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TeamQuest 2016 Predictions: Capacity Planning in the Cloud - Navigating Waves of Change with Advanced Analytics

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2016.  Read them in this 8th Annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed by Wyndham Sellers, Principal Product Manager at TeamQuest

Capacity Planning in the Cloud: Navigating Waves of Change with Advanced Analytics

Cloud use is growing rapidly; do you have the tools you need to plan and forecast strategically in an intensely complex environment?

As we move into 2016, most IT-centric organizations (in other words, almost all of us) are coming to realize that it's no longer a question of IF we will move to the cloud, but HOW. The trepidation about too-new, possibly insecure cloud technology is being washed away by an overwhelming push to replace legacy systems and keep up with consumer and business demands for responsiveness, reliability, and efficiency. One of the central questions to solve for in planning new or expanded cloud deployments is "How much capacity do I need?" One of the most appealing characteristics of cloud technology is, in fact, the ability to scale up or down with relative ease. But this doesn't mean capacity planning is a thing of the past. On the contrary, with cloud infrastructure and services, optimizing capacity management is more complex and requires more sophisticated tools.

The challenges associated with cloud computing multiply and shift constantly, one wave of change rolling over the next. As adoption increases dramatically, real-world use cases help us shake out the kinks. Today's cutting-edge, multi-core servers bear large amounts of memory and require careful attention. Virtualization, the foundational software that powers the cloud, presents its own set of complex systems that need to be carefully maintained. Yet, while virtualization and cloud-based computing are related, they are not synonymous, and each environment must be approached differently to achieve the highest level of service optimization maturity. Virtualization is vital to IT because it gives cloud administrators the ability to handle more requests with fewer systems.

As we look ahead to a new year and a fresh start, strategic planning is top of mind. When it comes to planning a strategy to optimize a virtual environment, it's important to distribute your resources based on a clear understanding of the big picture. More than ever, IT leaders must collaborate across the organization to ensure their plans are driven by business and service outcomes. Capacity planning should be a central component of any IT service optimization program, including those in virtual and cloud environments. Accuracy in capacity planning helps balance IT risk and health: too much risk means you could lose revenue and customers from downtime, but you also don't want to achieve IT health through overspending, a common downfall of cloud deployments. A good capacity planning tool will provide the appropriate metrics for both these factors by going beyond performance monitoring, historical data, trend reports, and spreadsheets to the predictive power of analytic modeling.

As cloud initiatives come to fruition across all types of industries and businesses in 2016, more IT teams will be seeking tools to take their ITSO maturity to the next level. Moving beyond monitoring and alerts is imperative for organizations trying to stay ahead of the competitive curve by leveraging the agility and innovation power of cloud computing. To advance out of chaotic and reactionary operating modes, administrators will need automated predictive analytics for day-to-day monitoring of applications and systems, keeping a constant eye on the predicted performance of large numbers of infrastructure elements serving applications and business services in order to avoid costly outages before they occur.

A vast majority of businesses experience at least one critical outage per year, and a sizable number of those outages are the result of poor capacity planning. It's shocking how many businesses are still relying on spreadsheets as their primary capacity planning tool. This approach is clearly untenable, given the ongoing shortage of skilled personnel and the rapidly intensifying scope and complexity of mixed environments (public and private cloud, virtual, container, traditional, etc.) Without advanced tools to automate the grunt work of performance monitoring, capacity planning, and scenario testing, there is no way to keep up, and certainly no possibility of maturing into true IT service optimization.

Space on the cloud might be infinite but it's not free. Efficient, cost-effective resource consumption requires careful planning and budget management based on an accurate forecast of workloads and storage needs. The inherently dynamic nature of the cloud makes it even more crucial to have a powerful modeling and forecasting tool that can analyze metrics across platforms and throughout the stack, utilizing queuing theory and advanced algorithms that account for response time, throughput, and the non-linear performance of complex systems.

Moving too quickly without proper planning and transparency can lead to many pitfalls: losing control of your IT process, overestimating your cloud capabilities, exponentially increasing the cost of your cloud initiative, and damaging service delivery, for starters. On the flip side, intelligent planning will speed up the release of new IT services into the cloud. As things get more dynamic, and more abstracted, in cloud environments - the key to success is going to be data-driven transparency. Dashboards and reporting capabilities that are accessible to stakeholders will help increase buy-in, enhance collaborative efforts, and maintain visibility throughout the enterprise. After all, agility isn't just about moving quickly. It's about making the right moves expeditiously.

And there's no time to waste. The cloud is about to burst into a deluge. Cisco's Global Cloud Index reports that in the five-year period 2014-2019, global data center traffic will grow threefold. By 2019, 83% of that traffic will come from the cloud and 4 out of 5 data center workloads will be processed in the cloud. Forbes and IDC highlight the business side: within 3 years, 50% of IT spending will be cloud based, and in the U.S., business executives (LOB) will control over 60% of IT spending. It's clear that there's an enormous amount of work to be done in the next few years, and that business and IT are going to be doing that work together.

Like the clouds in the sky, the information technology picture shape shifts, gathering into threatening storms and dissipating again into calmer weather. Data center operators and cloud administrators have to maintain daily operations at demanding service levels while keeping an eye on the horizon. The ever-advancing waves of technology change-cloud adoption, IoT, Big Data, security threats-will drown any organization that doesn't have predictive planning capabilities on board. The opportunities are as enormous as the challenges. With strategic capacity planning, you can ride the waves to reach greater IT maturity, manageable risk, and competitive strength.

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About the Author

Wyndham Sellers is the Principal Product Manager at TeamQuest. Wyndam shares his wealth of knowledge to help enterprises manage their heterogeneous environments in an efficient manner. He possesses more than 20 years of helping IT teams and businesses manage their environments, from yesteryear's mainframes to today's hyper-converged environment. 

Published Thursday, December 17, 2015 10:00 AM by David Marshall
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