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Moving to a private cloud: Technology choices and implementation issues

By Bill Claybrook
November 15, 2010 06:00 AM ET

First a framework, then a configuration database

Key to this catalog was the implementation of an ITIL framework that resulted in storing information around Suncorp's assets and business application relationships in a CMDB (configuration management database). All of Suncorp's major IT processes -- incident, problem, asset and change -- leverage the CMDB.

Populating a service catalog can be time-consuming. But if you are using IT service management and change management tools such as BMC Remedy or Service-now.com and have an existing CMDB in place, it can be easier. You can work through the appropriate services in the CMDB to provide the automated services listed in a service catalog. This is what Suncorp is doing with its BMC Remedy-based CMDB.

Cameron said that Suncorp is deploying a private cloud because it has to serve its customers better and take care of them more quickly. In traditional data centers, enterprises often take a week or even months to provision a server, depending on how heavy IT staff workloads are and how long queues are for various tasks required by users.

What do you see as the advantages of private clouds over public clouds?
(Select all that apply.)
Better security/control since it's all done in-house: 85%
Self-service provisioning for most types of IT resources: 46%
Little or no learning curve for users, since it involves pretty much the same apps they've been used to: 44%
Better/more efficient scaling: 32%
No advantages: 2%
Source: Computerworld online survey; 54 respondents

Now, at Suncorp, a user goes to the self-service portal and requests resources and services. Once the requests are made, the fulfillment of these services is automated. Suncorp has virtualized most of its data centers around servers, storage and so on, resulting in about 80% of its data center services now being covered by automated self-service portal(s).

Most enterprises that have private clouds use some type of method, such as chargeback or physical limits on the amount of capacity that users can request, to keep the lid on demand. Otherwise, users might just keep provisioning virtual servers and use up the capacity quickly.

Essential cloud components

Jeffrey Driscoll, a systems engineer at consultancy Precision IT, suggests that when companies start building a private cloud, the basic building blocks are servers, storage such as a SAN, and virtualization software. "Then you start building a cluster," he says, and after that cluster is complete, "capacity planning becomes critical."

Capacity planning involves figuring out what happens when you add servers and other resources to the cluster as needed to keep up with business demand. Capacity planning is a major component of the cluster and the cloud's performance. If it's done wrong, you might end up with useless systems or have to shoehorn in traditional, non-cloud systems to keep things running.

What do you see as the drawbacks of private clouds compared to public clouds?
(Select all that apply.)
Having to build it all internally -- time, cost, learning curve for IT: 50%
Scalability: 33%
Having to implement virtualization, automation and orchestration when we didn't have those tools before: 30%
No drawbacks: 11%
Source: Computerworld online survey; 54 respondents

Most organizations are not good at monitoring and keeping ahead of capacity. To be able to satisfy user demands, you always have to have some extra capacity on the data center floor, which means a certain amount of hardware sitting around in idle mode. Keeping a history of capacity usage in your enterprise can help you make sure that you have sufficient -- but not too much -- capacity.



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