The Bumpy Road to Private Clouds

Building an internal cloud isn't easy, warns a veteran IT analyst. You'll need new tools and procedures.

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

By the way, 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 computer infrastructure, and the customer's business application groups manage and monitor their own applications on the public cloud. If the private cloud is expected to operate in a similar manner, then the IT group may need to give up its traditional application-management role.

Getting Started

The first step down the path to a private cloud is to go beyond server virtualization. Iams outlines these subsequent steps:

• 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 using management tools such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Azure Storage or VMware's vStorage.

• Virtualize your network infrastructure and, again, coordinate that with your management tools.

You know that 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 point of view. Iams says that there is a parallel set of steps from the 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 doesn't 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. Chargeback is a way of rationing computing resources, which is especially important when obtaining resources is as easy as filling out a Web form.

Paul Cameron, head of enterprise services at Suncorp Group, a major financial services provider in Brisbane, Australia, says that when his company began planning its private cloud, it created a service-based operating model and a service catalog. The service catalog contains the list of services being automated for internal use and is available to business users via a self-service portal.

A key to building that catalog was storing information about Suncorp's assets and business application relationships in a configuration management database (CMDB). All of Suncorp's major IT processes -- incident, problem, asset and change -- use the CMDB.

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