The challenges and benefits of a private cloud

A private cloud may leverage server virtualization to drive business flexibility, but many of its management challenges (both people and boxes) are as yet untested.

SearchCIO.com recently sat down with virtualization and cloud computing expert Mark Bowker, an analyst at The Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., to discuss developing a private cloud -- using the cloud computing concept and virtualization technologies to centralize data center resources and develop the capability to deliver applications and services on the fly as business needs change.

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In this second part of a two-part interview, Bowker offers insight into CIO and IT management issues with the private cloud. These include what it means for meeting business needs, managing applications and allocating IT costs across the organization, as well as how to lay the foundation for this data center model. (Part one, " Beyond server virtualization: The private cloud", examines the differences between private clouds and virtual server farms and other technical aspects of the journey to a private cloud.)

What can an internal cloud do for CIOs trying to meet business needs?
Bowker: From the CIO perspective, they're the ones that own those applications. They're held back by what IT can provide from an infrastructure perspective. If IT can now provide that infrastructure in new ways, such as quickly provisioning new resources or deprovisioning them, they can apply policies based on security or compliance to those resources. To do that in the physical world is pretty costly, but once you start to virtualize everything, I can apply a policy across an IT set of infrastructure or down to particular virtual machines inside that infrastructure.

It seems that pooling resources as the cloud model suggests will change the traditional chargeback model.
Bowker: It totally changes things. To be honest, it still needs to be figured out. The CIO or application owner isn't buying, or responsible for, handing over their requirements on a per physical piece of equipment anymore. Essentially, you'll be drawing from a centralized, shared pool of server, networking and storage resources. So chargeback models will change, and that's something that companies are struggling to try to figure out.

Maybe now I can build an infrastructure that accommodates an on-average usage, knowing that certain times of the year, there will be bursts and we can flexibly add more capacity.

There are departments that own their own servers and applications, and people within IT are responsible for running different aspects of the infrastructure. What's going to happen when they are told that everything's being centralized in the cloud?
Bowker: That is hard. I call those people server huggers. As application owners, they like to go inside the data center and see all the lights flashing and the cables. When you turn that more into a service-led or cloud model, that entirely changes.

The good news is you're getting more flexibility, and you can quickly respond if there is an application request for more storage. With a new data protection policy … where I haven't been able to apply disaster recovery to a set of applications, virtualization turns that on for me. That application or workload is encapsulated. I can make local copies and send them over to a secondary site.

But will longtime server huggers or application owners buy into this new model?
Bowker: The next wave of virtualization or cloud adoption is going to be really driven by the application owners. They need to see the benefit of this more flexible, highly dynamic, highly virtualized environment. They need to see how it affects how they run applications. That's the next wave of adoption, so IT has to be able to explain that to them. The executive level needs to drive the need to the application owner as well … the benefits of running things in the modern data center.

[A private cloud] can automate those [routine] tasks … and apply more attention to applications and ultimately deliver a much better service to the business.
Mark Bowker
analystThe Enterprise Strategy Group Inc.
What do you think it will come down to as to why people choose to go forward with an internal cloud strategy?
Bowker: Choice. I think people will have greater choice of how they can run their applications and what they can apply from a service-level agreement standpoint to those applications.

I think it's clearly a reduction in operational costs as well. IT spends so much time supporting and managing what they have in place -- managing routine, mundane tasks. This can automate those tasks and eliminate them and apply more attention to applications and ultimately deliver a much better service to the business.

How can companies start to lay the groundwork for an internal cloud?
Bowker: Implementing server virtualization in production is essentially laying the beginnings of their cloud infrastructure. Many more pieces need to be put in place … much more integration work needs to be done, and some more innovation. People need to keep in mind that in order to make this a reality, that management layer is very important. And what's more interesting is that management across both virtual and physical is going to have to be in place. So it's one thing to say the virtual environment is the future … a lot of IT executives will argue that their physical world is still going to exist for a long time.

Do tools exist yet to bring those two worlds together?
Bowker: It will definitely be hard to bring those two worlds together. It will be a pretty advanced enterprise data center that's going to need that level of management and integration. At that level, I think you'll see the larger data center orchestration vendors step up to do that, like a BEA, Tivoli and Opsware. They need to build the integration between what they're doing and what the virtualization vendors are doing.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Christina Torode, Senior News Writer

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