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Moving to a private cloud: Technology choices and implementation issues

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

One solution is to create a hybrid cloud environment and, when capacity is not available in the private cloud, move requests for capacity to public clouds such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

Once the cluster is up and running, you can start provisioning virtual servers. The result is a tiered architecture with a server layer, a network layer and a virtualization layer. There is a management tool at each layer. "Now you can start thinking about automation," Driscoll says.

Some security concerns

Driscoll says that private clouds are great for businesses with security concerns or regulatory requirements, although Suncorp's Cameron says that private clouds force implementers to rethink how they do security.

Are you implementing chargeback or some kind of pay-per-use model for your end users to pay for their piece of the private cloud?
Yes: 30%
No, we had chargeback/pay-per-use before the cloud: 18%
No, we don't have any type of
chargeback or pay-per-use planned: 52%
Source: Computerworld online survey; 54 respondents

For example, the way in which firewalls are handled in traditional data centers is not going to always work in cloud environments where workloads can be moved around. The reason: In a virtualized environment, servers may be organized into different security groups, and the security of the target host may not be satisfactory for a virtual machine (VM) being migrated to it.

Suncorp is now well advanced in virtualizing its firewalls. Virtualized firewalls are important because multiple VMs may be connected using virtualized network switches and other virtualized components, as opposed to a network running entirely over physical hardware and cabling.

The bottom line is that the security issues in virtual environments are not always the same as those in non-virtual environments.

Managing the storage piece

Storage isn't always as big an issue as some would have you think. If storage problems exist in your virtualized environment, there are some ways of dealing with them, including deduplication, thin provisioning and becoming more savvy about the way you purchase storage.

"All we needed to do was to move storage up a tier" -- from Serial ATA to Integrated Drive Electronics -- "to resolve some initial performance issues," says Craig Baughn, vice president of hosting services at Concur. At first the company had "slightly underestimated" the I/O requirements of the virtualized environment, he explains. "We found that it's critical to profile the storage demand of a given server/application before moving it to a VM, so we can place it on the correct storage tier out of the gate."

The architecture that Concur deployed "allowed us to leverage deduplication wisely," Baughn says, and achieve greater than 40x compression without sacrificing performance. Deduplication is a storage-based means of eliminating duplicate or redundant information. One benefit of doing this, Baughn explains, is that the VM reboot time is twice as fast, on average, compared to that of physical servers.

To help manage your private cloud,
are you using ...
Some combination of new and old tools: 63%
The same tools we use for our physical server infrastructure: 22%
A different set of tools entirely: 11%
Other: 4%
Source: Computerworld online survey; 54 respondents

Baughn says, "We are focused on making the capacity in our private cloud elastic, expanding dynamically when the needs of our clients and employees require more capacity." Concur chose VMware for its virtualization software, CA's Service Assurance Suite for monitoring and BMC's BladeLogic Server Automation Suite to help manage its private cloud.

The case for management tools

The first step in managing private clouds is to get management tools that can bridge the physical infrastructure and the virtual infrastructure. You will have to manage physical servers running no virtualization software and physical servers hosting virtual machines, because not all servers are likely to be resources in the private cloud.



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