Whilst there have been (and continue to be) a lot of discussions around private cloud definitions, there hasn’t been as much discussion on how success is measured for private cloud initiatives or, in particular, the skills or characteristics necessary to get there.
Typically, private cloud initiatives get boiled down to how IT services are provided that meet target goals for:
- Cost (shared, metered by use)
- Quality (of service)
- Agility (self-service, elastic)
Specifically, agility (time to react to business requests/needs) is a key driver and yard stick to measure the success of a private cloud implementation. When we speak with customers who have a private cloud initiative underway, they are typically highly virtualized (80%+). This leads to a natural and obvious question, “What is the difference between an environment that is 90% virtualized and a private cloud?”. The answer almost always comes down to some combination of agility (and self-service) coupled with chargeback or showback (changing how IT services are consumed).
It’s not surprising, of course, that those undertaking private cloud initiatives are also highly virtualized, since many of the characteristics that enabled the widespread adoption of virtualization are the same ones that will be needed for successful private cloud adoption (note that most of these have nothing to do with technology!):
1. Listening to the business & understanding their requirements
No surprises here — don’t want to end up building something that no one uses after all. Internal IT departments should in theory have an unfair advantage here over their external service provider competition.
2. Building Trust
Doing a good job at #1, should really lead naturally to #2. The reality is that you don’t get to 90% virtualized in the first place (and from there to a private cloud) if you haven’t done a great job at building trust with the business and key application owners, whose critical applications are going to be running on a virtualized infrastructure.
3. Picking the right IT services to begin with
Not everything is suitable for the private cloud model — mainstream, high volume (standardized) services are best. Legacy one off applications with highly customized requirements may not be suited.
4. Performing competitive analysis
Maybe this sounds a little obvious, but it should be apparent by now that the business has options — and IT will be compared (cost, quality, agility) to the competition (other service providers) with regards to the requirements outlined in #1.
5. Measuring Service Quality, Cost and Agility
#4 naturally leads to measuring how you’re performing relative to your competition and making this transparent to the business. The old adage of “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” is apt here.
6. Service Oriented Mindset
The IT silos will always exist to some extent — but the end customer doesn’t and shouldn’t care about the gory details of how the service gets delivered. More than technology, this is a mindset — a shift from the nuts and bolts of internal IT to an IT service provider mentality and a focus on the customer. This one is perhaps the hardest of all to instill.
7. Highly virtualized, standardized (remove complexity) environment.
Virtualization is a great tool to enable the abstraction and automation necessary to reach our cost, quality and agility goals, and standardizing (reducing the number of moving parts) is key to removing complexity in our environments.
Jonathan Reeve is the senior director of product management at SolarWinds and has built a career integrating hands-on technical development with senior-level strategic management. Having previously served as the vice president of product strategy for Hyper9, Jonathan was responsible for the company’s flagship product, Virtual Environment Optimization suite. Jonathan’s experience spans computer networking, systems management and virtualization technologies, helping numerous start-ups and established companies generate market traction.