How to Manage Private Clouds Using Business Service Management

Cloud computing is an enticing model, promising a new level of flexibility in the form of pay-as-you-go, readily accessible, infinitely scalable IT services. Executives in companies big and small are embracing the concept, but many are also questioning the risks of moving sensitive data and mission-critical work loads into the cloud. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Richard Whitehead offers four tips on how to manage private clouds using service-level agreements and business service management technologies.


There are hybrid cloud computing models emerging that offer some of the benefits of cloud computing but minimize the pitfalls. These models incorporate what the industry is calling "private clouds." These private, or internal, clouds house all of a company's internal data and applications but, at the same time, give the user more flexibility over how services are rendered.

The move to private clouds is part of the evolution of the data center, from a basic warehouse of information to a smarter, more agile deliverer of services. Data centers started out as self-contained entities and grew into sprawling megaplexes as companies added server after server. Virtualization has consolidated the physical server sprawl, helping companies save on real estate, power and cooling costs. But it creates a new challenge: managing all of the physical and virtual servers, or virtual sprawl. It is harder to manage what you cannot physically reach out and touch.

Technology is here to facilitate this more practical move into the cloud. The following is a guide to how private clouds can be managed using service-level agreements (SLAs) and business service management (BSM) technologies. This guide is not a one-time, linear process. Instead, it's a continuous methodology to bring new capabilities into an IT department within a private cloud framework. The following four steps will arm IT with the tools and knowledge to overcome common cloud concerns and experience the benefits that a private cloud provides.

Step No. 1: Prepare

The first thing an IT department can do before looking at alternative computing processes is to logically evaluate the computing assets it already has. What is the mix of physical and virtual assets? How are those assets currently performing? Note the word "asset" because this process should examine the business value that IT delivers.

With this context in mind, instead of thinking in terms of server space and bandwidth, ask if this private cloud migration will increase sales calls or streamline distribution? This approach positions IT as a resource, instead of as a line item within an organization. Otherwise, if you don't present your resources in terms of assets and ROI, your private cloud migration plan may never make it off the ground.

Step No. 2: Package

The next step after an IT inventory is to package up your resources accordingly. This requires a new set of measurement tools. In the virtualized world, IT shops are starting to think in terms of packaging "work loads," not just running applications on physical servers. Work loads are portable, self-contained units of work or services built through the integration of the JeOS ("just enough" operating system), middleware and the application. They're not stuck in the data center rack; they're portable and can be moved across physical, virtual, cloud and heterogeneous environments.

A group of work loads is known as a business service. This approach represents a fundamental shift from managing physical servers and applications to managing business services composed of portable work loads that can be mixed and matched in the best way to serve the business. Managing IT to business services-a concept also known as the service-driven data center-is becoming a business best practice. It also allows the IT department to price and validate its private cloud plan accordingly.