From Virtualization to Private Cloud Services: Five High-Level Steps

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The path from virtualization to a self-service cloud poses technical as well as organizational challenges related to management and operational processes, culture, and politics. The following five high-level actions serve as a framework to help you understand and successfully address the organizational and technology issues you will face. Many of the specific activities involved will take place simultaneously. Neglecting any one of these can trip you up and cause your project to fail.

The framework:

• Step 1: Develop a cloud strategy – Establish where you want to go.

• Step 2: Manage organizational and business process change – Get the business on board.

• Step 3: Organize IT around services delivery – IT shifts its role to a broker of cloud services.

• Step 4: Put the right technology in place – Set short-, medium-, and long-term goals.

• Step 5: Manage and monitor your cloud and manage with data – Use analytics to improve operations.

Step 1: Develop a Cloud Strategy

A cloud strategy clearly articulates the benefits, approach, and expected outcomes for your technology investment across your organization. Tied to line-of-business goals, it helps you get senior management buy-in and manage expectations—both keys to your success. Your cloud strategy should include:

• The high-level business case – Describe the benefits to both IT and the business and the expected return on investment.

• Implementation phases – Define short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals for delivering services with related benefits. For example: Intel IT implemented IaaS first to enable broader enterprise use cases.

• Workloads – Identify the workloads you plan to move to the cloud and the associated user groups.

• Cloud architecture – Define cloud architecture, including the components of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, as well as security and related systems such as backup and disaster recovery.

• Client devices – Define how users will access the cloud and integrate with your enterprisewide mobile strategy.

• Monitoring and management – Determine how you will manage your cloud, monitor health and performance, and define success.

• IT-business relationships – Define how IT will partner effectively with the business to specify business process requirements and request services.

With a cloud strategy, you now have an overarching approach to cloud computing across the organization. It gives you the tools to deepen relationships with line-of-business managers, generate some excitement for your project, and manage expectations for each phase of implementation. Plus, it’s a roadmap for where you want to go, helping to direct virtualization efforts so you can fully achieve the value on your private cloud investment and lay the groundwork for a more elastic hybrid model. A cloud strategy will also help you avoid the potential for shadow IT created by business units who may go to a public cloud provider in the absence of private cloud services in the enterprise.

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Step 2: Manage Business Process Change

Business process changes are pervasive in a cloud implementation. For your cloud project to succeed, you must collaborate with process owners to accurately document the processes and tasks affected and determine how to minimize the number of required human control points. Plus, you need management cooperation to implement any changes to existing processes that might benefit from the automation; and you will be developing new processes, such as how users access and specify the cloud resources they need. By drawing on cross-domain expertise, you ensure that your technical considerations benefit from business knowledge of the activities and tasks to be automated and avoid the potential of user and management apathy—or worse, hostility.

Cloud obviously affects IT-specific processes as well. Capacity management, for instance, becomes radically different in a cloud environment. In the cloud, rather than IT assigning physical resources with unused overhead to handle peak conditions, capacity is governed by predefined limits based on demand for individual applications and provisioned by users.

You also need to implement other processes to better manage your cloud, such as system-related business intelligence and costing information. For example, with manageability and business intelligence tools, you can keep operational costs at a minimum by maintaining a thin overhead of unused capacity and making investments in new infrastructure on a just-in-time basis. Business intelligence capabilities also provide insights into consumption, performance, utilization trends, and security-related events.

Step 3: Organize IT around Service Delivery

Many users in large companies are already familiar with the concept of consuming IT services. Organizing your IT workforce around cloud service delivery enables you to serve the business more effectively as a cloud services broker. As a cloud services broker, your role is to weigh user needs against the available delivery options for your organization. From the IT perspective, this reduces organization risk, improves resource utilization, and monitors demand. From the perspective of users, they get the right solution to meet their needs—made easy with self-provisioning and automation. Ultimately you gain experience delivering cloud services that can be extended later to brokering public services in a hybrid cloud model. You also eliminate the need for business users to stand up their own individual cloud silos.

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Step 4: Put the Right Technology in Place

Your cloud won’t succeed without the right technology. Set your technology priorities based on the implementation phases and milestones described in your cloud strategy. For example, short-term priorities would typically include implementing pervasive virtualization to integrate compute, storage, network, and physical resources, and then offering IaaS by implementing end-to-end, on-demand, self-service capabilities; automation; orchestration; and security. Longer term, you might plan to integrate public services into a hybrid model. Reference architectures and out-of-the box workflow templates or building blocks can significantly simplify implementation as well as reduce project time. You’ll need your business process documentation to use these tools efficiently, especially for provisioning, scheduling, and automation. Proofs of concept will help increase confidence and point to areas of improvement.

Step 5: Manage a Data-Driven Cloud

End-to-end health and performance monitoring of the environment is essential for cloud management. Without data collection and analytics, you won’t have the information you need to benefit from system efficiencies or measure success. A dashboard with integrated operational analytics that encompass facilities, network, storage, compute, and applications can help you assess whether you are meeting availability and performance goals, inform decisions to add capacity, troubleshoot problems, and comply with security and privacy regulations. Plus, at the point where you want to offer externally hosted cloud services, you must have a way to measure overall service availability in place to monitor third-party service-level agreements.

This blog is part 2 of 4 in a series focused on planning your organization’s cloud strategy. For a full report, please click here.

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What will the IT organization of the future look like, and what will its leaders have to do to be successful in that environment? Click here for research on the impact of cloud on IT consumption models.

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