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Private cloud implementation: Cloud strategies for mobile devices

When IT organizations realized that public clouds had some security issues, and they (IT) might lose control of their data center if the business app guys started using Amazon EC2, they began to push for the implementation of private cloud computing. This is a good idea for a number of reasons, including the rapid escalation of the use of mobile devices in their corporations. Private cloud computing is a great way to manage and enforce security policies for mobile devices.

One of the first things that you do before a private cloud implementation is to determine the use cases for the cloud. Which apps are you going to be running in the private cloud? Do you have a lot of apps running on Unix in clusters or on special hardware? Do you have a number of legacy apps running on a mainframe? If the answer to the last two questions is yes, then you will have a lot of work to do trying to virtualize the workloads on UNIX and the mainframe. The virtualization software that we use to build private cloud computing runs on x86-based platforms. This means that Unix apps and mainframe apps, if you want to virtualize them for running in a private cloud, will have to be architected to run on x86 platforms. Not always an easy task. You have to assess whether trying to eventually move legacy apps to the private cloud is worthwhile or just focus on moving your Linux and Windows apps to the private cloud and write new apps for the cloud.

Clearly, a private cloud implementation has challenges and they can be expensive. You will need in-house expertise to do or assist with the implementation, unless you contract professional services in private cloud vendors to do the implementation, or hire a third party consultant to work with the private cloud vendor. Regardless, building a private cloud is expensive.  Not only will you need to train your employees to use the private cloud, you will have to create new processes for change management, provisioning, security, etc. You will likely have to buy some new software because you will need new monitoring tools for performance and security monitoring to work with virtual networks, virtual switches, etc. because physical monitoring tools cannot generally monitor traffic in virtual environments.

Like traditional data centers, IT organizations will not want to resource over capacity to handle bursty apps; however, you can do a better job scaling, when needed in a private cloud than in the traditional data center. For this reason, you should plan for integrating with a public cloud provider as you implement your private cloud. This means that as you choose your public cloud vendor, you should pay attention to the hypervisor along with the networking and storage models being used by public cloud providers. For example, Eucalyptus Systems’ Eucalyptus-based private cloud software is compatible with Amazon EC2 cloud software, meaning Eucalyptus supports EC2’s cloud API. This attention to detail could save you a lot of worries and effort if you decide to later off-load some of your private cloud apps to a public cloud or if you already have some apps running on a public cloud.

Virtualizing servers is only part of implementing a private cloud. To take full advantage of a private cloud implementation, you should virtualize storage, implement automation and orchestration and assuredly you will want to implement a self service portal/service catalog to allow private cloud users to select the services that they need to do their work.

Automation/orchestration tools operate on top of the virtualization layer that virtualized servers, networks and storage. They greatly reduce the amount of manual work usually required to provision servers, set up firewalls, plug servers into the network, and so on, and eliminate the human errors associated with the manual tasks.  

The macro steps that you will go through to implement a private cloud include virtualizing your servers, virtualizing your storage, selecting management and monitoring tools that work in virtualized environments, implement automation and orchestration and a self service portal/service catalog. Your job is to select a private cloud vendor to help you through this effort while training your own staff to not only use the cloud, but to develop new operational processes.


This was first published in May 2012

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