However, even with the knowledge of how powerful this new technology is, IT executives often cannot see how their company could make the transition to this new infrastructure quickly or easily. To most this area of IT is uncharted waters and a project that is one huge step into the unknown.
A private cloud needs specialized IT technical expertise to not only build the infrastructure but to maintain and manage it as well as careful a cost/benefit analysis to size and grow your cloud with your company. While the private cloud eases concerns of data security and regulatory compliancy that might come with the public cloud, a lot of planning goes into switching to a private cloud. Because of this, it is no wonder why some companies are so hesitant to move to the private cloud. Nevertheless, there are easy steps you can take to steadily move toward the ultimate goal of moving your whole IT infrastructure over to the private cloud.
A Few Important Steps to Get Started:
As daunting as it can be to move from one IT platform to another, it doesn’t have to be an “all-at-once” type of project. It is often easier to move slowly to the private cloud as your IT team becomes more and more familiar with virtualization and how to fully take advantage of its benefits. The first step in moving towards the private cloud is to decide if you want to keep it in-house or outsource it to a data center provider. Do you have the expertise or experience with virtualization to do-it-yourself or would it be best to outsource that expertise to a company that specializes in it? A private cloud provider can often make the transition smoother and more quickly than if you decided to keep it in your own data center. Depending on the provider, they can also provide regulatory compliance at a reduced cost as well as very cost effective disaster recovery options.
The next step is to decide on the specs of your first host server and your virtualization platform. Since you want parity in all of your host server boxes, deciding on a uniform processor speed is crucial. It is fairly easy to add more RAM or a new processor, but adding or replacing local disk can be more complex and difficult (unless you have SAN attached storage). The next thing to decide on is your virtualization platform. Do you want the comfort of going with a well known name like VWmare or do you need something a little more affordable like Xen or Microsoft’s Hyper-V? This decision should be made based on a company’s current strategic IT mission, cost, and the security and resiliency needed for the applications.
Start Small and Grow At Your Own Pace:
Once you have made those three important decisions, you are ready to start using and experiencing the benefits of the private cloud. With your first box, you can spin up and tear down servers with little effort and depending on the capabilities of your virtualization software, have your virtualized servers fully backed up and automatically rebooted when they crash. Very powerful benefits with the potential to grow into a much more powerful and robust private cloud without replacing the equipment you are already using and becoming more familiar with. You can add additional hosts as more and more virtual servers are needed or transferred to your private cloud architecture.
Your private cloud will truly start to take shape when you add a SAN (Storage Area Network) to your private cloud. With all of your data from your virtual servers consolidated to a single storage platform, you have the capability to move virtual servers from one box to another, allowing for optimal use of your server resources. With a private cloud controller, you have your whole private cloud monitored and dynamically configured and managed automatically, giving your IT infrastructure the most efficient use of resources possible. In addition, you can enable automatic failover to another host should one host fail.
Protect Your Cloud and Your Business:
The final step and perhaps the most important, is deciding on your level of disaster protection. Even if your data isn’t mission critical, your data should be backed up to an off-site location in the event that something should happen to your primary site. Because your servers are virtualized, they can be bare metal restored, so having a spare host is really all you need to get back up and running fairly quickly. For the most mission critical data you can replicate your private cloud, or a slightly smaller version at an offsite location and perform SAN to SAN replication, keeping your data constantly up to date at an alternate location. If you chose an outsourced private cloud, the provider may have a “first declared” IT disaster recovery solution that could be very cost effective and potentially business saving. Whichever route you take, make sure your data and your business is backed up.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the private cloud is that it doesn’t have to be built in one day. It can grow with your business and become more powerful without having to replace old hardware and waste capital. The road to the private cloud can be done over months or years and doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project for IT directors and managers.