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Between private cloud heaven and hell

When Alan Waite first started talking about the difficulty of private cloud computing, he likened what could go wrong to the nine circles of hell in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the 14th-century work chronicling the poet’s harrowing journey through the underworld.

“That was considered to be a bit too negative. So I’ve changed it to ‘stairway to heaven,'” said Waite, a Gartner analyst, at the research shop’s 2015 Catalyst convention in San Diego. “Anyway, my points are exactly the same.”

This slide, from Alan Waite’s presentation at Gartner Catalyst Conference 2015 “Private Cloud: Keys to Success,” features comments from Gartner clients who were disappointed with their private cloud projects.

The truth is, Waite said, public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure can host most everything far more efficiently than you can — no matter what size organization you run. So before anything else, think carefully about your data and whether it needs to be in a private cloud. When you’re crystal-clear on that, start climbing the stairway. Here are Waite’s milestones on the way to private cloud success.

Standardization. This is the No. 1 thing to think about, Waite said. IT can’t comfortably support multiple computing environments on a private cloud and be fast and efficient. “This is a hard conversation to have with the business,” he said. “But the more you can standardize — hypervisors, hardware platforms, operating systems environments, application environments — on your self-service portal, the more likely you are to succeed.”

Politics and team structure. To implement a private cloud environment, you must change your IT organizational structure, Waite said, and appoint a cloud architect and a cloud team to lead the initiative. “If you think that you’re going to keep your silos or server, storage, network, security, applications and so on, and maybe [IT will] have a meeting once a month where they talk about the cloud, it will not work,” he said.

Process and governance. Before building the technology for a private cloud, build a governance structure that will support provisioning — that is, tap computing resources when users need them, Waite said. One client told Waite that he could supply a business application with the resources it needed to run in 11 minutes, but all the approvals required on the business side for it to happen would take three days. That’s unacceptable, Waite said. “Fix the provisioning process before you start.”

Automation complexity. “This is the next thing that runs in to trouble, trying to do too much too soon,” Waite said. Start small, automating just a few important workloads, and progress from there. Otherwise, complexity will grow exponentially — and failure will follow, he said.

Check out part two of this two-part tip for other technology and people issues businesses will encounter as they build a private cloud.

Let us know what you think of the story; email Jason Sparapani, features writer, or find him on Twitter @jmsparapani.