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Make your virtual infrastructure cloud ready

Even if your organization isn't ready for a private or hybrid cloud, there are steps you can take today to make a future transition easier.

Before cloud computing, the primary reason for an organization to adopt virtualization was to reduce the total cost of ownership and to gain a return on investments made in the data center. While that remains true, the cloud has changed the equation to the point where an IT operation should be looking for more than just cost savings.

Whether an organization is moving to virtualization for the first time or is deploying a sophisticated cloud-ready infrastructure, it is important to understand how decisions made now will affect your ability to adapt later. You’ll want to be sure that the technology you deploy in your data center forms the foundation for an infrastructure that will prove adaptable to the next waves of change in virtualization and cloud computing.

Even an organization that is hesitant to move workloads to the cloud will want to make sure its IT purchases will allow for such a shift when the time is right. Since no one can accurately predict how virtualization and cloud technologies will evolve, it is prudent to plan for how those inevitable changes will affect the different IT infrastructure layers in a production environment. Put another way, you’re future-proofing an infrastructure.

When designing a cloud-ready infrastructure, decision makers will need to consider how best to support current IT needs while anticipating how those needs will change over time. Specifically, IT leaders should consider how to:

  • Build a flexible virtualization infrastructure that can scale up and scale down on demand;
  • Build an adaptable virtualization infrastructure;
  • Be able to manage a high-performance hybrid cloud;
  • Reduce overall IT administrative overhead and complexity in the data center; and
  • Eliminate vendor lock-in.

The adoption of cloud computing technology is becoming increasingly prevalent. In fact, Gartner expects that nearly half of all large enterprises will have a hybrid cloud deployment by the end of 2017. Companies that choose to hold off on cloud computing may well face a higher total cost of ownership and could end up needing to make enormous changes to their infrastructure when they eventually choose to do more in the cloud.

You might see the next versions of your line-of-business applications being released with a cloud version, which could help your organization reduce deployment and physical infrastructure costs. On the other hand, the success of Docker has prompted major cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, to add services and support for application containerization. Whether you are moving workloads into containers or to a public cloud, a cloud-ready infrastructure allows your organization to adjust to change.

Scalability and flexibility in a cloud-ready infrastructure

The goal in building an adaptable cloud infrastructure is to minimize downtime and to make changes as efficiently as possible. For example, a virtualization vendor might add a new set of features to its platform. You might like to take advantage of those new offerings, but you’ll need an infrastructure that’s flexible and scalable enough to accommodate the new features with minimal effort.

There are three important layers in a cloud-ready infrastructure: the physical, hypervisor and management layers. There could be more, but these are the three that factor into a cloud infrastructure’s flexibility and scalability.

Physical, hypervisor and management layers are closely integrated with each other, and, when operating together, form a cloud infrastructure. Still, they cannot be considered ready unless you plan to address the need for scalability and flexibility in the right layers.

Scalability must be addressed at the hypervisor and physical layers, while flexibility is handled at the management layer.

For a cloud infrastructure to be scalable and flexible, you would need to deploy the right virtualization hosts and management tools. Effectively future-proofing an infrastructure requires top-of-the-line products such as Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware vSphere or Citrix XenServer as a virtualization platform, and System Center or vCloud Director as your management tool. The best tools will ensure that the infrastructure is able to handle the next waves of IT changes efficiently and adapt to the hybrid cloud model in the near future.

Next Steps

Are you prepared to make the move to cloud computing?

Cloud-ready applications can be risky business

Is a cloud-based financial management system in your future?

This was last published in March 2015

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What have you done to get your virtual infrastructure ready for the cloud?
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The biggest thing that we've had to come to grips with is understanding the workloads that are running on our infrastructure, how those workloads map to various cloud provider platforms and capabilities, and how to modify our network to maximize our use of the cloud. If you understand those things, the migration becomes a heck of a lot easier than if you don't.
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