Thursday, April 8, 2010

Private cloud computing nudges enterprises closer to 'IT as a service', process orientation and converged infrastructure

S0-called "private cloud computing" actually consists of many maturing technologies, a variety of architectural approaches, and a slew of IT methodologies, many of which have been in development for 20 years or more.

In many ways, the current popularity of cloud computing models marks an intersection of different elements of IT development and a convergence of infrastructure categories. That makes cloud interesting, relevant, and potentially dramatic in its impact. It also makes cloud complex, in terms of attaining the intended positive results.

Yet private cloud adoption -- which I believe is just as important as "public" cloud sourcing options -- may be challenging to implement successfully at strategic or even multiple tactical level. Cloud concepts will most certainly enter into use in many different ways, and, perhaps, uniquely for each adopting organization. So the question is how private cloud adoption can be approached intelligently, flexibly, and with far higher chance of positive and demonstrable business benefit.

The ideas between private and public cloud are pretty similar. You want to be able to deliver and consume a service quickly over the Internet.

I recently has a chance to discuss the anticipated impact of private cloud models and how enterprises are likely to implement them with two HP executives, Rebecca Lawson, director of Worldwide Cloud Marketing at HP, and Bob Meyer, worldwide virtualization lead in HP's Technology Solutions Group. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

HP also recently delivered a virtual conference on cloud computing. Our discussion came in the lead-up to that conference.

Here are some excerpts:
Rebecca Lawson: Cloud is a word that's been overused and overhyped and we all know it. One of the reasons it's been so popular is because it has a connotation that any kind of cloud service is one that you can access easily over the Internet, by yourself, self-service, and pay for what you use. That's the standard definition of a cloud service.

The ideas between private and public cloud are pretty similar. You want to be able to deliver and consume a service quickly over the Internet. How they're implemented, of course, is quite different. A typical enterprise IT organization has to support different types of applications and workloads, and in the public cloud, most of the providers are pretty specialized in their requirements.

There are lots of different ways of creating, buying, or utilizing different kinds of technology-enabled services. They might be hosted. They might be cloud services. They might be mainframe-based services. They might be homegrown applications. Step one, when you think about private cloud, is to think about, "What services do I need to deliver, how should I deliver them, and how can I make sure that my consumers can have easy access to them when they need them?"

Bob Meyer: Traditionally, what IT has done is delivered built-to-order services. Somebody from a line of business comes to you and says that they need this specific application. Or, somebody in the test environment says that they need a test bed. As the IT supplier internal to the company, it's your job to get together the storage, the server, the network, the apps, and the data. You do all the plumbing yourself and provide that for that specific service.

In the private cloud or public cloud conversation, you will use an IT provider who will likely be providing a mix of services from this point out -- built-to-order, private cloud, public cloud managed services.

The job is to decide what's best for your organization from that mixed bag of services. Which services are right for which delivery model? Which ones make most sense for the business? So, the built-to-order will become less popular, as cloud becomes more prevalent, we believe, but they will certainly co-exist for quite a while.

Nobody can afford to rip and replace these days.

Lawson: Nobody can afford to rip and replace these days, and we don't think that's really necessary. What's necessary is a shift in how you think about things. Think about all the pools of equipment you have. You've got network stuff, server, storage, people, and processes. They tend to be fairly siloed and pretty complex, because you're supporting so many services and so many apps.

In this day and age, you have to get very direct with what technology-enabled services you provide and why, and what's the most efficient means of doing so. One of the great things about the cloud is that it has allowed the whole universe of service providers to expand and specialize.

Companies that are seizing this opportunity and saying, "We're going to take advantage of technology and use it in a proactive way to help build our organization," are doing so in a very aggressive way right now, because they have more choices and can afford to pick the right service to get a certain outcome out of it.

What you want to achieve

lot of it depends on what you want to achieve. If what you're going for is to create an environment where every service IT delivers can be easily consumed by people in the lines of business through a service catalog, there are two ways to approach it. One is from the bottom-up, from your infrastructure, your network, your compute, your storage. You need to set yourself up so your services can be sharable.

That means that instead of having dedicated infrastructure components for each application or service, you pool and converge those elements, so that anytime you want to instantiate a service, you can make it easily provisioned and you can make it sharable. That's the bottom-up approach, which is valid and required.

The top-down approach is to say, "How can we make our services consumable?" That means there's a consumer who's a business person, maybe a salesperson, people in accounting, or what have you. They're your consumers.

They want to be able to come into a menu or a portal and order something, just as they'd order something at Starbucks, where they say, "I want this. Show me what my service levels are. Show me what the options are and what the costs are" Press the button, and it automatically goes out, gets the approval, does the provisioning, and you're ready to go.

The catalog becomes that linchpin. It's almost a conversation device.

You want to be able to do that from the top-down. That's not just the automation of it, but also the cultural shift. IT and people in the lines of business have to come together, sit at a table, and say, "What will be rendered in our service catalog? What are the things that you need to accomplish? Based on that, we're going to offer these services in our catalog."

The catalog becomes that linchpin. It's almost a conversation device. It forces IT and the lines of business to align themselves around a series of services and that becomes it. That's how IT establishes itself as a service provider. What I call the litmus test is having a service catalog that defines what people can use and, by inference, what they can’t be using.

A lot of companies -- and our own company, HP, is an example -- have certain policies about what can and can't be used, based on security, corporate policies, or what have you. An implication of moving in this direction is having the right control and governance around the technology services that get used and by whom they get used. Security around certain data access, identity control, and things like that, all come into play with this.

Meyer: Building a private cloud becomes another way you look at providing the best quality services to the business at the lowest cost.

So, if you look at all the things that your mandated to provide the business, you now have another option that says, "Is this a better way for me to be providing these services to the business? Do I drive out risk? Do I drive out cost? Do I drive up agility?" The more choices you have on the back end, if you take that longer term approach and look at private cloud in that context, it really does help you make smarter decisions and set up a more agile business.

Lawson: The real key there is to think about not so much about whether it's going to cost us or save us money, but rather, wouldn't it be great if you knew that for every service you could say how much money that service helped you make, how much revenue came in the door, or how much money that service helped you save?

Unrealistic metric

In a perfect state, you would know that for every service. Of course, that's unrealistic, but for a vast majority of the services that one offers, there should be a very distinctive value metric set up against that. Usually, that value metric out in the commercial world is that you've paid money for it.

Will you save money by establishing a private cloud? Well, yeah, you should. That should be pretty obvious. There should be some savings, if you're doing it right. If you've gone through a pretty structured process of consolidating, virtualizing, standardizing, and automating, it certainly will.

But, an even the better bang for the buck is saying, "With my portfolio of services, that happen to execute in a shared infrastructure environment, not only it might be really efficient, but I know what the business result of it is."

Meyer: Imagine if all the physical components that the servers and network connections, the storage capacity, even the powering of data center were virtualized in a way that can be treated as a pool of resources that you could carve up on demand and assign to different applications. You could automate it in a way to connect all the moving pieces to make the best use of the capacity you have and do that in a standardized way on top of fewer standardized parts.

That's what we mean by convergence in terms of infrastructure. Going back to the point we talked about before, rather than creating dedicated built-to-order infrastructure for every technology-enabled service, infrastructure is made available from adaptive pools that can be shared by any application, optimized, and managed as a service.

It's a great period of opportunity for companies to really harness the various elements and the various possibilities around technology-enabled services and then put them to work.

To get to that point, we mentioned the virtualization part, not just server virtualization but virtualizing the connections between compute, storage, and network and making sure that they could be connected, reconnected, unconnected, on demand, as the services demand. They have to be resilient. You have to build in the resiliency into that converged infrastructure from disaster recovery to things like nonstop fault tolerance.

Lawson: It's a great period of opportunity for companies to really harness the various elements and the various possibilities around technology-enabled services and then put them to work. We help companies do this in any number of ways. From the process and organizational point of view, we've got a lot of ITIL expertise, COBIT, and all kinds of governance and service management expertise within HP.

We help train organizations and we, of course, have a very large services organization, where we outsource these capabilities to enterprises across the globe. We also have a real robust software portfolio that helps companies automate practically every element of the IT function and systems management, literally from the business value of a service all the way down to the bare-metal.

So, we're able to help companies instrument everything, starting with where the money is coming from, and make sure that everything down the line -- the servers, the storage, the networks, and the information -- are all part of the equation. Of course, we offer companies different ways of consuming all of this.

We have products and services that we sell to our customers. We have ways of helping them get these capabilities through our managed services, through the organization previously known as EDS, which is now called Enterprise Services and licensed products, software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), all kinds of stuff.

It really depends on each individual customer. We look at their situation and say, "Where are you today, where do you want to get to, and how can we optimize that experience and help you grow into a more efficient, responsive IT organization?"
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