I argue, frequently and with just about anyone who will engage, that Cloud Computing is the model and there are several different types of instantiations. This certainly isn’t a new or controversial idea, and not a sea change in and of itself. The same could be said for Web 2.0, SOA, N-Tier, Client-Server and back to the Platonic Ideal. The blogosphere and twitterdom is filled with talk of IaaS, PaaS, SaaS &c. as various forms of Cloud Computing and those are interesting forms but not necessarily new ideas or modes of computing. EMC has laid out the vision for a Private Cloud, it’s rather well defined and we have gathered together a number of partners to help us enable our customers in the creation and operation of private clouds. I’m certainly a proponent of Private Cloud, believe in the model and think that it is innovative and a new mode of computing, but I come here not to praise private cloud, but to enable it.
I’ve spent the last few months talking with customers all over the world about Cloud Computing in general and what EMC means by Private Cloud in particular. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of feedback from the CXO level down to the managers and administrators that will be tasked with running these clouds. A few common themes have emerged in these conversations. Rarely does the question, “Why Cloud Computing?” come up, it’s almost as if Cloud is a foregone conclusion, hyped into the mainstream. I am almost consistently asked by people at every level, “So now what?”. EMC and our partners, and the market in general, has done a good job of laying out the groundwork and vision for Cloud Computing and its benefits and a hardware and software portfolio to enable it. The question becomes how do I actually execute against the vision with the products to make it reality, as it does with most paradigm shifts.
It seems to me that a lot of IT organizations are positioning themselves for Private Cloud, knowingly or unknowingly. The virtualization of the data center, not just of servers, but real enterprise virtualization is a key milestone on the path to Private Cloud. Not only does it provide the framework to build a Private Cloud on, it brings real benefits to the organization in terms of reduced Capital Expenses, Operating Expenses, time to provision, mean time to repair and improved customer satisfaction for internal and external customers. These benefits are core to the allure of Private Cloud and IT is keen to realize them as quickly as possible.
I’ve often seen, and industry analysts seem to weekly report, that virtualization efforts seem to hit a wall when around 20-30% of the workloads in the data center have been virtualized. There are many reasons for this, ranging from applicability of previous virtualization solutions to enterprise workloads, and insufficient application owner and line of business buy-in to the transformation leading to lack of approved downtimes and applications not being approved for P2V. We’ve helped a number of customers push through this wall and drive towards their goals of 80-90% of workloads being virtualized through the development of enterprise virtualization programs, acceleration services, documenting the activities and processes surrounding the virtualization of servers and applications, training and comprehensive communication and marketing plans to get the buy-in of the stakeholders and application owners.
It’s not just driving enterprise virtualization that will help IT realize the benefits of Private Cloud, however. A lot of outsourcing companies operated for years on the concept of “Your mess for less”. For this to be a real transformation it can’t just be the same old problems running on a shiny new architecture. A key component of the journey to Private Cloud has to be the rationalization of the application portfolio. We are constantly adding new applications and features and functionality into the environment, and for every “server hugger” out there I’d argue there’s an “application hugger”, we all have our babies and we’re certainly not going to let them be torn from our arms.
A systematic review of the existing application portfolio to identify opportunities for retirement, featurefunctionality consolidation, replatforming and virtualization on proprietary unix systems provides the roadmap for how many of the promised savings can be realized. If you want to embrace x86 as the chosen platform you have to figure out how to get as much of your application portfolio as possible onto it. Coupling this portfolio rationalization with a comprehensive business case for Private Cloud provides the framework for driving line of business and application team compliance and for a realistic timeline of how quickly you can actually realize Private Cloud.
So that accounts for the infrastructure and the applications, now for the trifecta, governance! A new model of computing requires a new model of governance and the associated tools and processes. Thousands of virtual machines crammed into a small number of cabinets dynamically allocating and deallocating resources is a daunting environment if your key governance tool is Microsoft Excel. The identification of appropriate services to provide, service levels to achieve, and a chargeback model to allocate costs are required, absolutely required, to have any chance of successfully building and operating a Private Cloud successfully. This requires transparency into what you have, what you’re using, where it is, who owns it, what it requires, how it is to be measured and monitored, backed up, replicated, encrypted, allowed to grow or shrink, &c. Sounds scary, I’m sure.
The service catalog, an integrated management tool framework and automated processes allow you to monitor, maintain, provision and recover the costs of such an environment. Your administrators, engineers and operations teams need to be trained on the technologies, service levels, communications plan and have their roles and responsibilities well documented to empower them in this kind of model. New tools and proactive methods for communicating with your clients have to be developed and integrated to ensure they understand what services you are providing them, how they are being charged for them and what service levels you guarantee. I personally think that self-service plays a key role in the development of a Private Cloud, or most cloud models for that matter, and integration of Change, Release and Capacity Management into a self-service portal can make the difference in your client’s adoption of this new paradigm.
We’ve packaged these services up under the umbrella of Accelerating the Journey to Private Cloud and have integrated our Technology Implementation Services, and several new EMC Proven Solutions into a holistic stack to enable our customers. It’s not a light switch or a silver bullet, it still is a journey, but we’ve worked hard to take the lessons learned from many years of data center consolidation and migrations, process automation, custom reporting and dashboards, building innovative solutions and architectures, product training and managing transformative programs and integrate them into an effective services and solutions stack to accelerate the journey to Private Cloud and realize real benefits today.