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Technology

New technologies and adoption trends that influence IT strategy, and the issues and opportunities they represent.

Private cloud: If you build it, they may not come.

The chances are pretty good that you have already implemented a private cloud or are planning to do so in 2012. According to Gartner, 54% of organizations fall into this category. There is also a good chance that you haven’t yet figured out whether the move to cloud has, or will, save you any money. This blog will dispel a couple of myths about private cloud and provide you with some reasons why you should already be on your cloud journey.

Background:

We built our private cloud over two years ago for one of our large clients. The account management team thought it would be a great idea to offer a source of low cost computing and it would only be a matter of time before we would be rolling in the dough. The reality, however, has not been exactly what we had hoped for.


Myth 1: If you build it, they will come

Business users will not entrust their critical applications to a platform that is untried. The cloud runs on top of something called a hypervisor, which in simple terms, is software that separates the operating system from the hardware. The hypervisor is the key building block for cloud, but this also means that your tools and application development environments must be compatible with the hypervisor. If your development and testing environments are not running in a cloud environment, then don’t expect your production systems to get there any time soon.

To make matters more complicated, your business users will not migrate to the cloud en masse. They have infrastructure and application refresh schedules that can add years to the cloud adoption schedule. The challenge for the IT department is to make subscribing to the cloud quick and easy. The chargeback mechanism must be simple and compelling. If the costs and time required to hop on to the cloud is the same as stand-alone servers, then don’t expect your business partners to be beating a path to your door.


Myth 2: The cloud will be self-funding

The thought of low cost virtualized servers running Microsoft or Linux operating systems seems like a dream come true for the cash strapped IT department. While the cost of a virtual machine is quite low compared to its physical counterpart, the investment to build the initial private cloud is not.

Consider the following people, infrastructure, and process investments that you’ll need to make:
You will need specialized skills to build and administer your cloud. Your developers, architects and administrators will have skills that are in high demand and you’ll be competing for a limited supply of them. If you aren’t paying a premium for training and retention, you’ll be spending money dealing with attrition. In addition to your technical folks, you’ll need business analysts and delivery managers to operate the new service.

To build your cloud you’ll need lots of blades. The blades are housed in enclosures and the enclosures need to be connected to a SAN. All of these components are wired together by a dedicated network and you need to protect the cloud with a layer of security. Finally, you need to buy virtualization software, tools, and operating systems. You will need one of these configurations in every data centre you run and they all need to be identical so that you can easily move your applications around your enterprise. If you need high availability, then you’ll need to double your investment. All of a sudden, the low cost commodity cloud isn’t so cheap after all. When you realize that much of this infrastructure will be idle for several months, you’ll also realize that the total cost of ownership isn’t as low as you first thought.

Once you’ve built your cloud, your job is not over. You will need to develop the subscription, chargeback, reporting, and operational processes to run it efficiently. You’ll also need to help your business users re-write their applications and adapt to the cloud.

It all seems overwhelming. We don’t have enough time as it is.


Reality: The cloud does have benefits

The path to private cloud is not without its challenges. That is not a reason to shy away from this computing model. Your cloud journey could take four to six years before you’ll realize the benefits. Your competition is already embarking on this journey. They are learning some tough lessons and improving their processes. Once they have ironed out their deployments, they will be in a better position to realize the value of their cloud investment because they’ll have the capability to:

  • Take advantage of business opportunities faster
  • Scale up or down faster
  • React to events faster
  • Provide self-service capability to their lines of business

There are opportunities to share cloud experiences amongst the CIO community. Common solutions are available for recurring problems. In future blogs, I will write about our implementation of IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) in more detail.


Jeff Ishii is Director of IT Operations at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services. His 26 year IT career has spanned systems integration, management consulting, program management, and outsourcing services. Jeff has provided consulting services to start-ups and Fortune 500 companies around the world.

 

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