Building a private cloud: Get ready for a bumpy ride

Check your traditional data center mind-set at the door or be prepared to fail.

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Private clouds involve two groups: the IT (data center) operations folks and the business users who want to run applications. A private cloud gives business users the opportunity to quickly provision a server and run an application when they want to -- without human intervention.

The IT operations folks have to make sure that sufficient resources are available for the type of on-demand computing that business users have heard is available with public clouds, and that usually means that the wait for user-requested resources is minutes, not days. Anything short of this, and users will be unhappy.

private cloud

This is what private clouds are all about: providing the on-demand elasticity of public clouds but doing it within the company's firewall.

Another difference is that some IT managers or business users may expect private clouds to act like public clouds. In a public cloud, the public cloud provider's IT operations group is responsible for the compute infrastructure, and the enterprise's business application groups manage and monitor their own applications, under agreement, on the public cloud. If the private cloud is expected to operate in a similar manner, that means the IT group may need to give up its traditional application-management role.

The steps for transition

The first thing is to broaden out beyond server virtualization. At this point, a lot of users are looking at virtualization for purposes of availability. So look at those aspects of virtual infrastructure that improve availability as the next steps toward a private cloud.

Today, people are integrating storage with virtualization and are beginning to understand the impact of broad virtualization of resources, Iams of Ideas International says. "When we get to the stage where virtualization of servers is the rule rather than the exception and most workloads are virtualized, this is the stage in which virtualization gets woven into the operational process," he says.

When you get to this stage, you have to rethink what this does to your storage processes, Iams says. "For example, how does virtualization affect backup and recovery?"

Iams outlines the following steps for creating a private cloud:

  • Virtualize your storage and try to achieve the same flexibility with storage that you already have with virtualized servers.
  • Coordinate server virtualization and storage virtualization with management tools such as Windows Azure Storage Management and VMware vStorage.
  • Virtualize your network infrastructure and, again, coordinate that with your management tools.
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