Preflight Checklist: Preparing for a Private Cloud Journey

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1 Preflight Checklist: Preparing for a Private Cloud Journey Preflight Checklist: Preparing for a Private Cloud Journey What do you need to have in place before you move forward with cloud computing? This ten-point checklist will help you prepare for the journey. By John Ross 56

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3 Preflight Checklist: Preparing for a Private Cloud Journey Embarking upon a private cloud initiative is a journey, and any successful journey takes careful planning and execution. Just as the pilot of a jet goes through a specific checklist before embarking, the team in charge of building a private cloud should make sure certain elements are in place before taking off. The following preflight checklist for a private cloud initiative includes some basic competencies required for organizations that are virtualizing and consolidating data center operations. The checklist also includes other capabilities unique to managing a dynamic infrastructure environment to increase the agility of IT. Your organization may already have some of these competencies in place. Or you might decide to use this checklist as a way to determine where you need to improve capabilities. Either way, the private cloud journey is an exciting opportunity for IT organizations to increase responsiveness and optimize the utilization of IT resources. Allow this preflight checklist to guide you as you begin your journey and help you discover how far you may have already come. 1. Virtualize Almost Everything Virtualize everything, or almost everything. Virtualization reduces costs through consolidation. In a cloud environment, the most important considerations are flexibility and ease of management of virtual machines as they move across the infrastructure. Once virtualized, ensure you have an inventory (from servers to applications), an interdependency map, and a set of service level requirements. 2. Standardize Almost Everything Three key areas of standardization impact cloud: processes and procedures, configurations, and services. To pave the way for automation, standardize to the point that exceptions are infrequent. Top-performing IT organizations continually improve data center processes to optimize performance. This is even more important in a dynamic and automated cloud environment where policies and rules trigger the movement of workloads within and among resource pools. So, if processes such as provisioning, patching, and security aren t standardized and documented, step back and do so before automating a collection of exceptions. To pave the way for automation, standardize to the point that exceptions are infrequent. Standard configurations simplify and streamline the movement of workloads in a cloud environment. From the operating systems on upward through middleware and applications, the more that uniformity exists within configurations, the easier it will be to scale and move these workloads optimally around the environment. Standardized configurations can be validated and configuration compliance can be enforced through automation rather than manual processes. Finally, be sure to define and standardize the list of cloud services provided by IT through a service catalog. The service catalog facilitates efficiency by focusing IT resources on a few 58

4 well-considered offerings, explicitly described both in functionality and cost to the user. If the cost of different services and service levels is clear in the service catalog at the time service is requested, the requester is more likely to provision just enough to meet requirements. 3. Ensure Network and Storage Capabilities Meet Cloud Needs In a cloud environment, the flexibility and mobility of workloads place increased weight on the management and capacity of both the network and the storage. Often an unfortunate afterthought in cloud environments, network and storage are a key part of any cloud service, and they should be provisioned at the outset and managed actively throughout the lifetime of the service. Prior to embarking on a cloud effort, ensure you have sufficient storage and network resources, as well as sufficiently integrated storage and network management to support your new environment. 4. Make It Easy for Users to Request Cloud Services The process and nature of resource requests may change in a private cloud. In a traditional environment, resources are requested from IT after approval for the infrastructure budget What s Appealing About a Hybrid Public/Private Model? A hybrid approach to private and public computing helps deliver faster business value and lower cost by leveraging external resources, delivered through IT. At GreenPages, we helped one company work through system level changes as a result of a merger. We began by integrating data from one firm s system into the other. Then we granted new users access to the system running in a Citrix environment. We scaled out the existing system with 50 new machines in an external cloud environment and expanded internal resources with more bandwidth and a couple of new network connections. In 72 hours from start to finish, we granted 2,000 new users access to the internally managed system by extending capacity through an external cloud provider. That is the power and value of a hybrid cloud environment. Many cloud providers replicate workloads across two data centers. Business systems that are replicated in the external cloud don t need dedicated internal disaster recovery resources. Some companies are now planning to build a first data center and use an external cloud provider as their second disaster recovery site. They still have control of data but can fail over or expand capacity externally if needed. Overall, the cost and quality of service advantage of a hybrid approach is very compelling for many IT organizations. 59

5 Preflight Checklist: Preparing for a Private Cloud Journey is complete. The process tends to be manual and lengthy, involving, at worst case, a full physical procurement process. In a cloud environment, users need a mechanism for requesting a cloud service through a selfservice portal. Most requests of a reasonable nature should be automatically fulfilled immediately using a provisioning engine. Only the exceptions should require an explicit approval process. Automation addresses the primary repetitive needs of the environment: cloud service provisioning, cloud service placement, capacity management, and change tracking. In some cases, the application group may use a self-service mechanism to request longduration production resources from IT. In other cases, research and development (R&D) may request the creation of a development environment for temporary use. The greater the flexibility of the self-service portal, the more efficient the cloud environment will be, serving a broad swath of business needs with limited manual intervention. 5. Ensure You Can Automate Much of the Cloud Automation drives cloud computing. Managing and tracking that dynamic, ever-changing environment manually, using spreadsheets and hope, would be a formidable task for the most well-staffed of IT groups. Instead, automation addresses the primary repetitive needs of the environment: cloud service provisioning, cloud service placement, capacity management, and change tracking. You ll want to automate provisioning. Automated provisioning rapidly eliminates the tedious manual processes, and even many of the approvals. It delivers the cloud service to the customer faster. With automated provisioning, the system is deployed with the most up-to-date server image. More sophisticated provisioning can include provisioning not only of the operating system but also of middleware, applications, and services such as compliance and security. Automate the placement of cloud services on the basis of the resources required, the purpose and type of workload, and the capacity and performance of workloads currently running in each environment. The request for an instance of a cloud service may come from a person requesting resources or may be automatically triggered based on capacity and utilization metrics of existing instances. In either case, use automated processes and decision logic to match the request to the resource that has capacity available. Finally, automating change tracking is critical to managing workloads in a dynamic cloud environment. With automated tracking, you can optimize service support processes that require the physical and logical context of the workload in question. Automating change tracking is critical to managing workloads in a dynamic cloud environment. Automation also helps ensure that security and compliance requirements are met. A configuration management database (CMDB) that records dependencies among various 60

6 components of a workload is useful for both change tracking and integrated change management. 6. Put Resource Monitoring in Place As you move into the cloud environment, monitor dynamic resources so you can guarantee that workload performances are equal to, if not better than, performance in a more static environment. Performance monitoring and capacity management are two key elements of resource monitoring. You ll want to closely monitor the performance of computing resources in your cloud environment. The dynamic environment means that frequent changes across the entire infrastructure could affect the performance of individual workloads. Monitoring across environments includes network throughput, storage input/output operations per second (IOPS), and server resource performance. You ll also want to monitor performance from the user perspective to verify application response times and to guarantee the quality of the user experience. You ll want to closely monitor the performance of computing resources in your cloud environment. Effective capacity management is critical to determining where to place a workload. A common misperception is that an internal cloud will expand capacity. In reality, when you break the link between the workload and underlying hardware, you tend to create a bit of sprawl. In a traditional environment, a server had to be purchased and rack space had to be allocated. But in a cloud environment, the business owners of applications 5 Common Questions (and Answers) About Private Cloud Computing Does a private cloud create capacity? No. Mobile workloads can make better use of existing capacity. Should the service requester pick the deployment environment? No. IT needs to maintain control of where workloads are placed. Is virtualization a prerequisite for a private cloud? Yes. Virtualization enables lift and shift workload mobility, which is central to a private cloud strategy. Will an application user or line of business manager request private cloud resources directly? Not initially. Cloud service requests will often still be made by the application team or IT manager. Does a private cloud change regulatory requirements? No. IT still needs to document and verify that controls are working. However, mobile workloads increase the need for tracking controls. 61

7 Preflight Checklist: Preparing for a Private Cloud Journey aren t buying hardware. Allocation or usebased costs are lower, and people tend to approve more projects as they realize that they have greater resources to meet business needs. As a result, existing network and storage capacity is used for tasks that maybe weren t a priority before. Anticipating a growth in utilization, both by growing individual services and growing the number of services, means capacity of all cloud resources should be monitored closely. 7. Create a Plan for Compliance Compliance is all about doing what you say you are doing. It ties back to having documented policies and procedures and providing proof that they are being followed. There is a lot of discussion about security and compliance in a mixed model that includes both private and public cloud resources. Even in a private cloud, the environment must often comply with regulatory policies and guidelines. To build an internal cloud that can serve the business broadly, ensure that the existing compliance rules are applied to the cloud as well. Even in a private cloud, the environment must often comply with regulatory policies and guidelines. 8. Implement a Decommissioning Process Most enterprise computing environments are running applications and services that are no longer actively being used by the business. The detritus of years of provisioning with no decommissioning clutters data centers and virtual environments. To optimize the use of resources in your cloud environment, put in place a process to decommission unused workloads. By setting a retirement date and providing mechanisms for extension, all cloud services can receive regular checkups, and those past their prime can be elegantly decommissioned. Keep in mind that in a regulatory environment, workloads must be decommissioned in a way that destroys data in one location but that also archives both application and data in another location for future potential retrieval. To optimize the use of resources in your cloud environment, put in place a process to decommission unused workloads. 9. Plan for Backup and Disaster Recovery Business continuity strategies get interesting in a cloud environment. With virtualization as the foundation of cloud, workload backup and restoration can be facilitated by continuous data replication using storage area network (SAN) storage, which minimizes the performance impact and reduces the time for backup of systems. More important, workloads can be revived in seconds to any resource pool that has available capacity. Cheaper than traditional mirrored backup approaches, this approach to backup enables a much greater percentage of workloads to have backup and failover capabilities, delivering compelling value to the business. 10. Train Your Team A dynamic private cloud environment is very different from the traditional IT environment. Functional work processes for capacity, performance, network, storage, and service 62

8 support are all modified in a dynamic resource environment. IT organizations must change their thinking about a dynamic environment, then change their work processes and procedures to optimize results. Training is essential to reshape work habits and to ensure successful adoption of the cloud model. On Your Way Follow this checklist to ensure a safe, comfortable ride on your journey to establishing a private cloud. Before long, you will be well on your way to improved service and better utilization of IT resources through private cloud computing. About the Author As CTO of GreenPages Technology Solutions, John Ross oversees the company s Solutions Architects, Engineering, Managed Services, and internal IT groups. Ross is a virtualization and cloud computing expert and has experience designing and supporting networks that have from three to thousands of workstations in both local and wide area configurations with heterogeneous operating systems. He holds positions with several leading manufacturer advisory councils and regularly works with industry analysts to help define technology directions for partners and customers. 63

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