Private Clouds in Four Steps for C-Level Executives

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Private clouds are appealing. They promise an end to overcrowded server rooms and the eliminate or at least reduce performance bottlenecks. Better yet, they promise the improved efficiency and enhanced practicality of cloud computing. Best of all for C-level executives, they promise a level of control and security not available in the public cloud.

Still, moving your existing server-based applications to a cloud platform requires a considerable level of development and effort and a different executive mindset. Even the private cloud's vaunted security and control may turn out different than assumed.

Not surprisingly, IBM is jumping at the challenge with its SmartCloud Foundation Entry Solution, which consists of pre-integrated packages of hardware and software for running internal clouds and promises to deploy a functioning private cloud within a matter of hours. Still, when IBM surveyed 500 company executives, it found that only 33% had run a cloud pilot program although more than double the number plan to do so within the next year. Will you be one of them?

For a solid private cloud strategy, start by embracing the concept of the virtual data center, advises Greg Shields in his white paper titled Private Cloud Strategy: A Four-Step Plan for Success. Find it here.Maybe Step 0 should be reading Shields' paper.

His steps are summarized and interpreted below:

Step 1: Recognize what private cloud computing is—the aggregation of IT assets you already have into a shared pool of resources. Out of that pool, your IT people can carve out virtual resources to meet various needs and reconfigure as necessary. You're only limited by the capacity of the physical resources you have. Of course the higher level of utilization enabled by virtualization lets you get more out of your existing capacity.

Step 2: Recognize the private cloud computing as an abstraction—private cloud computing presents the entire data center as a logical abstraction. Don't think about individual physical servers or storage devices. Rather, as Shields puts it, you should to think about performance and capacity management at a data-center level. For that you will need a broader view and your people more and different resource management tools.

Step 3: Understand the connection between the hardware and virtualization platform—in short, storage works with servers, which communicate across networks and combine to create a seamless experience for virtual workloads. As much as you want to leverage your existing IT resources, inevitably you will need new IT resources optimized out-of-the-box for the virtualized environment you are creating. Allow a few years for your private cloud to evolve gradually while delivering benefits along the way.

Step 4: Think differently about security and control—private cloud computing is only the first step toward a future in which IT services can be flexibly and intelligently hosted wherever they make sense. Sometimes it makes sense to host those services in your private cloud. Other times, it makes more sense to let someone else do the hosting in a public cloud. To that, add the notion of automated self- service, which calls for provisioning, configuring, and changing resource allocation on demand, automatically. That will require investing in tools that let you turn on and off IT services on the fly.

These four steps should prepare C-level executives for the changes a good private cloud brings about. And who wants a bad private cloud?

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