Steps toward a cloud-ready infrastructure

The writing on the wall should be clear that we're headed toward a future filled with hybrid clouds. Start preparing today.

Many organizations are adopting private cloud infrastructure, which provides self-service, automation, chargeback policies and elasticity. These help cut down on IT administrative overhead and can sometimes reduce operational expenditures. Whether you need a private cloud infrastructure depends largely on your business goals and workload demands, but if you do decide a private cloud is right for you, make sure to plan for a hybrid cloud future.

The physical layer is closely integrated with the hypervisor layer. It is the lowest layer operating with physical components, such as physical storage devices, storage area networks, physical network switches, hubs, routers and similar components.

Storage architecture is critical to a cloud-ready infrastructure. You may not want to invest in physical storage hardware considering the trend toward virtualizing everything -- including storage. Many virtualization vendors provide sufficient storage features, eliminating or limiting the need to buy expensive storage devices. This will depend on your workloads.

The storage will be used by both virtualization hosts and virtualized workloads. Your storage design might include two storage tiers: Tier 1 hosting block-based storage, such as the storage area network and network-attached storage, and Tier 2 hosting file-based storage, such as file servers.

Choosing the right virtualization platform should help you build a scalable and highly available hypervisor layer, but you still need to think about implementing the right management tool. IT will continue to evolve, and a well-designed strategy will assist with future-proofing an infrastructure as much as possible. Being able to manage that adapting infrastructure is essential.

The infrastructure you deploy today in your data center will eventually evolve into a hybrid cloud infrastructure. That’s why you’re going to want to deploy and learn a cloud management tool rather than a virtualization management tool.

Most management tools are capable of managing virtualization hosts from different vendors. But you might want to set criteria to see how flexible a tool is in managing all functions of a virtualization host and if it is sufficiently adaptable to manage and monitor a hybrid cloud. Can it scale up and scale down appropriately? In a nutshell, you are expecting a lot of cloud functionality in a management tool beyond managing the entire virtualization stack.

You would also expect your management tool to be integrated with various public clouds, which, in turn, helps in operating and monitoring a hybrid cloud infrastructure. It should also be flexible in moving workloads between public clouds.

Dynamic resource management is another consideration. A management tool should provide the necessary features to measure capacity utilization rates at the hypervisor layer and perform dynamic optimization tasks, be it automatically or manually. For example, you’ll want to be able to move workloads to an underused virtualization host, which, in turn, would help you save the cost of a physical host or enable you to use it for other purposes.

Another important feature to consider is the ability to diagnose and fix issues at any of the layers or resource monitoring. You may also want to look for a management tool that incorporates an automation module.

So what else does it take to build a flexible and scalable cloud-ready infrastructure? How about some people? Your IT investment should include money for training -- staff needs to be familiar with the technology and able to handle the next IT changes.

Concentrate on learning the technologies you believe will be effective now and for a hybrid cloud future. For example, if you were to choose to deploy Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere virtualization hosts, plan to focus on learning a cloud management tool rather than learning a virtualization management tool. This approach, in turn, would help with the management of hosts from different vendors as well as with managing and monitoring workloads hosted in public clouds. There are several online and classroom training options to ensure you have sufficient knowledge on different virtualization technologies and different layers operating in a cloud-ready infrastructure.

Apart from learning technical skills, you would also need a team of IT personnel whose primary focus would be to drive the changes efficiently in a hybrid cloud future. This is accomplished through the design of steady processes. It might also be worth having IT staff learn project management skills and vendor negotiation tactics.

Next Steps

What to consider before building a private cloud infrastructure

What a converged infrastructure can do for your private cloud

Making a hybrid cloud a reality

This was last published in March 2015

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Do you think hybrid clouds are inevitable and have you started preparing?
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I think it's inevitable that they'll be developed and deployed... but businesses, as always, are going to look for the most cost-effective method of getting things done. Hybrid clouds have an inherent problem: you only have control over some of your resources, and have to talk to someone else if you need a change. Having things split this way is always less efficient than having everything on one side, though future improvements may help matters.
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