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Private cloud architecture: Ditching trial and error for frameworks

When it comes to private cloud architecture, data center design best practices are hard to come by. Luckily, some early adopters are leading the way.

One of the most challenging tasks when building a private cloud is also one of the most elementary: data center design. With dozens or hundreds of interconnected virtual servers -- along with their accompanying storage, networking and management -- you may feel that the right private cloud architecture is something you’ll find only through trial and error.

But early private cloud adopters have already gone through those trials, so you can use their experiences to fuel construction of your own private cloud architecture. These enterprising groups value staying at the leading edge and defining the industry’s data center design best practices rather than trailing their competition. That mindset comes at a cost, but it benefits from the ability to proudly say, “I helped create something, and I learned volumes in the process.”

In fact, data center design has become so complex that entire training and certification programs have sprung forth to educate the masses. And with a good reference architecture, you’ll be on your way to a well-designed, manageable private cloud.

Private cloud architecture: Learning from others’ mistakes

The new age of private cloud planning relies on the framework approach. An IT framework or reference architecture is a set of instructions that deliver a measurable result. With the right reference architecture and the hardware to support its data center design, your private cloud will look and perform exactly as you expect.

We take this approach all the time in everyday life. When was the last time you saw a house being built without a set of architectural plans? Even our children’s toys come with instructions. But until very recently, accessing such a reference architecture for private cloud simply wasn’t possible.

Yes, virtualization platform vendors have gladly shared with you their reference architectures for implementing their technologies according to their data center design best practices. Finding one that’s been ratified by your peers and not your vendors has been a whole different story.

Thankfully our industry is maturing, and more of these private cloud architecture best practices are emerging. For example, the Open Data Center Alliance, which describes itself as an “independent consortium of leading global IT managers,” is attempting to create reference architecture plans that will assist others in making good data center design decisions.

The alliance is in the process of creating a framework -- an architectural diagram, if you will -- designed to help businesses determine the best data center design for cloud computing, including private cloud architecture as well as public and hybrid manifestations.

This type of reference architecture is far different than the ones you’ll find from Microsoft, Citrix Systems and VMware. These data center design best practices aim to be globally accepted, and they don’t come from businesses that are trying to sell you services or products. Counted in the alliance’s membership are companies from all services and vertical markets.

Preparing private cloud architecture obviously requires a fresh look at data center design and management. Independent, vendor-neutral groups are one of our industry’s best ways to share its collective knowledge, learn from each other’s mistakes and improve the way IT services are delivered.

Next Steps

From virtualization to private cloud: Making the move

Private cloud 101: Is your data center ready?

Revamping business operations with a VMware private cloud

Want to build a private cloud?

This was last published in June 2011

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