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The challenges of moving to a private cloud

Bill Claybrook | Nov. 16, 2010
In this article, we delve deeper into the technology choices needed for the virtualization, management and automation required for a private cloud.

Another thing to consider is that small firms and some medium-sized enterprises often do not have the skill sets and experience to take on the task of building a private cloud. These organizations would likely need to hire an IT consultant.

There is a second layer of management, service-level management, which involves managing workloads at a level of abstraction above virtual servers. This is where automation is applied. It is also where traditional management tools such as IBM Tivoli and HP InSight work within the private-cloud stack. The list of vendors that claim to have automation-management tools includes IBM Tivoli, HP, CA, Oblicore, LineSider Technologies, DynamicOps, VMware and BMC.

Private clouds in smaller businesses

The trick to implementing a cloud in smaller companies is to make it act like a cloud but not look like one.

"Small business owners have a very traditional mindset," says Jeffrey Driscoll, a systems engineer at consultancy Precision IT. "So we try to make a virtualized environment look like the traditional environment." This generally involves an Exchange server, an ftp server and so on. Each one of the servers is virtualized. "Then we manage the virtual machines just like they would manage a physical server," he adds.

Small businesses that deploy private clouds are much more likely than their larger counterparts to end up in a hybrid situation -- for example, their QuickBooks and Exchange applications are hosted from a public cloud provider and their other applications run on a private cloud.

Tony Iams, vice president and senior analyst at Ideas International, a comparative intelligence firm for enterprise IT infrastructures, says that almost all system and hardware vendors are pursuing some type of virtualization or cloud management tools.

Some vendors are looking at integrating at the operating system level. Microsoft has done a lot of work here, with its System Center management product, to give visibility over what is happening within the hypervisors and inside virtual servers.

Iams also says that when building a private cloud you should plan for having to manage multiple hypervisors -- VMware's ESX, Microsoft's Hyper-V, Red Hat and other implementations of the Linux-based KVM and the open-source Xen. Microsoft can manage Hyper-V virtual servers and some aspects of ESX virtual servers. Other cloud vendors, such as VMware and Red Hat, can also manage VMs created by multiple hypervisors. Ideally, you want to control multiple hypervisors from a single interface.

Commercial versus homegrown tools

The downside of commercial, off-the-shelf tools is that they will likely need to be customized to work with your environment. On the other hand, the downside of rolling your own tools is that your in-house IT group needs to maintain them, make feature enhancements and so on.


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