Here are the seven steps in building a private cloud: Consolidation, Virtualization, Standardization, Service Levels, Automation, Orchestration, and Chargeback/Showback. Each or these key areas need to be achieved before you can move to a private cloud. As a CIO or IT Director, it’s important to take a step-by-step approach, however, before you jump in. It’s a good idea to perform a cloud enablement assessment of you environment to get an idea where you are at from an organization and infrastructure standpoint before you move towards you goal of a private cloud.
- Consolidation: Consolidation has also been around for a long time. It started with the move to centralized storage in the 1990’s. Both Storage Area Networks (SAN) and Network Attach Storage (NAS) started gaining momentum as a way for an organization to scale storage based on the needs of the business and not be confined to a single server. That followed a move in the server technology towards blade severs and then multicore CPU technology a few years later created an environment for dense compute in a relatively small form factor. This stage for server virtualization to take off which will cover in the next section. Last but not least, there was a move to 10Gb Ethernet networks (and now 40Gb and 100Gb) that allows for the consolidation of several 1Gb Ethernet connections with different protocols on a single wire. Cisco calls this the unified fabric. All of these need to be in place.
- Virtualization: Like consolidation, we have seen virtualization take off in the last 10 years. It’s now pretty common to see some sort of virtualization in place. Server Virtualization was the first to become adopted last decade with VMware. With most applications now supporting server virtualization there really isn’t a reason not to virtualize unless there’s unique requirement. With that said, server virtualization is a critical step in the process in moving towards the internal cloud and getting your environment as close to 100% will help in that process. Virtualization is not just confined to servers. Both network and storage now support some kind of virtualization. Software Defined Networking (SDN) elevated the network and makes it better suited for the automation and orchestration phase. Both Cisco ACI and VMware NSX are players in this space. That goes for storage as well. Software Defined Storage (SDS) technologies allow you to abstract the hardware allowing for unified management and functionality. I see both of these continuing to evolve in the coming years.
- Standardization: You can’t have a cloud strategy without standards in place. This is a critical step and is where a lot of organizations get tripped up. What are standards? Standards are any formal documentation that describes a process within an IT organization. Standards can document a procedure or could define a group of strategic vendors. Either way, standards bring predictability into the organization and prevent “one offs” in the data center.
- Service Levels: A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an agreement that defines a group of metrics that measures the service that an IT department provides to an application owner, business unit or department. The metrics are typically uptime, response time, performance benchmarks and a change management process for planned outages. Like standards, these need to be in place.
- Automation: Automation at some level as been around in IT and the data center for years. Scripting has been the tool of choice for systems administrations to automate repetitive tasks. This freed up time to focus on higher-level tasks like project orientated work. In a private cloud this is taken to a new level. Automation at a large scale is a key but can be challenge to deploy at a large scale. The automation products you use and how it’s deployed will all depend on the standards that your organization developed and your underlying architecture.
- Orchestration: Once automation is complete, it sets the stage for the Orchestration phase. Orchestration is the ability to provision resources based on requests from the business using a self-service model. However, before that takes place a service catalog needs to be created with defined workflows. Again, this will be dependent the standards your organization has in place and the underlying architecture. Standardization on a few vendors will help in the integration and deployment process. Cisco, VMware, and other have developed orchestration. Automation and orchestration tools are typically coupled together.
- Charge Back/Show Back: This seems like a pipe dream for most IT Managers and CIOs but it’s an import step in the overall cloud strategy. The chargeback model is pretty straightforward. It is typically employed by hosting providers that charge tenants a monthly fee for resource consumption and has been around for sometime. But there has been some momentum outside of the service provider space to make IT as a profit center in the corporate enterprise. This can be an aggressive goal if IT hasn’t operated in such a role and typically results in a massive shift in thinking for the organization. The showback model tends to work better for most enterprise environments and it simpler to implement but it sill has it’s own set of challenges. The showback model allows for IT to tack resource consumption in a monetary format. This allows IT to justify costs for budgetary purposes and show who is consuming the most resources in the enterprise.
Technology is only a piece to the private cloud puzzle. People, process, and unfortunately politics also play a big role. Find out what the goals are of the organization and see how a move towards a private cloud will help address those challenges. Once those are defined you can approach from a technology perspective.