment
  • Backups, High-Availability, Disaster Recovery are all developed and executed by OnDemand resources
  • Controlled DEV, TEST, and PROD environments
  • Provisioning and validating the entire system in days, not months

Freed from the infrastructure and maintenance tasks above, our customer are able to actively engage their environment:

  • Defining the custom object model, methods, and TBO
  • Designing the global folder and security model for users, groups, ACLs
  • Creating workflows for business process optimization
  • Defining retention policies
  • Developing Webtop customization
  • Creating D2 configurations
  • Configuring xCP 2.0 applications
  • Monitoring custom jobs
  • Evaluating EMC modules requested by end users
  • Validating the environments upgraded by EMC
  • Parsing application logs for any errors that may be rooted in customizations
  • Working with EMC OnDemand/Support on product issues
  • Providing first level support for their internal end users

The reason why EMC OnDemand is so attractive is that it takes on the big underlying horizontal concerns that all customers face and puts the responsibility for managing that back in the hands of specialists within EMC: backup, disaster recovery, availability, storage, scalability, performance, upgrades, and patches are all tuned specifically to the EMC application stack.  And it is continually improved based on issues and feedback from a global customer base.

Which allows our customers to invest more time providing valuable business tools that enables their core business strategy.