Adopt a balanced approach to private clouds

By Laurent Lachal, Senior Analyst, Software – IT Solutions

Users are unsure of – or have very different views on – what constitutes a private cloud, which makes any survey about the subject rather meaningless.

They approach private clouds from a variety of viewpoints including bottom–up versus top–down, technology versus design, and long-term versus short-term perspectives.

Ovum does not advocate moving from a short-term, technology-centric, bottom-up approach to a long-term, design-centric, top-down approach, but we do believe the latter is more useful than the former.

In the Ovum report, Cloud Computing Needs Service Level Management, Ovum advocates a balanced approach according to specific company requirements and culture, based on a shift from supply-led to demand-led IT.

Look at private cloud from all angles

The bottom-up viewpoint is that of the IT department. It looks at private clouds from a data centre industrialisation, consolidation, and standardisation perspective based on:

  • virtualisation technologies (to boost utilisation and allocate resources dynamically)
  • automated management processes (to scale the infrastructure without having to scale the IT workforce with it)
  • SOA design (to reuse and integrate software assets more easily).

The top-down viewpoint is that of the business user, looking at private clouds from a user experience and empowerment point of view based on:

  • portals (for instant on-demand access to a catalog of resources to pick and mix)
  • ecosystem services (marketplace of vetted applications and a community of peers)
  • usage monitoring and metering (for feedback and improvement, as well as show-back or chargeback purposes).

The technology approach focuses on upgrading to hardware and software components that are more efficient, integrated, and tuned to specific workloads. The design approach looks at how IT infrastructures need to be redesigned at a variety of levels, including the way they:

  • share IT resources: the objective is to turn existing IT assets from siloed resources into pools of shared resources. The pools are defined as private clouds
  • access IT resources: the objective is to offer IT resources via a set of APIs to enable management tools, as well as applications, to interact with these resources in an automated fashion. The pool of resources available via APIs is defined as a private cloud.

The long-term perspective defines the private cloud as a long, patient evolution that starts with companies understanding what they currently have, then shaping it slowly to achieve a fully dynamic shared infrastructure.

In this approach the private cloud is the aim of the data centre evolution journey.

The short-cut perspective emphasises the need to take shortcuts along the way. In this perspective, the private cloud is the part(s) of the data centre that is (are) ahead of the rest.

The short-term, technology-centric, bottom-up approach should not dominate

There is some overlap between the various perspectives.

For example, the bottom-up approach is usually technology-centric and short term. In fact, the short-term, technology-centric, bottom-up approach is the one that dominates today’s private cloud market at both user and vendor levels.

This is unfortunate. Ovum advises a balanced approach based on specific company requirements and culture. There is no moving away from the bottom-up approach, but it has to be supplemented by a top-down one.

Similarly, technology and design evolution need to go hand in hand.

Finally, there is a need to reconcile the private-cloud-as-a-journey and private-cloud-as-a-shortcut approaches to understand when, on the road towards a next-generation data center, users should take tactical shortcuts.

Focus on people, processes, and policies

It is much easier to upgrade hardware and software components than it is to change people, processes, and policies. That is the reason why time and again IT departments focus on the former at the expense of the latter.

The problem is that the latter underpins the success of the former. For example, data centre managers need to consolidate processes, policies, and best practices (logical consolidation) before tackling physical consolidation — not the other way round.

Shift from supply-led to demand-led IT

To ensure the success of private cloud initiatives, as well as the delivery of IT-as-a-service, IT needs to shift from a supply-led view of IT to a demand-led view.

The supply side of IT certainly still needs managing, but by applying the point of control on the demand side (somewhat akin to the throttle of an engine), the supply of IT services can be better matched to business operations not just in terms of user empowerment but also user experience.

This requires not just a change in processes and policies, as implemented by best-practice frameworks like ITIL, but also people and their culture, which takes much longer and is much more difficult.

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