Jan 22 2014

6 Practical Steps to a Private Cloud

Private clouds make sense for security-minded college IT leaders.

With operational benefits and an understanding of some necessary tools in mind, IT managers can plot their migration to a private cloud following a half-dozen steps.

1. Begin by addressing the thorny budget issues.

Given today’s funding realities, many CIOs likely won’t have ready access to the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars needed to fund a full cloud implementation from scratch. But an incremental approach is to pay for the cloud one piece at a time.

“Find ways to take out costs in the current IT environment that materialize within six to nine months,” McDermott says. “This gives confidence to upper management and CIOs alike that the benefits of a private cloud strategy are real.”

Start by focusing on a current pain point, such as the time and resources being devoted to patch management or provisioning new resources. “For example, make a small investment that enables the organization to automate the delivery of applications to reduce costs related to staff time,” McDermott suggests.

2. Invest in tools that give the organization the ability to provision VMs on top of the existing IT infrastructure.

That will take out additional costs that CIOs can use to buy an integrated “cloud-in-a-box” platform of computing, storage and networking components.

“You can start provisioning resources onto that platform to begin the physical-to-virtual migration of servers,” McDermott says. “Then start systematically shutting down physical hardware over time. In this way, you make private cloud investments in manageable chunks — $200,000 to $400,000 at a time over two years — so the program is essentially paying for itself. At each step along the way, you’ll be able to see value of the investments, which is a less risky approach than spending $2 million up front.”

3. Evaluate the current IT environment.

It’s critical to have a sound inventory so that the IT team can determine if core areas, such as the internal network infrastructure, need a refresh to accommodate new ways of delivering services.

4. Virtualize wherever possible.

The widespread server virtualization efforts that have taken place over
the past few years have helped many IT shops reduce physical hardware requirements, increase utilization rates and alleviate power demands. Now, organizations are looking beyond consolidation to the next big wave of virtualization, which spans servers, storage systems and networks.

“Organizations have the ability to micro-segment their networks via software to assure that workloads are isolated from one another.”

- Edward Newman, senior director of cloud and IT transformation, EMC Global Services

Along with reduced hardware footprints and cost savings in energy and other areas, widespread virtualization addresses the security concerns that come about when a number of users share resources in a private cloud implementation. But security concerns may be lessened with the advent of software-defined data centers, which comprehensively apply virtualization to computing, networking and storage resources.

“Organizations have the ability to micro-segment their networks via software to assure that workloads are isolated from one another,” EMC’s Newman says. “This approach provides a higher degree of security inside a cloud and from external forces. It also offers much greater transparency into data center operations so administrators can quickly react to a security or compliance issue — often through a predefined policy about how to address suspicious activity.”

5. Determine which applications are right for running in a private cloud.

Not every application will likely be right for cloud migration. The IT team will need to evaluate and prioritize the applications in use.

6. Implement technologies for automated provisioning and orchestration.

Clearly, these tools offer key management advantages for the IT team, particularly when paired with a portal that lets users serve themselves based on defined use policies.

“Once you create the catalog and tie it to a library of standard hardware images, end users can make requests for new services,” McDermott says. “The orchestration platform then steps in to automate and build out the services.”

The Egenera PAN Cloud Director enables cloud creators to build service catalogs and includes tools for discovering and importing resources throughout the IT environment. Modules for pricing and billing resource requests are included in the solution.

“We act as a portal and service catalog to make all resources available to the designer,” says John Humphreys, Egenera vice president of sales and marketing. “Our view of the world is that all resources should be available in the catalog, whether they’re physical or virtual or in a private or public cloud.”

With an incremental approach, IT managers can launch dynamically provisioned services to users
from a private cloud — and, most important, avoid large upfront capital investments.