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10 keys for building private clouds

It's about process, not technology, Gartner analyst says

By , Network World
May 29, 2012 05:27 PM ET

Network World - One of the toughest parts about implementing a cloud strategy isn't choosing the underlying technology to power the deployment; it's having the processes in place to manage an effective migration to the cloud, says Thomas Bittman, a cloud analyst for Gartner.

"While cloud technologies are just now maturing, that's one of the easier challenges to solve," Bittman said during a webinar sponsored by Gartner discussing how to build private clouds.

Embracing the cloud can be a transformational shift in the way IT services are delivered to the business, bringing with it benefits around agility of applications and having IT that is customized to the needs of the business. But getting to that optimum point in is about more than what virtualization technology will be used or what public cloud provider will be hired. It's about having the processes in place to executive the strategy effectively, Bittman says.

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Private clouds are the first step many organizations will take in their cloud strategy. It's critical, Bittman says, for IT to consider why the cloud is being embraced before executing on the strategy. Most commonly, private clouds are used to deliver server virtualization automatically, giving businesses the benefit of more efficient hardware, automatic provisioning of resources, all with the security of the system being on the company's premise with native security features in place. But there still needs to be a reason for the business to invest in a private cloud, and to determine that, the IT team needs to work with the business units to determine what problems they face and how IT can be used to solve them.

Once a reason for using the private cloud has been justified, the next step is building the cloud infrastructure. And for that, Bittman has 10 elements to making private cloud computing successful:

1. Leadership. Deploying a cloud strategy requires having someone that understands the needs of the business and the IT shop. The IT department's job is to serve the business, so IT must understand the needs of the business and create solutions that will address the business's concern. There also needs to be buy-in at the highest leadership levels of an organization to embrace a cloud strategy, Bittman says.

2. Define your services upfront. A crucial element for deploying a cloud strategy is understanding the services the business offers so that IT can create strategies to solve those problems. The key to doing that is to understand the services that are offered. But Bittman says not everything is optimized for the cloud: Private clouds are usually best for servicing recurring business needs that are dynamic in nature. "The cloud isn't for the once-every-10-years ERP system you're installing; it's for what comes in once a week or several times a week," he says.

3. Evaluate alternatives. Bittman recommends researching the solution that will create true value-add for your business. In many cases, that may end up being at the platform-as-a-service level, he says, where applications are customized to the needs of the business while taking advantage of the benefits of a cloud environment. "You're not going to differentiate your company by using SaaS or even IaaS," Bittman says, because almost every company will eventually be using some of those services. "You differentiate by using new applications that are written specifically for your needs that are scale dynamically."

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