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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Your infrastructure has been fully virtualized when you have server virtualization, storage virtualization and network virtualization. The crossover point from a virtual infrastructure to private cloud comes when you have the management tools that treat all three types of resources -- servers, storage and networks -- as a single pool that can be allocated on demand.

Of course, all this is from a technology-centric point of view. Iams says that there is a parallel track that relates to the transition from an organizational perspective, including people, processes, governance, policy and funding. One key question: What does a private cloud structure do to budgets and financial flow within an organization?

Public clouds require users to pay only for what they use. Because a private cloud does not provide users with a fixed amount of capacity like they may have had with a traditional data center, chargeback is almost certain to be an integral part of private cloud environments.

Virtualization expert Bernard Golden views chargeback as very important because price is an important rationing mechanism -- and rationing computing resources will be more important in an environment where obtaining resources is as easy as filing out a Web form.

Few, if any, companies go through all of the above steps/stages in parallel. In fact, there is no single "correct" way to transition to a private cloud environment from a traditional data center. A private cloud is in part the logical conclusion of server virtualization where it is extended to storage and networks and then managed with tools that treat servers, storage and networks as a single pool of resources. Automation and orchestration tools are the key to moving from a virtualized infrastructure to a true private cloud.

But one thing is very clear: If your IT organization is not willing to make the full investment for whatever part of its data center is transitioned to a private cloud, it will not have a cloud that exhibits agile provisioning, elasticity and lower costs per application.

As part of the transition, you need to determine whether your staff has the experience and skills required for a private-cloud environment or whether you need to hire someone who has been involved in building private clouds.

How you get started depends on your existing infrastructure. If you already have server virtualization, you have a definite advantage over those who do not. Most important: Do not rush out and buy a ton of software from vendors, especially from a single vendor, without a plan in place.

Next time, in Part 2: Profiles of some private-cloud adopters and how they have approached the management issue.

Bill Claybrook is an analyst with more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry, specializing in Linux, open source, virtualization and cloud computing. He is president of New River Marketing Research in Concord, Mass., and holds a Ph.D. in computer science. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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