Prepping for IT services? Virtualize and centralize resources

Before even considering IT as a Service, you have to lay some groundwork. Virtualizing everything and centralizing resources are key, but is your infrastructure ready?

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Before IT managers can automate a data center, they first have to make its assets portable and flexible.

Server virtualization becomes the "on ramp" to offering IT as a Service. Ideally, organizations looking to create private clouds first put all cloud workloads on a virtual platform, ensuring the ability to move, provision and decommission resources at will.

But approaching 100% virtualization is a task many organizations still struggle with, particularly when it comes to tier-one and legacy applications. Many companies have also come to an impasse with virtual backup, which ties in with ensuring availability and regulatory compliance for critical applications.

Though products have improved and customers are gaining experience, integrating virtualized apps into the physical data center infrastructure remains a challenge for many. Network contention and latency in multitenant environments tend to hamper virtualization performance. This problem only worsens over WANs, another component of a private cloud for enterprises consolidating multiple remote locations into a centralized virtual data center.

Corporate infrastructure: Ready for the cloud?
Wayne Gateman, an area coordinator of virtualization for a Fortune 15 company in the medical distribution and software field, said his company is working on a geographically distributed cloud model of delivery for applications, but corporate network bandwidth performance can lag even consumer technologies.

"Bandwidth isn't cheap," Gateman said. "But [network performance] is already miserable for moving basic files [internally] -- now if you want to send 40 GB of data to California, good luck. It could take two days." Hardly the agility so often touted as a feature of private clouds.

In the storage realm, I/O performance, flexible data migration and intricate capacity planning are also well-documented problems in virtual infrastructures, which can be costly to solve. "The first question [before building a private cloud] should be, 'is my infrastructure ready for it, can it handle the demand?'" said Kendrick Coleman, a network engineer at a nonprofit organization in Indiana. "And that's when your vendor will say, well, your current SAN can't, but we can offer you something else. …"

Finally, security is also still evolving to accomodate virtual environments. The next frontier, said Edward Haletky, the CEO and a cloud analyst at the Virtualization Practice LLC, is the ability to perform encryption at the VM, partial disk, full disk, and memory page level to ensure confidentiality of sensitive data.

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