Posts Tagged private clouds

The Data Center’s Hybrid Cloud Future

Nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017. Hybrid cloud computing is at the same place today that private cloud was three years ago; actual deployments are low, but aspirations are high, says Gartner in a published news note from Oct. 2013.

Almost every organization today utilizes some form of cloud computing, usually public clouds.  In its State of the Cloud survey RightScale found 94% of organizations are running applications or experimenting with infrastructure-as-a-service, 87% of organizations are using public cloud, and 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy and more than half of those are already using both public and private cloud. RightScale estimates may be a bit more generous than Gartner but both come to the same conclusion in the end: Hybrid cloud is the approach of choice.

Executive management, however, prefers private clouds for the control and security they promise. That the actual control and security may not be much better than what the organization could achieve in the public cloud if it were rolled out properly, but executives don’t understand that. So private clouds are management’s darling for now.

Private clouds, however, fail to deliver the key benefits of cloud computing—cost efficiency and business agility. The organization still has to invest in all the IT resources, capacity, and capabilities of the private cloud. Unlike the public cloud, these are not shared resources. They may repurpose some of their existing IT investment for the private cloud but they invariably will again have to acquire additional IT resources and capacity as before. And, the demand for resources may increase as business units come to like IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS), the rationale for private clouds in the first place.

As for business agility with private clouds—forget it. If new capabilities are required to meet some new business requirement, the organization will have to build or acquire that capability as it did before. The backlogs for developing new capabilities do not magically go away with ITaaS and private clouds. If business agility requires the business to pivot on a moment’s notice to meet new challenges and opportunities there is only one way the private cloud can do it–develop it in-house, the old fashioned way.

Hybrid clouds provide the answer. Gartner, Inc. defines a hybrid cloud as a cloud computing service that is composed of some combination of private, public and community cloud services from different service providers. In the hybrid cloud scenario, the company can rely on its private cloud and happily cruise along until it needs a capability or resource it can’t deliver. Then the company reaches out through the hybrid cloud to the public cloud for the required capability. Rather than build it, the organization basically rents the capability, paying only for what it uses when it uses it. This is ideal when the organization needs to temporarily augment resources, capacity, or capabilities to meet an unanticipated need.

Hybrid clouds, unfortunately, don’t just pop up overnight. First you need to lay the groundwork for your hybrid cloud. That entails identifying the specific cloud resources and services in advance, making the necessary financial arrangements with appropriate public cloud vendors, and establishing and testing the connections. Also, check with your auditors who will want to be assured about security and governance and similar details.

While you are at it, make sure your networking and security teams are on board. Ports will need to be opened; the firewall gods will need to be appeased. You also will need to think about how these new capabilities and services will integrate with the capabilities and services you already have. This isn’t necessarily a major undertaking as IT projects go but will take some time—days or, more likely, a few weeks—to get the approvals, assemble all the pieces, and get them configured and tested and ready to deploy.

As RightScale notes: although the use of cloud is a given, enterprises often have different strategies that involve varying combinations of public, private, and hybrid cloud infrastructure. For most, however, the hybrid cloud provides the best of all cloud worlds, especially in terms of cost and agility. You can run ITaaS from your private cloud and pass through your hybrid cloud whenever you need public cloud resources you don’t have in house.  Just make sure you set it up in advance so it is ready to go whenyou need it.

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Software Problem Solving for Private Clouds

First fault software problem solving (FFSPS) is an old mainframe approach that calls for solving problems as soon as they occur. It’s an approach that has gone out of favor except in classic mainframe data centers, but it may be worth reviving as the IT industry moves toward cloud computing and especially private clouds, for which the zEnterprise (z196 and zBX) is particularly well suited.

The point of Dan Skwire’s book First Fault Software Problem Solving: Guide for Engineers, Managers, and Users, is that FFSPS is an effective approach even today. Troubleshooting after a problem has occurred is time-consuming, more costly, inefficient, and often unsuccessful. Complicating troubleshooting typically is lack of information. As Skwire  notes: if you have to start troubleshooting after the problem occurs, the odds indicate you will not solve the problem, and along the way, you consume valuable time, extra hardware and software, and other measurable resources.

The FFSPS trick is to capture problem solving data from the start. This is what mainframe data centers did routinely. Specially, they used trace tables and included recovery routines. This continues to be the case with z/OS today. Full disclosure: I’m a fan of mainframe computers and Power Systems and follow both regularly in my independent mainframe blog, DancingDinosaur.

So why should IT managers today care about mainframe disciplines like FFSPS? Skwire’s answer: there surely will be greater customer satisfaction if you solve and repair the customer‘s problem, or if he is empowered to solve and repair his own problem rapidly. Another reason is risk minimization.

Skwire also likes to talk about System Yuk. You probably have a few System Yuks in your shop. What’s System Yuk? As Skwire explains, System YUK is very complex. It makes many decisions, and analyzes much data. However, the only means it has of conveying an error is the single message to the operator console: SYSTEM HAS DETECTED AN ERROR, which is not particularly helpful. System YUK has no trace table or FFSPS tools. To diagnose problems in YUK you must re-create the environment in your YUK test-bed, and add instrumentation (write statements, traces, etc) and various tools to get a decent explanation of problems with YUK, or setup some second-fault tool to capture more and better data on the production System YUK, which is high risk.

Toward the end of the book Skwire gets into what you can do about System Yuk. It amounts to a call for defensive programming. He then introduces a variety of tools to troubleshoot and fix software problems. These include: ServiceLink by Axeda, AlarmPoint Systems, LogLogic, IBM Tivoli Performance Analyzer, and CA Technologies’ Wily Introscope.

With the industry gravitating toward private clouds as a way to efficiently deliver IT as a flexible service, the disciplined methodologies that continue to keep the mainframe a still critical platform in large enterprises will be worth adopting.  FFSPS should be one in particular to keep in mind.

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Management of Private Clouds

Private clouds are attracting serious attention because they provide many of the benefits of cloud computing, but are deployed behind the corporate firewall. They eliminate security concerns around public clouds, and ensure the company retains full control—the two biggest obstacles companies raise about cloud computing. In one Gartner survey 43% of respondents increased private cloud spending.  Private clouds, however, need to be tightly managed.

Cloud computing represents the convergence of several IT trends: virtualization, distributed application design, grid, and enterprise IT management, explains Elber Riberio, Director of Global IT Outsourcing at CPM Braxis Capgemini, a leading remote infrastructure management outsourcing firm. Business executives like the idea of private clouds but often overlook the critical IT management demands.

In the private cloud, IT capabilities, applications and data are delivered over the internal network as services. The IT services and the corresponding virtualized IT resources can be allocated, provisioned, and configured fast; in minutes or hours rather than in days or weeks. This makes private clouds particularly responsive to changes in the business.

The cloud only masks the underlying complexity of IT, not eliminates it. Private clouds are more demanding from an IT management perspective as more users turn to it to do more things. For that reason private clouds need more and better management, not less.

If anything, a private cloud will stress the organization’s IT management as never before. Due to the ease of accessibility and configurability workers will use more and different IT services in more ways and more often. Since it will be easier and cheaper to provision virtual servers business units will ask for more as they respond to changing opportunities.

The same goes for security. With more users doing more and different things organizations must be particularly vigilant in monitoring what is happening to ensure users are doing only what they are authorized to do.

These increased management and security challenges alone are enough to lead organizations to opt for some form of expert remote infrastructure management outsourcing (RIMO). Unlike traditional IT outsourcing RIMO does not entail the transfer of an enterprise’s assets or personnel to the outsourcing provider. Instead, the organization contracts for the provider to continuously monitor its systems, identify potential problems, handle configuration remotely, and resolve problems in real time from a remote location.

The same offshore India-based outsourcing companies also do RIMO. For many organizations RIMO turns out to be a cost-effective way to transition to a private cloud and improve their IT management without having to hire on-site staff.

But competitive RIMO providers now are cropping up much closer. CPM Braxis Capgemini offers a Brazilian near-shore RIMO alternative for North American companies compared to the far-shore options in India. Due to its recent acquisition by Capgemini, the vendor will likely offer an onshore RIMO option too at some point.

It’s easy to get excited by the possibilities of a private cloud; just don’t ignore infrastructure management.


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