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2011 tech priorities: Private cloud beckons

Before jumping in you need to master virtualization, garner C-level support and have a business case

By , Network World
January 03, 2011 06:06 AM ET

Network World - The indisputable economic benefits of cloud computing for certain applications drive businesses to consider building clouds of their own, but they need to make sure they are prepared before jumping into the cloud.

Consideration of people, governance, price and technology all need to come into play, says Alan Boehme, senior vice president of IT strategy and enterprise architecture for ING Americas, a user of cloud technology and a founder of the Cloud Security Alliance.

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Plus organizations need to climb a virtualization-maturity curve before they have what they need to take on the challenges of a private cloud, says James Staten, a vice president and principal analyst for Forrester Research.

Climbing the curve calls for going through a four-step process consisting of selling virtualization to reluctant users, deploying it in earnest, optimizing the use rates of the server pool, and creating incentives that encourage sharing virtual infrastructure across the business, he says.

During the first stage, which most IT departments have already completed, IT goes begging to find developers within their organizations who will try the technology. In the next stage IT makes it easy to get a virtual machine outside the approval process needed for a physical machine.

Staten calls this the hero phase because IT can reduce the time and cost of adding new resources. During this phase the ratio between the number of physical servers that would be needed with and without virtualization is reduced and becomes a benchmark for success.

In Stage 3, that ratio becomes less relevant as the business tries to maximize utilization rates of server resources across the pool of physical servers, and the key metric is that utilization rate. During this phase, tools and procedures must be put in place to minimize virtual machine sprawl, making sure that virtual machines that aren't being used are shut down so the server resources can be reused, Staten says.

The final stage calls for active marketing of virtualization to divisions of the business and convincing them it's best for the organization as a whole to share resources. The most effective means is to show the dramatic difference in time it takes to authorize and turn on a physical server (a matter of weeks) vs. turning on a new virtual machine in the data center (a day to a week) vs. turning up a VM in the cloud using a standard template (immediately). When a central store of servers can be shared among business units, the business is ready for adopting a private cloud, he says.

For businesses that haven't climbed very high yet on the maturity curve, there are faster ways, Boehme says. For example, a group within IT can be created to set up a relationship with a cloud service provider to carve out a dedicated cloud for the business customer within its service cloud infrastructure. That relieves many of the burdens of creating a business owned and maintained cloud.

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