Reap the benefits of private cloud, gradually

Many corporations are switching to a private cloud, which doesn't have to be a dramatic transition. Follow these tips to an easy private cloud move.

All kinds of organizations are seeing the benefits of private cloud. How can IT ease the transition to this emerging data center architecture?

Avoiding forklift upgrades, setting new performance metrics and establishing new return on investment (ROI) metrics will ease the transition from a traditional server environment to one that supports private cloud services.

Make the financial case

First, secure funding for the private cloud. Management worries about the bottom line, so private cloud advocates must present a sound business plan.

Many organizations already suffer from data center sprawl due to slipshod control over capacity expansion. They allocated new servers that are seldom -- and sometimes no longer -- in use. A private cloud can help. The cloud migration necessitates a data server inventory, which enables IT shops to identify dormant devices. They either power those systems off to save energy or reallocate the resources to applications in need of more processing power.

Build on the existing foundation

One of the benefits of private cloud is that many firms already have some of the necessary building blocks in place. Rather than a dramatic change in infrastructure and large-scale system upgrades, the transition involves a minor change and an evolutionary shift. For instance, an integrated computing infrastructure -- consolidated server, storage, and network equipment -- is one key building block.

"Organizations that have already deployed a private cloud infrastructure are nearly twice as likely to have an integrated computing platform as those who do not," said Mark Bowker, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a Milford, Massachusetts-based IT research and advisory firm.

Virtualization is another key element; most companies have virtualization supporting at least a few applications. Virtualization shifts the data center emphasis from hardware to software by adding an abstraction layer that separates the two. Private cloud builds on these layers.

Self-service catalogs = more automation

As private cloud adds more abstraction onto virtualization, firms can automate more functions such as consolidating individual element managers into a single point of administration. Most users find it easier to deploy new computing services with private clouds rather than alternatives, according to ESG. If a business previously needed days or weeks to provision new resources, it can get those allocated in hours or even minutes.

To maximize the benefits of private cloud, corporations need to minimize the various levels of staff approval required to allocate IT resources. One option is to provide self-service catalogs to users across the company. True private cloud means the users, and not IT, control application resources.

Avoid the move to open source

In keeping with the migration rather than forklift upgrade, enterprises rely more on proprietary hardware than open source solutions when making the move to private cloud. Three-quarters of both current and planned private cloud users center on proprietary, commercial cloud infrastructure, according to ESG.

Find new uses for old hands -- and ears

Moving to private cloud lowers administrative overhead. The payoff is doing more with the same or fewer personnel. IT management teams must train data center professionals to transition from purely technical responsibilities to more business analyst roles. Hybrid employees align business requirements with IT capabilities, allowing the data center to function more like strategic enablers of business goals than tactical technical firefighters. These employees improve communication and strengthen the relationship between IT and the business units.

Many IT managers don't leave the data center and interact with business influencers, a step that would help IT better understand how private cloud services are used. Sometimes, the results can be surprising. For instance, a company may build a private cloud to support application development and testing. IT typically would base the size of the private cloud on current testing levels and later find that the systems get more use because it is so easy to provision and run tests. Conversations with business unit managers yield insights into potential changes in usage patterns.

Get management buy in

IT departments need to consider motivators to take advantage of a new private cloud. Start at the top of the organizational chart: Get top executives to buy into and promote the use of these services. Initially, mandating private cloud use may help spur acceptance.

The move to private cloud is underway. Companies do not need to fear the transition. Take steps to ease the process and make it more likely that the initiative will be successful.

About the author:
Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in data center issues. He has been covering technology for two decades, is based in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and can be reached at paulkorzen@aol.com.

This was first published in July 2014

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