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Network World - ORLANDO -- If speedy IT services are important, businesses should be shifting from traditional computing into virtualization in order to build a private cloud that, whether operated by their IT department or with help from a private cloud provider, will give them that edge.
That was the message from Gartner analysts this week, who sought to point out paths to the private cloud to hundreds of IT managers attending the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Management Summit 2011 in Orlando. Transitioning a traditional physical server network to a virtualized private cloud should be done with strategic planning in capacity management and staff training.
"IT is not just the hoster of equipment and managing it. Your job is delivery of service levels at cost and with agility," said Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman. He noted virtualization is the path to that in order to able to operate a private cloud where IT services can be quickly supplied to those in the organization who demand them, often on a chargeback basis.
Gartner analysts emphasized that building a private cloud is more than just adding virtual machines to physical servers, which is already happening with dizzying speed in the enterprise. Gartner estimates about 45% of x86-based servers carry virtual-machine-based workloads today, with that number expected to jump to 58% next year and 77% by 2015. VMware is the distinct market leader, but Microsoft with Hyper-V is regarded as growing, and Citrix with XenServer , among others, is a contender as well.
"Transitioning the data center to be more cloud-like could be great for the business," said Gartner analyst Chris Wolf, adding, "But it causes you to make some difficult architecture decisions, too." He advised Gartner clientele to centralize IT operations, look to acquiring servers from Intel and AMD optimized for virtualized environments, and "map security, applications, identity and information management to cloud strategy."
Although cloud computing equipment vendors and service providers would like to insist that it's not really a private cloud unless it's fully automated, Wolf said the reality is "some manual processes have to be expected." But the preferred implementation would not give the IT admin the management controls over specific virtual security functions associated with the VMs.
Regardless of which VM platform is used — there is some mix-and-match in the enterprise today though it poses specific management challenges — Gartner analysts say there is a dearth of mature management tools for virtualized systems.
"There's a disconnect today," said Wolf, noting that a recent forum Gartner held for more than a dozen CIOs overseeing their organizations building private clouds, more than 75% said they were using home-grown management tools for things like hooking into asset management systems and ticketing.
Nevertheless, Gartner is urging enterprises to put together a long-term strategy for the private cloud and brace for the fast-paced changes among vendor and providers that will bring new products and services — and no doubt, a number of market drop-outs along the way.