There are many interesting articles about building a Cloud platform using vCloud director, creating network pools, preparing hosts and ensuring your allocation settings are correct. All good stuff for vAdmins.
Now consider the business application person. He has experience with the application from a previous role at another company. He knows it will revolutionise his department. He sets his sights on launching this application as quickly as possible.
After talking to the IT department, it will take at least 6 months from end to end. Our business guy becomes disheartened.
It now seems like a bigger project than first thought, will his department head go for it?
…. “How long? Just put it in the Cloud!”
The department head knows that it's technically possible to just get out a corporate credit card, click a few buttons and his platform is ready to deploy. What's all this IT process for? Just get it live asap!!
The fear of Cloud
The fully automated datacenter is looking possible in the mainstream, so why does it take so long to go end to end in an enterprise.
Process is one culprit – even a VM can take time to be requested, application tested and navigated through the release cycle.
The Cloud can be a scary place. From the IT department's point of view, a business person can potentially deploy an application that could cause all sorts of issues:
- Unpatched servers
- No A/V
- Backup and DR
- Suitable data protection
- Support – what if it all goes wrong – they will just call IT and say HELP!!!
Any downtime or data leakage could cause havoc, news headlines and brand damage.
Enter the Cloud Admin (or Angel – thanks to Neil Mills – from Mills Hills for the t-shirt & use of the image:-> ).
I have been working in IT for many years and only recently found myself in the room with IT staff and not been “on their side” so to speak. I have been employed as the business department IT consultant. My primary goal was to deploy the applications correctly and in a supportable manner. A cloud provider is ideal, no wasted co-location costs, immediate platform, cheap set up costs – just pay as you go. If it doesn't work turn it all off and delete, if it does and needs to scale – just buy more – great! The advantages of cloud are numerous, however all manner of aspects could go wrong.
Essentially you are no longer in complete control of your environment. Loss of control can be a great cause for concern for the IT department.
Transitioning your way through an enterprise IT department from the outside to a cloud platform can be a hard journey, but it makes the first go live so much more rewarding. Once the platform is proven, deployment strategies and management tasks developed, the Cloud Admin could take a step back and involve business users who can deploy applications using company vApp catalogs.
A public provider vCloud is just another hosting company with fantastic agility provided by VMware software . Start by gathering information on all proposed platforms. Understanding the preferred platform with a 6 months deployment time and proposed vCloud providers will equip you with the ability to influence change in opinions.
The term Cloud computing can mean different things to different people. You will need to define a service and develop a solution, then show how it will affect the business. You may need to convince the IT or security officers that this Cloud facility/offering meets the application requirements better than the normal provision (i.e. Speed of deployment), but their concerns have been addressed. (i.e. The use of a vCloud provider will decrease deployment time from months to 3 days with similar security/risk profiles as the normal facility).
All vCloud providers will have sales documentation and sales people eager to suggest that their platform is the best place for your application. Having an understanding of vCloud director and general infrastructure is valuable here. You can see past the sales pitch and look at real value in their solutions. Will it suit your business? What about in 12 months?
I found a few providers who concentrated on how great vCloud director is – I feel that this is a problem, I am already sold on the product. VMware has done their work, what has the provider done to add value? There are benefits to a vanilla vCloud solution, however it's the catalog content and enterprise services around the product the hosting provider can make a difference with (i.e. Filling in the gaps, with replication, A/V, enhanced monitoring etc).
A recent VMware presentation I attended mentioned that a vCloud installation is similar to iTunes, but without the content. In my opinion this shows great insight, the platform delivery is there, and ready to be used, but the beauty of iTunes is the ability to provide the product the customer wants, when they need it and very easily.
The cloud computing space is evolving quickly. For each project I review vendors based on a number of factors depending on the application I am looking to deploy. A few of my favourites are shown below:
My Favourite Questions to ask your prospective vCloud provider
- Where does the data live?
- Is it replicated somewhere else?
- Who has access and how do they gain access?
- Are resources guaranteed, burstable, are you using overcommitted techniques? (i.e. 75% of actual order – therefore keep the business applications within 60% usage).
- What is the largest VM I can place into the system, what has actually been implemented? (i.e. Lun size, Memory restrictions)
- What security or penetration testing has been carried out on the platform in the last 12 months (Copy and scope)?
- What version of vCloud director is running? How do you plan to migrate between major versions?
- Case studies – any clients on the same size?
- Charging models – Committed Vs Pay as you go
- Additional services such as A/V, Backup/Replication
The answers to these questions, coupled with my application requirements and workload estimates from the vendor profile.
Asking probing questions on vCloud provider platform & processes will really help you judge if they will/can meet business expectations. I have come across reluctance both from the vCloud provider side and also members of businesses. Why ask all these questions? There is an SLA, or the whole idea of cloud computing is to remove this thinking.
This could be true, however application requirements don't change just because you are hosting somewhere else. When things go unexpectedly the business will be impacted. By asking probing questions prior to deployment you can avoid feeling helpless with business users asking where is my data?, when will the application be back up and running?
A successful cloud implementation could be more than just one application going live. It could be a change in IT strategy, and deserves thought, planning and a real partnership between the business & vendor.
In Part II – A cloud application deployment process