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Moving to a private cloud: Technology choices and implementation issues

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

Commercial versus homegrown tools

The downside of commercial, off-the-shelf tools is that they will likely need to be customized to work with your environment. On the other hand, the downside of rolling your own tools is that your in-house IT group needs to maintain them, make feature enhancements and so on.

One alternative to home-grown tools includes building mixed-component cloud stacks by acquiring various third-party components and putting them together. The question then becomes: Who do you call when there is a problem? Another possibility is to lock yourself into a single vendor such as Microsoft or VMware.

Each alternative has its pluses and minuses, so weigh your options carefully. And keep in mind that turning back from any of them once you're under way is expensive and time-consuming.

Open-source tools

What's the most challenging part of implementing a private cloud?
(Select all that apply.)
Software licensing/pricing issues: 44%
Finding tools to help us build our cloud: 44%
Ensuring economies of scale: 44%
Finding tools to help us manage our cloud: 42%
Making it all work together: interoperability: 37%
Dealing with technology obsolescence, protecting our cloud investment: 37%
Lack of standards in the cloud world: 33%
Making the ROI case to upper management: 20%
Source: Computerworld online survey; 54 respondents

Open-source software is a good choice for building private clouds because the software is essentially free, and it does not impede the flexibility gained by virtualization and cloud computing the way that proprietary software licensed on physical CPUs sometimes does. For example, proprietary software licensing can create issues with migrating VMs from host to host.

Abiquo, Cloud.com and Red Hat sell open-source tools for managing clouds.

You do not want to lock yourself into a single vendor's cloud stack. Especially avoid vendors with cloud stacks that perform well when using only their components. Reserve the option to plug in your home-grown or third-party tools.

Integrating multiple tool sets

Jeff Deacon, cloud computing principal for Verizon Business, says that more sophisticated enterprises are integrating multiple management tool sets -- for instance, HP's Server Automation Suite and BMC's Patrol Automation Suite. Security, firewall, networking and storage elements can be orchestrated from within both BMC Patrol and HP Server Automation Suite.

Companies that do not link multiple tool sets may have to write a lot of their own software to get the necessary automation capabilities.

It is not yet possible to buy one commercial product that will do everything that most IT managers need to do for private clouds. You have to stitch together a number of different products from various vendors and place your own GUI on the front end.

Is single-console management a reality for private clouds? Iams says that not everyone will be able to get by with just one console, but even two or three consoles represent a huge improvement over the dozen that some shops use today.

Deacon thinks that single-console management is in the cards. He says that Verizon Business has built a high-level console management layer that calls APIs from VMware vCenter, HP Network Automation and HP Virtual Connect, among other products.



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