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Progressing IT Despite Private Cloud Challenges

Article Written by Hans Ashlock, QualiSystems Technical Marketing Manager

The question of whether or not private cloud can and should be adopted by mainstream enterprises is still a live conversation. On the one hand, there continue to be real gains and contributions to private cloud technologies - improvements in networking performance; more broad and integrated support for container technologies; deployments by name-brand organizations like eBay; as well as some healthy startups and vendor offerings.

On the other hand, reports from the field clearly show that private cloud adoption is lagging public and hosted-private by a very significant amount. A recent Gartner publication by Thomas Bitman cites numbers showing that enterprise organizations are moving to public cloud and hosted private cloud at a rate nearly ten times that of on-premises private cloud. That's a big number that cannot be ignored. 

Certainly there are challenges - especially when the goal of a deploying private cloud is to create an ubiquitous, general purpose cloud that functions at the same scale and speed of major public cloud providers, like AWS. There are many stories of failed private cloud deployments. A piece by Christine Burns in Network World, for instance, describes a private cloud software provider where only one out of every 20 pilots it opened ever materialized. That's not to say that "cloud in a box" offerings don't make deployment easier - but the challenges are still there.

The most significant challenges are related to transforming culture and processes to accommodate a cloud-based IT model. In his article, Bitman notes that based on a recent poll, 95% of respondents cited transformational issues as the primary problem with private cloud deployments, contrasted with "using the wrong technologies" as the least common problem.

So, should mainstream enterprises abandon private cloud initiatives? I don't think so. Mainstream enterprises can take a two-pronged approach - applying more aggressive cloud and DevOps strategies to new and web-tier based applications. At the same time, organizations can progress more traditional IT structures and applications by taking a more moderate approach that might not be considered a pure private cloud.

There's clearly a need for enterprise organizations to progress all of IT in a way that allows those organizations to quickly respond and adapt to market demands at a business level. While many IT teams may not see themselves as ready for true internal private cloud, this doesn't mean that the only alternative is public or hosted private. Here are some suggestions for enterprises with legacy and traditional IT to take clear steps toward private cloud and gain major efficiencies in IT:

Start Transforming Culture Now

First, regardless of what approach you take on the technical front, dealing early on with the issues of culture, ingrained processes, and silos will be helpful. As Bittman pointed out, cultural obstacles present a primary barrier to successfully "doing cloud." But massive DevOps initiatives are not always necessary; small steps can have high impact and effectiveness. For example, initiating a simple "sit together" approach to office layout in which teams from Dev, Test, IT Ops, Security, and Infra share a workspace can help improve communication effectiveness as well as create a common sense of shared goals. Small steps like these will help pave the way for more significant changes in the future.

Set Your Sights on a Reasonable Scope of Vision 

In her article, Christine Burns explains that private cloud deployments often fail by having a scope that is too broad. Your IT doesn't need to be transformed overnight with a pervasive, general purpose, full-fledged, private cloud. A more effective approach for traditional IT teams is to target a single project, ideally related to a specific client, product, or internal customer. Start with a limited scope, learn from your deployment experiences, and progress the cloud's reach with small iterations that can be clearly measured.  

Understand Different Use Cases

One of the problems with setting your deployment goals too high is that generalizing too much makes it challenging to meet the requirements of different groups and use cases. A key example involves the difference between production and dev/test requirements. 

For production use cases, a deployment is a discreet event that happens once and is expected to persist for a relatively long period of time (months to years), until an application is either upgraded or decommissioned. For production environments, though the infrastructure may need to scale, it is not typically considered a shared set of resources.

Dev/Test on the other hand is more cyclical than production. Users need to spin up infrastructure environments and deploy applications repeatedly for fixed and often short periods of time (hours to weeks). Furthermore, infrastructure is often shared and once a Dev/Test cycle is complete, the infrastructure needs to be returned to the pool of available resources. Furthermore, since resources are shared or limited, users need to be able to baseline infrastructure and environment settings for use at a later time.

Other use cases can also be considered as candidates for an initial cloud or self-service effort. For example, Demo/PoC centers that serve sales and marketing teams have clear infrastructure needs, user requirements, and business benefits. These use cases also map differently than the typical production use case.

Leverage a Flexible Cloud Management Platform

As Maish Saidel-Keesing of Cisco points out in this TechTarget article, "Consuming a cloud, designing applications for a cloud and designing a cloud will never be the same as traditional IT." This observation is reflected in the fact that most "cloud in a box" solutions are targeted at creating an ubiquitous, AWS-like, production oriented solution, rather than facilitating the onboarding of use-cases-based solutions to private cloud. So your cloud management platform needs to be one that's not pigeonholing you into a largescale, production-like approach. Instead, it needs to emphasize open integrations, complex, heterogeneous environments, and varying types of self-service users. Furthermore, a platform that has visual-based modelling and workflow patterns will better serve to make your traditional IT teams effective. You'll still need to build automation expertise within your teams, but your platform needs to leverage their expertise and make it available across your entire team.

Regardless of the fact that private cloud can have many challenges, as well as many interpretations, there is still a clear need for organizations to progress and modernize IT in a way that includes traditional and legacy components. Taking small steps - from transforming culture, setting reasonable scope, understanding and articulating different use-cases, to employing a flexible CMP for infrastructure as a service - can help progress and modernize your traditional IT. Your Dev, Test, Security - even Sales and Marketing - will benefit as you take well planned steps in your journey toward private cloud.

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About the Author

Hans Ashlock joined QualiSystems in 2013 and heads Quali's worldwide technical marketing.  Hans has over 15 years of software engineering, product management, marketing and sales experience in automation software solutions addressing, cloud, networking, telcom, data center, federal, and semi-conductor industries. Before Quali - Hans was a founding member of a global engineering services company, developing products and services for enabling adoption of automation technologies.

 

Though he only holds one patent, he's just glad he didn't have to pay for it.  An engineer at heart, Hans is passionate about the transformation to software defined everything and its impact on business and technology.

Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and SlideShare. 

Published Thursday, October 01, 2015 6:27 AM by David Marshall
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