How to claim the cloud: Getting past virtual stall to a cost-effective cloud

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1 How to claim the cloud: Getting past virtual stall to a cost-effective cloud While virtualization and cloud computing are part of many IT organizations top 10 lists, few organizations have yet to harness the power of cloud, and realize its original business value: reduced OPEX and CAPEX, and increased agility of the IT organization. That said, a cost-effective cloud solution is not out of reach if you create a plan and roadmap that gets you past the inevitable virtual stall. This paper will explain some of the key contributors to underachieving cloud projects, help you recognize why your project may have stalled, and will outline strategies you can use to reduce the amount of time, shortterm expenditures and overall risk associated with the transition to the cloud.

2 Key contributors to underachieving Cloud projects In a recent survey TNS conducted for the CSC, most companies implementing a cloud solution reported that they were saving very little money 1. Most organizations begin their move to the cloud by adopting a virtualization strategy to tackle the challenge of consolidating traditional applications. This permits hosting multiple applications on the same physical host instead of on separate hosts. This often delivers an immediate reduction in hardware costs, but OPEX may rise for several reasons: the increased complexity of the new environment and the need to adapt while continuing to maintain traditional processes and tools for the physical environment. 1. Moving to the cloud introduces complexity It is more complex to operate a cloud environment than a physical one because: applications share hardware resources; they can move from one physical host to another; networking configurations can change with these moves; and security can be a moving target when all of these factors are combined. This increased complexity will drive up OPEX, especially if IT staff needs to learn new skills and maintain legacy systems, and if cloud-aware processes and tools are not used. 2. Virtual sprawl requires process changes Provisioning cloud environments is much faster than physical ones. However, many organizations perform activities, such as doing asset management, communicating changes and training personnel, while waiting for hardware procurement, installation and configuration to complete. Because virtual environments can be provisioned quickly with existing operational hardware, organizations lose this time to update processes and ensure they are prepared for the changes. This leads to virtual sprawl: lack of preparedness, process or automation. Many organizations transforming existing physical environments to cloud environments uncover process challenges that must be addressed. The effect is even greater when organizational processes are not mature. 3. Transforming existing environments overloads resources and doubles/triples the time to implement changes Many organizations do not have enough personnel to manage the day-to-day operations and carry out transformation activities. When resources are over allocated, the time it takes to complete the transformation can double or triple, and time is money. Most organizations begin with non-production environments and transition to mission-critical application environments later. This approach avoids risk; however, it overlooks the impact of virtualization on IT operations groups that need to support critical applications in production environments until well into the transformation effort. How to claim the cloud: Getting past virtual stall to a cost-effective cloud 3

3 Five signs of virtual stall Virtual stall occurs when CAPEX and OPEX continue to rise, and migrating to the cloud takes longer than anticipated. When organizations stop to evaluate or reconsider their plans for cloud, they are likely to move into virtual stall. There are five common signs that your organization is experiencing or about to experience virtual stall. 1. Production applications are not virtualized Organizations often lack a formal physical to virtual (P2V) process that includes a structured way to migrate applications into a virtual environment. When virtualization is used to accelerate the provisioning process, it can provide a quick-fix solution. However, this leaves an organization with a hodge-podge of virtualized applications. A key indicator of this is a low consolidation ratio of physical hosts to virtual machines. Application owners may resist virtualization because previous performance results in virtual environments were poor. Also, if your organization lacks a strong application performance management system, you may experience resistance, and there is no structured way for IT to compare and demonstrate pre-virtualization application performance with post-virtualization application performance. 2. Struggling to keep up with operational workload Given the increase in operational complexity that virtualization brings, most organizations will find themselves facing multiple challenges as they endeavor to transform their organizations to take advantage of some of the advanced features of cloud computing, such as disaster recovery and reduced downtime while continuing to support legacy operations. Moving to the cloud will create a skills gap in most organizations. For example, an IT analyst will have to spend approximately four weeks of course and study time to achieve the VMWare Certified Professional (VCP) designation, which represents approximately 10% of an analyst s available working hours in a year as a conservative estimate. This is a large amount of time to acquire introductory knowledge of the technology. 3. Processes not aligned for the cloud Processes for physical environments are neither tailored nor optimized for the dynamic nature of the cloud. Gaps in the processes for the physical environment will cause greater problems in the more complex virtual world. The risks associated with change and configuration management increase in the cloud because multiple virtual resources share physical resources. If your organization does not have a high degree of maturity to manage the physical environment, you are bound to experience challenges with the virtual one. 4. Lack of visibility to the cloud environment Legacy tools and spreadsheets are often incapable of managing today s cloud environment. Lack of visibility into the cloud will lead to an increase in resolution times and ultimately drive up OPEX. The dynamic nature of a cloud environment demands a toolset designed for the way cloud environments behave, and will reduce the associated false-positive alerts and alarms. Tools such as spreadsheets and non-cloud-aware management tools are not useful in these environments because the information they contain cannot keep pace with the dynamically configured cloud. Better visibility is a requirement in order to reduce the operational costs associated with troubleshooting, and to identify the root cause of problems. 5. Cannot predict or manage capacity Most organizations perform capacity management as a one-time activity at the beginning of the application lifecycle. Usually, the activity is performed using base assumptions on application uptake and growth, and the results are captured in spreadsheets. This has led to the widespread overprovisioning of physical hardware. Almost 90% of virtual machines are similarly overprovisioned because organizations lack capacity tools that can evaluate current virtual machine resource demand and accurately predict future capacity requirements. How to claim the cloud: Getting past virtual stall to a cost-effective cloud 4

4 Claiming the Cloud Despite the drawbacks, the cloud offers a number of benefits. Topping the list are increased efficiencies and cost reductions associated with better performance for business continuity and backup solutions. 2 The cloud has changed the cost-effectiveness of online backup between datacenters, and significantly reduced the cost of warm and hot-site backup and restore times. These two factors make tape-based backup strategies almost obsolete, increasing efficiencies in the IT organization, and removing associated costs. See Figure 1. Figure 1: Cloud Shifts Disaster Recovery Tradeoffs Source: Disaster Recovery in Cloud Computing, onlinetech.com Emerging technologies are revolutionizing the way some IT tasks are performed, such as antivirus protection, by moving agents off individual machines and into the cloud, greatly improving manageability and user experience. These technologies have the potential to streamline the keep-the-lights-on activities of IT operations, and reduce the effort required to manage them. And as these technologies mature, more agentbased services can be moved to the edge of the cloud and away from individual virtual machines (VMs), improving efficiency and ease of manageability. Common strategies that get results 1. Hire an outside firm to do an assessment Most organizations benefit from mapping their cloud strategy, and identifying their organizational maturity level in relation to the cloud. This approach can include some of the unique attributes, strengths and weaknesses of the organization. It is difficult to know what you do not know. Finding a suitable company to perform a maturity assessment on your organization is often a wise approach. External expertise can supplement and accelerate the learning curve for your team, allowing IT operations to keep pace with internal demand while the transformation takes place. Companies such as Empowered Networks can provide an external, unbiased assessment of the cloud readiness of your organization, and help create a roadmap and plan to more easily transition to cloud. Empowered Networks extensive expertise in service management can provide insight to the physical and virtual environments of your organization, and help develop a strategy that takes both into account. Empowered is accelerating our strategic move to Cloud. Their maturity assessment gave us key insights and a practical, achievable plan based on where we were and where we want to be. Canadian Blood Services How to claim the cloud: Getting past virtual stall to a cost-effective cloud 5

5 2. Build a plan Many organizations simply require a more structured business planning approach that will allow them to leverage their internal strengths, provide additional resources for the one-time transformation activities, and allow their operations resources to focus on the day-to-day workload. Market research by Hurwitz and Associates supports this conclusion in a survey that compared companies that began virtualization efforts with a management strategy to those that did not. The companies that planned their efforts and invested in management tools initially reported less ROI because of the additional investment required with this approach. However, they were able to maintain a positive ROI throughout their virtualization effort. See Figure 2. Figure 2: Management Strategy Strategy Impact Impact to ROI to ROI ROI % of infrastructure virtualized Management Strategy No Management Strategy Source: Hurwitz and Associates Setting aside time to properly plan a cloud business case and roadmap will help identify costs and contribute to the overall success of your organization s cloud initiative. 3. Build a separate team to perform the transformation Many organizations create a separate, budgeted team to manage the migration to the cloud. This approach allows the operations team to focus on daily operations and maintenance while the transformation team works solely on the changes to the people, processes and tools. This approach helps organizations reduce risk and manage the project effectively. 4. Implement the right tools for the job Using cloud aware tools is essential for an organization to ensure their cloud initiatives are successful. Cloud-aware management applications, such as VMWare vcenter Operations Manager (vcops), significantly reduce the amount of false-positive alarms generated by the normal, elastic nature of a cloud infrastructure. Software such as vcops can automate application mapping and capacity planning/prediction functions, eliminating the need for hard-to-maintain spreadsheets most organizations typically use and that quickly become out of date. Finally, you can use these tools to able to baseline and nominalize the cloud environment, only drawing attention to areas that are experiencing out-of-the-ordinary conditions. Using tools designed for the cloud environment automates recurring tasks, allows organizations to reduce OPEX, and takes the pressure off internal resources. How to claim the cloud: Getting past virtual stall to a cost-effective cloud 6

6 5. Connect the cloud transformation with the hardware refresh lifecycle Moore s law is the observation that technology tends to increase exponentially approximately every 18 months. This gives an advantage to performing transformation during the hardware refresh cycle because application growth during this 18-month period will remain comparatively constant. This conceptually gives the organization twice the compute/storage resources every 18 months and the breathing room required to implement large changes to the environment. By connecting the transformation process with the hardware refresh cycle, organizations can streamline their strategic and maintenance activities, and reduce the impact to human resources, OPEX, CAPEX and risk to network availability during the transition to the cloud. Long term success may require short-term increase in IT spend Moving to the cloud can provide long-term reductions in OPEX and CAPEX; however, it requires short-term effort and expense. This paper offers strategies organizations can use to reduce the amount of time, shortterm expenditures and overall risk associated with cloud transformation. The cloud is a transformational technology, drastically changing the way IT delivers service to the business. Handled strategically, it offers organizations an opportunity to improve disaster recovery processes and reduce OPEX costs by introducing automation through cloud-management tools, improved management systems and associated processes. Establishing a structured and planned approach, with outside guidance to raise awareness of your organization s strengths and weaknesses, is the best way to ensure that your cloud initiative does not stall. For more information contact Empowered Networks at or at Sources: About Empowered Networks Empowered is a specialized Systems Integrator designing, deploying and managing practical technical solutions for Networks, Labs and Data Centers by combining proven products and systems with technical, engineering and consulting expertise. With our team of almost 100 technical professionals, we solve the toughest technical problems, extend teams, recommend, deploy and integrate the right hardware and software, and deliver unparalleled support across Canada to Canada s most successful enterprises in telecom, financial services, education, technology, and government. For more information contact Empowered Networks at or at

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