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Cloud Expo: Article

Overcoming the Hurdles to Create a Dynamic Cloud Environment

The ideal cloud system will suit an organization’s current needs while also providing flexibility for changing circumstances

Some people might think of cloud adoption as a marathon: a set distance to a clear goal, where keeping focus and maintaining a steady pace will ensure a winning outcome. While there is an element of truth to that, I consider the implementation process more of an obstacle course, with traps and pitfalls that can easily deter a careless competitor. I have seen all too many businesses jump into the trend of cloud computing without taking the time to make a plan outlining what they want to achieve in the short term while also keeping an eye on the future. The ideal cloud computing system will suit an organization's current needs while also providing flexibility for changing circumstances.

It's no secret that the cloud offers a tremendous variety of benefits to businesses of all sizes. It changes the static, inefficient data center into a dynamic service provider while providing high availability, scalability and better compliance with regulations. With constantly changing business requirements, and the rapid evolution of technology, that makes the cloud an ideal technology.

Whether you are just beginning to consider cloud implementation or are currently taking advantage of the benefits it has to offer, you should always take the opportunity to plan your cloud deployment intelligently in order to improve your service delivery and create a dynamic IT environment.

Planning for Agility
One challenge organizations face is the delivery of services, particularly new services for customers. Traditionally, IT services can take weeks, if not months, to deliver, which can be too late when responding to current market conditions. In order to quickly address the needs of employees and customers by delivering services automatically, you need to develop an agile service delivery environment to provide needed resources to users as quickly as possible. To successfully achieve this foundational step in a cloud implementation, you should strive to meet these goals:

  • User self-service: One of the most important, measurable benefits of the cloud is the speed the self-service catalog portal offers in creating new services.
  • Adherence to best practices for provisioning: Virtual machines need enough resources allocated to ensure availability without creating inefficiencies.
  • Optimized service placement: Lower capital costs are a key cloud objective, requiring intelligent policy-based placement of services to optimize resource utilization and available capacity.
  • Automated provisioning: Automating repetitive IT tasks minimizes human error to ensure consistent performance while speeding service delivery.
  • Administration dashboard: Employing central controls and reporting across the cloud lifecycle makes it easier for IT to address issues as they arise and simplify reporting tasks.
  • Automated showback or chargeback: Tracking and showing the value of or even charging back for service usage supports better decision-making and capacity keeping pace with needs.

Efficiency Through Automation
With the infrastructure foundation laid, the next step is to refine the system. Inefficiencies in the environment can arise, causing difficulties in keeping up with service requests. Automating repetitive tasks reduces operating expenses while improving service delivery. Creating and maintaining the policies and templates used to automate ongoing service and resource management is the next step to an efficient cloud. You should keep the following benefits in mind when implementing this automation:

  • Automated workload consolidation migrations: Continual evaluation and automatic migration of hypervisor VM workloads through policies maximizes resource utilization based on actual usage and demand, eliminating VM sprawl.
  • Power management: Policies can be created that allow the system to automatically shift workloads to minimize power usage.
  • Automated incident response: With the right policies in place, the cloud system can set custom actions based on specific events, improving response time and reducing operational costs.
  • Auto cloud resource reservations: To onboard new groups to the cloud, support critical service SLAs, and avoid service disruption for maintenance, you need a future reservations capability to guarantee resources and auto place or migrate other services away from them at specific times.

Adaptability for the Future
With an automated and intelligent cloud initiative deployed, the final step is to improve adaptability. Today's cloud will not necessarily meet tomorrow's needs, and you don't want your system to become a liability as business needs continue to evolve and change. While a static cloud environment might be easier to implement, service levels and high utilization will need to be maintained despite fluctuating requirements. In making the final transition to a mature, effective cloud deployment, you should look to implement these capabilities:

  • Automated workload-balancing migrations: Ongoing monitoring of service performance and policy-based auto migration of hypervisor VM workloads ensures SLAs are met as usage and demand changes for services.
  • Resource flexing: As service demands change, it's important to increase and decrease resource allocations, to continue meeting SLAs.
  • Cloudbursting elasticity: If resource demands exceed current capacity, an overflow needs to be available to handle additional requests, whether through additional internal cloud resources or outside services. As the demand drops, the system should automatically migrate workloads back to local cloud resources.
  • Self-healing ability: In the event of a service failure, cloud policies need to be able to respond by auto-migrating workloads before the disruption becomes severe enough to impact SLAs and even auto re-provisioning or rebooting the resources to repair them.

To create an efficient, robust cloud implementation, your organization needs to ensure that it can quickly provision resources as needed, efficiently handle tasks while minimizing the need for manual interference, and retain the ability to adjust resource allocation as needed. Take a logical approach in setting up the system, and create intelligent policies that allow the system to automatically respond to events. You should ensure you have end-to-end cloud management platform that provides a range of workload optimization policies, a self-service catalog, automated provisioning, usage show back or chargeback, service resources monitoring, a cloud operations database, and reporting. This will speed time-to-value and enable the cloud to not only streamline operations, but actually improve ongoing efficiency while reducing costs and preparing for future needs.

More Stories By Robert A. Clyde

Robert A. Clyde is CEO of Adaptive Computing. A recognized industry leader, he has over 25 years’ experience as an enterprise software executive with demonstrated leadership success at startup companies to large companies, including Symantec and Axent Technologies. An internet security pioneer and innovator, he is credited with the creation of the first commercial intrusion detection system and led the business unit that developed and brought to market the first security compliance product. As CTO at Symantec, Rob defined Symantec’s technology strategy and was a key part of the management team that drove the company to grow from slightly under $1B in revenue to over $5B in five years. He also serves as a member of the board of directors for Telligent and PasswordBank.

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