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10 Steps to the Private Cloud

For private clouds to become viable, organizations must embrace several steps to advance their private cloud strategies.

The private cloud as a panacea is not new. Ever since the industry first started talking about dynamic datacenters, visionaries have imagined a day when limited virtualization would evolve into cloud computing on private networks. The capability for private cloud construction exists today, and it's within reach for any organization that takes a pragmatic path toward adoption. For private clouds to become viable, however, organizations must embrace several steps to advance their private cloud strategies.

1. Accept the need to change your IT organization or operations to adapt to scaled-up virtual environments.
In early-stage deployments, IT can treat virtualization like any other technology. As the percentage of physical servers, production virtual machines (VMs) and mission-critical applications involved grows, though, IT operations must undergo some fundamental changes. However, when complexity increases, so does workload. IT can either bring in more staff, which is unlikely in a time of limited resources, or it can bring in supplementary management, automation and reporting to standardize the environment and manage the virtual infrastructure more effectively and proactively.

2. Avoid analysis paralysis.
The private cloud requires not only virtualization technology, but also management and process integration, which are both essential to solving the resource and complexity challenges of dynamic datacenters. Looking at these three elements and the associated organizational changes required, enterprises can easily get lost in analysis paralysis. They spend so much time looking at what has to be changed, that nothing actually gets done. The flip side of this trap is the "Ready, fire, aim!" approach, which is riddled with risk and equally faulty. Successful implementations follow a more pragmatic approach, breaking major projects into smaller, less intimidating steps that can be focused on and dealt with one at a time.

3. Invest in management and automation to save resources in the long term.
Getting your administrative team away from the day-to-day manual tasks necessary to keep the infrastructure going, and into the demanding task of building your private cloud means incorporating VM management and automation. It's a must, and it should include several critical features: discovery and reporting, capacity planning, self-service options, lifecycle management, change and configuration management, resource optimization and policy-based automation.

4. Make sure any individual tools you choose can later be integrated into a cohesive platform.
It's not necessary to gather all of the management components before embarking on the path to the private cloud, but datacenter architects should select initial investments that will integrate later into a complete solution. Stand-alone products cause too many headaches down the road, when complexity in the environment increases. The last thing you will want is an additional, challenging integration project.

5. Take solace in this fact: You don't need to do it all at once.
Private cloud implementation is a significant change involving people, processes and technology. Taking it all on at once, or even trying to create a single complete and integrated plan, is not necessary or even desirable. Every organization is different, and there is no single template to get you there. Set your vision and take your first steps towards it. As you progress down the path, you can build on the previous steps, and prioritize the next steps as they become clear.

6. Get line-of-business buy-in.
The private cloud is a technology initiative that involves lots of people and corporate politics. You can secure the buy-in of target departments with a self-service portal. This creates a separation between the front office and the back office by allowing business teams to view and report on their own environments in real time, and submit requests for additional VMs as needed. A service portal should allow you to do this without creating and managing multiple accounts in vCenter or VirtualCenter.

7. Solve problems fully and correctly when they first arise.
When challenges crop up, it is important to build on what you have already done by adding workflow and policy-based automation. Resolve each problem one time, rather than setting yourself up to fix the same issue over and over again. Implement the required policies, best practices and automation to ensure that you won't need to revisit the issue anytime soon.

8. Make the decisions that best fit your needs and reality.
Every organization is different. Successful private cloud implementation demands you move at your own speed, deploying only as quickly as your enterprise needs and is willing to support.

9. Evaluate virtualization management platforms with a careful eye.
There are a few things to look for when selecting management for your private cloud infrastructure. Insist on a complete and fully integrated product that can be managed through a single pane of glass. You'll also need an intuitive user management interface, integrated best practices, workflow and automation, and easy integration with other datacenter systems.

10. Retain your vision of the private cloud.
Getting to the cloud is possible. Realizing that possibility requires a practical approach that includes an awareness of the complexity involved, a willingness to pursue the private cloud, adequate planning, and the management system to support your infrastructure as it scales.

About the Author

Jason Cowie is the vice president product management at Embotics.

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