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.
Step No. 3: Price
After you’ve packaged up your IT processes into work loads and services, it’s important to assign a valuation to each IT unit. How much does it cost to run the service? How much will it cost if the service goes offline? These cost assessments are driven by the business need, therefore the analysis should be presented around how these costs will impact the business owner.
The biggest advantage of a service-driven data center is that business services can be dynamically managed to SLAs and moved around as appropriate. This gives companies the ability to attach processes to services by connecting work loads to virtual services. Now, for the first time, a business process is logically connected to the hardware implementing that business process.
More importantly, in the middle there are mobile work loads that ensure the business service meets SLAs. In other words, the business service can be managed independent of the hardware. Business services can be managed to SLAs because they are not tied to the business server and can be moved around as needed.
Price depends on the criticality of the service, what resources it will consume or whether it’s worthy of backup and/or disaster recovery support. This represents a new approach not typically disclosed by IT. Transparency in a cloud migration plan is critical to demonstrate the value the cloud provides in a cost-effective manner. This pricing style is then ready for presentation.
Step No. 4: Present
Once you have an IT service package, the next step is to present a unified catalog to the consumers of those services, available to all relevant stakeholders within the organization to see. Consider the catalog as an IT showcase or storefront, complete with various options and directions for your private cloud to demonstrate value to the company.
This allows your organization the flexibility to balance both IT and business needs for a private cloud architecture that works for all parties. In addition, the transparency gives customers a way to interact with IT directly-not just to see, but to choose and investigate.
Cloud computing is still abstract and intimidating to many enterprises-and probably will be for some time. But companies can begin taking steps toward extending their enterprise to the cloud by adopting private clouds. With the service-driven data center, an organization can achieve a private cloud-one that is virtualized, work load-based and managed in terms of business services. Work loads are managed in a dynamic manner to meet business SLAs. There is a clear, logical progression from physical server to virtualization to the work load to business service to business service management.
Evaluating and presenting your cloud migration plan in this fashion will insure that your private cloud is managed effectively, providing optimum visibility to the cloud’s business value. Viewing this method as a continuous process makes a cloud investment less daunting to a business. Your IT infrastructure does not need to be an “all in” decision. You can make the transition with smaller pieces first, allowing for all stakeholders to recognize the value a private cloud can provide to their business.
Richard Whitehead is Director of Data Center solutions at Novell. With over 15 years of experience in the software industry, Richard has worked for Novell in a variety of roles, including engineering, product management and product marketing. Richard has also held senior positions in product management and marketing for Citrix, Franklin Covey and WordPerfect. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.