Organisations of varying size and complexity are likley to have some elements of the Private Cloud already in use. Whether this is elements of virtualisation or system management software does not detract from re-visiting the implementations and asking the question “am I using these products as effectively as I can?”. Moving to a Private Cloud solution is not exactly straight forward. The levels of complexity involved in combining multiple technologies to present an IaaS solution takes careful thought as to the overall scope of the programme of work.
As discussed earlier, having a clear vision of where you want to go is the key to defining a realistic scope. True, there will be limitations on cost, time or quality to consider but above all, the definition and order of a planned set of activities is incredibly important.
Servers or Services?
To begin with, you need to understand whether you think a Private Cloud is all about servers and compute resources or the services that are delivered to the consumer within the organisation. To be fair, it is a bit of both. However, the start point for your journey to the cloud should be at the server layer. All other technological elements spin off the back of this first element and defining a clear and concise list of services that are provided is the first step. As such, System Center Operations Manager will help here. Packaging up each service, including its dependencies allow you to visualise the infrastructure in its entirety and feeds other activities down the line.
Another quick method of defining the existing infrastructure service is to implement Spiceworks as this can give you the granularity of information you will need, without having to fully appreciate or determine the license and implementation planning associated to Operations Manager. It is worth pointing out at this stage, that Spiceworks is temporary, as the integration of Operations Manager in later parts of the programme is crucial to the success of a Private Cloud.
Once the infrastructure has been fully mapped out, decisions must be made on the technology platforms that you will require. The hardware itself falls into a few categories which I use to determine hardware manufacturer. Ultimately it is up to you, but the following is given as a guide, more than anything else.
1. Organisations with healthy IT budgets and a driver for fast transactional or safety critical information systems could ideally go with a mixture of IBM server hosts and NetApp storage.
2. Organisations with robust IT budgets and important business systems which do not require overtly high transaction rates or impact on safety could choose HP server hosts and HP or EMC storage.
3. Organisations with limited IT budgets and limited high transactional systems would perhaps be better off served by Dell server hosts and Dell storage.
The idea being, that you do not necessarily have to go for the Rolls Royce of hardware platforms to create a Private Cloud. It is possible that you already have existing hardware with spare capacity for introducing more RAM or Disk or even existing hardware relationships that are advantageous.
The network question is a little more difficult to explain. A lot of organisations I come into contact with are heavy Cisco users. Whilst the technology is indeed best of breed, it is not perhaps commercially suited to most organisations. Personally, I much prefer Juniper networks from a cost and functionality perspective but the decision is really up to you.
VMware is undoubtably the market leader in hypervisor technology at present however, Microsoft’s Hyper-V platform is fast catching up. Choice of hypervisor comes down predominantly to capability v cost. If you are a VMware house, the question you should ask yourself at this stage is “Why do I need VMWare? Really, what does it offer me above and beyond Hyper-V and do I really need that level of technology?”. You might think I am trying to turn you off VMware and you would be right. VMware is great for some organisations (those that have high transactions or safety critical systems) but for 90% of organisations, it is a bit of overkill. There are also issues with training. Administrators all want to be VCP certified and when you consider this against the training needs of the Private Cloud, it can be a drain on the training budget for the IT department.
Now that we have made a decision on the hardware platforms that we wish to use, its time to open up a can of scope and get going. First step, is to choose a technology partner to help you on your journey. Do not be fooled into thinking that you have the skills in existence to move to the Private Cloud; you haven’t. The Private Cloud is massively complex and difficult to comprehend as a complete unit. Also, the level of deep technical knowledge of each individual platform needs to be of a level far greater than that of an administrator. That is not to say, that you have to break the bank with technology partners, you should see them as helping you on the journey as opposed to doing all of the work. Indeed, around 80% of the work will be conducted “in-house” that is to say, by your own people when it comes to transitioning services into the Private Cloud.
Bearing in mind, we are on a journey here, we must define our scope with one key component. The High Level Infrastructure Design. This document should contain the high level topology, the size and scale of hardware needed, software licence requirements, the network layout and the various platforms which will manage the Private Cloud and their features. As we are on the subject of the Microsoft Private Cloud and to make matters easier for procurement obligations, you should choose a Microsoft technology partner, with the following Gold partnership status:
1. Management and Virtualisation
2. Server Platform
The Microsoft Partner should also provide you with access, under their initial control, to appropriate storage and network partner organisations in relation to the hardware that you have decided upon. The most important partner competency is Management and Virtualisation, simply because the Private Cloud is more System Center than it is anything else. When you are ready to go, hold the Design Workshop, have the partner produce the design (one version of the truth with storage and networks) and once that is all complete, you have the fully defined scope of work that you will need in order to implement a Private Cloud solution, but not necessarily in any order. The next stage is to combine everything and add a comprehensive benefit management strategy in order to produce the delivery plan.
One final note, if you are being quoted more than £20k for the HLID, then you need to choose a different partner.