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Five private cloud computing best practices

Private cloud computing is something with which enterprises are coming to grips. Check out our list of five best practices for successfully deploying a private cloud.

Private cloud computing gives enterprise IT executives the juice to go "from zero to hero" by maximizing their organization's resources and aligning IT services with business needs, even as they wait for public cloud computing standards to shake out, industry experts say.

Building a private cloud is good practice, even for enterprises that prefer to manage infrastructure and applications in-house. "With virtualization and the private cloud, CIOs are much closer to that goal of efficient and dynamic IT service delivery capability," said Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Mass.

Automation is a key goal, because it minimizes the IT staff's involvement when the cloud is up and running. "The end user is the constituent who is going to leverage the workload for productive work," said Brian Wilson, vice president for services and support at Surgient Inc., an Infrastructure as a Service provider in Austin, Texas, that has deployed 150 private clouds for enterprises in the Fortune 500.

The most important aspect of a private cloud is self-service, Wilson said. However, "a self-service portal does not guarantee self-service," he said. "Self-service needs to be layered on top of automation services." CIOs should consider the service's design, definition, library and lifecycle. In addition, the service should integrate applications that report usage for chargeback, preferably with an administrative dashboard and event broadcasting.

Just because it's private doesn't mean it's less complex. As more enterprises launch their private clouds, best practices are becoming clear. Here's a list of five best practices for private cloud computing.

The list of best practices for private clouds, according to Wilson, starts with three actions -- assess, deploy and analyze:


  • Evaluate current and planned hardware, hypervisors, network architecture and storage.

  • Understand corporate security standards and existing vendor relationships. Know where your vendors are going, so you don't buy into dead-end technology.

  • Start with a defined project, and plan for scale, heterogeneity and change. Prepare and document your deployment plans using client-specific use cases and success criteria.


  • Imagine a hockey stick. That's the usage curve for cloud computing, according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Be prepared for the uptick by establishing a deployment schedule.

  • Make sure essential content is available in a centralized library.

  • At kickoff, introduce critical members of the team, finalize use cases, and confirm the schedule.

  • Dynamically manage your IT policies by automating self-service provisioning of applications, but understand that things will change -- be flexible.

  • Plan for on-site training.


  • Review usage trends, resource consumption trends, server use and administration overhead. This is the step most often skipped, according to Wilson.

  • Understand the metrics for ROI and TCO; gain executive buy-in with formal ROI evaluations monthly and quarterly.

  • Continue to evaluate your processes. The cloud is a fundamental shift from traditional processes. Keep asking, is there a better way to do this?

More best practices for private cloud computing:

Create reusable code

  • Plan your service catalog wisely by creating reusable building blocks of virtual machines and services.

  • Your content is critical; take the time to know your users' needs and plan for their experience.

  • Take the centralized view that is possible with a private cloud; avoid discrete stacks and multiple operating systems.

Don't forget to charge back

One of the pillars of the cloud is its ability to meter services on an as-needed basis, yet very few organizations actually charge back, according to Wilson.

The bill of IT for each entity is valuable.

Debe Gash, CIO, Saint Luke's Health System

That isn't the case at Saint Luke's Health System, which operates 11 hospitals and clinics in the Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area. CIO Debe Gash, who opted for public cloud computing because of the speed with which it enabled her organization to comply with new HIPAA regulations, says chargeback helps IT keep costs down and prove its mettle.

"The bill of IT for each entity is valuable," Gash said. "They can see what they're using. The visibility into what something actually costs is very helpful to them." The chargeback also shows which systems are driving IT costs, so Gash can "validate that we're spending money on what's strategic to the organization."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Laura Smith, Features Writer.

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