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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Talligent Talks OpenStack and Hybrid Cloud Billing with Openbook

Interview Talligent

While at the Austin OpenStack Summit event which took place earlier this year, I caught up with the executive team from Talligent and learned more about the company's Openbook cloud billing and chargeback software; additionally, they gave me a nice update on the overall OpenStack market.

As a follow up to that initial conversation on the show floor, I recently spoke with Sanjay Mishra, the CEO of Talligent, to dive in a bit deeper into the billing challenges of an OpenStack or a hybrid cloud environment.

VMblog:  For those not yet familiar with Talligent, can you provide a brief introduction?

Sanjay Mishra:  Absolutely.  Talligent provides billing, chargeback, and capacity planning solutions for OpenStack and hybrid cloud environments.  As IT services have shifted more and more to a cloud delivery model, the management tools have to shift as well.  Self-service becomes more important as well as the cost and consumption visibility that project owners need to make practical decisions for deploying resources for their project.

VMblog:  How have you seen OpenStack evolve over the last couple of years? 

Mishra:  The stability and packaging options for OpenStack have improved considerably.  This makes it much easier for companies to deploy and run OpenStack in production, supporting a much wider range of applications than before.  As the platform has improved and experience has grown, many enterprises are moving from the POC stage, or maybe a small test/dev lab, to full production private clouds.  Finding knowledgeable operators to staff an OpenStack project is still a community wide bottleneck, but that pool of resources is growing as well.

Our recent State of OpenStack report has information about OpenStack adoption drivers and expected workloads.  You can download the free report from our website here.

VMblog:  Can you explain to readers why billing or chargeback is a must have for an OpenStack cloud environment rather than a nice to have?

Mishra:  The concept of cloud is ultimately a self-service delivery model, one where the project owners can quickly get access to the resources they need.  IT is a facilitator and not a gate keeper.  In the past, IT could work with management to ration resources and tightly control workload placement.  With cloud, project owners have the autonomy to scale up or down, and right-size the workload according to budget and requirements.  That can only effectively be accomplished by providing the project owners with visibility into cost of the resources they are consuming.  Billing and chargeback is critical to showing project owners the cost and impact of their project so that they can decide what trade-offs to make within their budget.  

VMblog:  Can you talk about your latest announcement to support VMware and AWS clouds?

Mishra:  OpenStack is still our core competency and our key differentiator.  We do OpenStack better than anyone else and are not going to give up the lead.  But, like most organizations these days, our customers are dealing with multiple cloud platforms at once.  VMware still plays an important role for server virtualization, supporting some workloads that will never be suitable for cloud.  AWS and other public clouds are extremely convenient and flexible, making them well suited for bursting and/or risky projects that may need to scale up or down quickly. 

The need we are serving is a single pane of glass for cloud costs across multiple platforms, a hybrid approach - whether private or public, different platforms, or some combination of each.  Customers want to be able to quickly compare cost structures and available capacity across all of the platforms they are managing for through a single interface.  It helps demonstrate to project owners the cost differences and trade-offs for placing a work load in one location versus another.  And, in most cases, it helps demonstrate that, at scale, a well-managed private cloud can be much cheaper to operate than placing workloads on public cloud.

VMblog:  What are some of the key pain points your customers have talked about when managing clouds?

Mishra:  How fast are we growing?  How many more instances can we support?  What services are most in demand?  How does the cost of our OpenStack cloud compare with public cloud options?  These are some of the key questions that we hear from our customers.

Visibility is extremely limited for OpenStack and public clouds, hindering the stakeholders' ability to make informed decisions about workload placement and resource growth.  OpenStack does not natively have a history of cloud consumption or costs across projects.  Public cloud reports are long and difficult to parse.  In many cases, the public cloud use is distributed at the project level without a single company wide report.  In order to maintain high utilization of your private cloud resources and to make informed decision about workload placement between private and public clouds, this information is critical.

VMblog:  And how does Talligent's approach to cloud management differ from other solutions on the market? 

Mishra:  Talligent was built specifically for the requirements associated with managing hybrid cloud environments.  This includes self service at the project owner level for tracking costs, consumption, and resource planning; chargeback designed for IaaS and to support multiple audiences including the project owner, business unit manager, operator, and executive; cost comparisons across multiple cloud platforms; and capacity planning. 

Legacy virtualization management solutions are built to solve a different set of issues that are not as relevant with cloud (configuration drift, virtual machines with bad tools or old tools) and are built with a workflow that reflects IT as the centralized arbiter of all virtualization resources.  Project owner views and self-service were not a consideration for these legacy systems.

VMblog:  Can you describe a customer example of an enterprise using Openbook to manage a private cloud on OpenStack? 

Mishra:  We just released a case study about a large North American telco using Openbook to manage their OpenStack cloud.  Initially, they investigated Openbook as a way to track costs associated with cloud projects at the vice president level (one vice president is responsible for multiple separate cloud projects).  They had a particular requirement to manage OpenStack without the Ceilometer service, and also be able to track non-OpenStack services, such as AVI load balancers, through Openbook.  Now that the solution has been in production for several months, the customer has found the capacity planning reporting to be extremely valuable.  Capacity planning for OpenStack is a bit of a black box.  Openbook provides this customer with utilization and growth trend graphs and hot spot maps to help better plan for timely hardware additions.

VMblog:  So what's next for Talligent?  What's coming down the road that you can share?

Mishra:  We are a nimble company and add functionality on a regular basis.  We plan to add reports and analysis on available headspace and cost forecasting to help schedule cloud growth.  Our next big release is scheduled for the fall and is expected to include multi-tenancy support so that executives can have full access and visibility to the various projects under their responsibility.  As customer demand dictates, we are looking at adding support for Azure and Google Compute as additional public cloud options (dear readers - please let us know!).

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Thank you to Sanjay Mishra, CEO of Talligent, for taking the time to speak with VMblog and explain a bit more about Openbook and the billing challenges of a hybrid cloud environment.

Published Monday, June 27, 2016 6:33 AM by David Marshall
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