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April 12, 2013

Five Steps to a Private Cloud

Tiffany Trader

During Adaptive Computing’s MoabCon event in Park City, Utah, this week, there was an entire session dedicated to private cloud best practices. Led by Chad Harrington, Adaptive’s VP of Marketing, the presentation draws on lessons learned by Adaptive over many years of implementing workload and cloud management software.

Specifically, there are five steps that the middleware vendor recommends for companies seeking to transition into the next-generation of IT: Focus on ROI, Facilitating Self-Service, Use Chargeback, Continuously Optimize, and lastly, Go Vertical – Not Horizontal.

Return on Investment

Harrington starts off discussing the importance of ROI, and noting that this common business term actually contains a mathematical formula: ROI = Return/Investment. He says that people often think cloud is just about agility or speed or automation, but it’s imperative to also decrease investment. So how do we get more done with less investment? On the numerator side, a private cloud allows you to deploy services 10-100 times faster, save 2-3X on hardware, and 2-3X on staff time.

“We’ve deployed virtualization pretty widely in enterprise IT over the last ten years with the idea that we could save a lot of money by doing more with fewer machines, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Companies are still spending just as much if not more on IT, but private cloud offers a way to a great way to decrease that IT investment,” counsels Harrington.

Self-Service

What is private cloud? A key characteristic is self-service. In the past, getting a service up and running could mean weeks or months spent waiting for the IT department to purchase, provision and install the necessary software. In the self-service model, the IT administrator uses a portal to set up a service, to create, say, a website service with three components: a website server component, an application server component and a database server component. These elements can then be linked together in a service and used to define a template or a blueprint. After that, the end user can request that service in Moab and deploy it in mere minutes.

“We went from a process that was heavily manual, required weeks to months of time and didn’t make the end user very happy to a process that’s fully automated, takes a few minutes and helps the end user get what they want very quickly,” states Harrington. “Ultimately that’s what makes a cloud a cloud. A private cloud without self-service is not a private cloud, it’s just enterprise infrastructure.”

It’s a smart approach because once you define a template, that template, just like an architectural blueprint, can be used over and over again in an automated basis.

Use Chargeback

“A free cloud is a recipe for failure,” states the Adaptive rep. We all recognize that free stuff, conference swag included, does not last long. Private cloud removes a limiter. In the old system, users had to call and request services which was a natural limiter, a barrier. With self-service, users consume more, which can lead to overuse and waste. The antidote to this is accountability. Employing a chargeback or showback mechanism reminds users that they are consuming resources that cost money.

“Usage accounting aligns the stakeholders. It aligns users with the IT department and value with cost,” says Harrington, “and it helps reduce the investment part of the ROI equation. There are many different models that can be used, chargeback or showback reporting, either with real currency or credits, as long as there is an accountability mechanism in place.”

Next >> Optimization

Continuously Optimize

Where before there was server sprawl, now there is virtual machine sprawl, notes Harrington. Manually, you could consolidate workloads every couple of hours, but automatically applying policies is an easier and less time-consuming way to do things. This is what Moab does. Its consolidation policy enforces workload-aware packing. In this scenario Moab notices that there is poor utilization and packs workloads more tightly. This improves utilization and also saves on energy costs because the unused machines can be powered down. Over time, the user will either be able to reduce their machine count or they might scale their workload without having to purchase new hardware.

“Constant optimization is what really saves you money,” observes Harrington. “It’s what reduces the denominator in your ROI equation.”

Go Vertical, Not Horizontal

The final piece of the private cloud primer was developed to make rolling out a private cloud as smooth and as possible. The Adaptive folks added this because they were working with an organization that did this the wrong way and the CEO and most of the staff were fired.

Describing a private cloud stack, starting at the bottom, it’s automated provisioning, followed by self-service catalog, then monitoring (necessary for optimization), next accounting or charging, and lastly policy-based optimization. These are the requisite layers, but what is the best way to deploy a full cloud stack across all the different teams and departments in an organization?

The (incorrect) method is a phased horizontal approach, which takes a couple layers of the cloud and deploys them across the organization. Here’s the problem with that. If you don’t provide the higher levels of the cloud, chargeback and optimization, you don’t get the ROI, which means you end up disrupting the staff without giving the CEO the financial benefit.

The better way, according to Harrington, is to do a phased vertical approach, in which the full cloud is deployed to one or two small departments, allowing them to derive the benefits. Then over time, roll the cloud out group by group, building from strength.

Success!

Having gone over the five best practices, Harrington provides some examples of successful private clouds. Using a Moab-assisted private cloud, a very large global bank is projecting it will save one billion dollars over the next 3-5 years across operational and hardware costs. The customer has achieved 10X server efficiency, a 4X storage efficiency, and a 50 percent reduction in personnel time. They selected Moab because of its strong optimization features, its ability to do physical and virtual machine management and because it can integrate with the bank’s complex infrastructure.

In summary, private clouds can help IT departments be more agile, while saving money, but only if there is a focus on ROI and the other best practices.