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Deploying a Hosted Private Cloud is a popular way for companies to immediately see the benefits of Private Cloud computing while avoiding significant upfront costs of deploying the hardware and software resources in-house.
When planning to host your private cloud to an external provider, here are some important precautions to consider:
1. Use dedicated servers and storage.
Public clouds are typically a share everything multi-tenant environment. However for hosted private clouds, a private everything approach is preferred. Having the server, networking, and storage tiers dedicated to your company will result in the most predictable performance and simplified security model.
2. Adjust your security procedures appropriately.
The private cloud vendor should have audited security procedures in place such as SAS 70. In many circumstances, the security of the operating system, applications, and other stacks under you control, making a hosted private cloud only as secure as your IT staff make it. If your private cloud vendor does supply patches to the operating system as part of their offering, you should determine how this patching affects your internal application testing, support, and maintenance windows.
3. Have a backup and disaster recovery plan.
In a hosted private cloud environment it is critical to understand how your data is being protected by your private cloud provider. Some example questions to ask are what is backed up or protected, how fast can deleted files or servers be recovered, how quickly in a complete site failure will your data be back online, how can you validate the backups are valid and recoverable? It is also important to understand if the service providers backup procedures are in alignment with your own internal backup and recovery policies. For example, some vendors only rely on the SAN snapshots for file backup and image recovery, a single point of failure that may not align with your internal backup policy.
4. Understand the billing model.
Private cloud billing models from many vendors are quite complex. Often a myriad of variables including processors, memory, CPU, input and output bandwidth, and a host of other variables make up the monthly price which can vary dramatically. Understanding the billing model is key to avoiding unpleasant surprises. For example, some cloud providers charge for deployed servers even if they are powered off.
5. Have senior management involvement.
Cloud computing is a disruptive technology that often crosses many boundaries in an organization and sometimes creates issues with IT policies that were created without the on-demand, self-service cloud paradigm in mind. Having senior management involvement is key to adjusting organizational procedures, approval processes, “turf” issues etc. that may arise as the cloud model is adopted for various IT workloads.
6. Develop a monitoring strategy.
Many private cloud vendors have some monitoring framework in place to monitor the status and performance of your hosted cloud. Develop a strategy to integrate this monitoring into your existing IT processes to help determine when an issue is occurring that is outside of your direct control.
7. Train your staff.
A private cloud implementation requires a different skillset that not all members of your IT team may possess. Helpful skills when deploying a private cloud include virtualization skills, scripting and system automation skills, as well as the ability to debug complex multi-tier environments. Sometimes IT staff feels threatened that a hosted private cloud is outsourcing their job duties, training staff will help alleviate concerns of job security by showing that private cloud implementations are customer centric, focused on supporting the business, and require skilled staff.
8. Have an escape plan.
Your cloud vendor should have a documented procedure to transfer your virtual server or applications back to you if you need to bring a workload back in-house, or if you choose to switch your cloud vendor. If your unable easily transfer your workloads out, then you may face stiff switching costs.
9. Understand the Service Level Agreements before an outage.
The terms under which an outage is defined, how credits are applied, and how to apply for credit are important details that should be clearly stated by the service provider without needing a lawyer to understand it. Be sure to understand what types of outages are not covered, for example some private cloud vendors exclude downtime that results from emergency maintenance, scheduled maintenance, or Denial of Service Attacks.
10. Take baby steps.
For your first private cloud implementation, pick a few non-mission critical applications that would benefit from self-service on-demand provisioning to gain experience. Test and Dev is a perfect example of simple workload that many organizations are using to gain experience for both their end users and internal IT staff in managed private cloud solutions.
Rod Mach, Principal, HyperLogic
Rodney Mach is a High Performance Computing (HPC), Cloud, and Virtualization consultant with HiperLogic with over fourteen years of industry experience.
He is a published author and invited speaker in HPC, Virtualization, and technical computing. He is also President of the Ann Arbor Virtualization User Group at aavug.org, and a VMware vExpert 2010. He has a consistent track record of successful consulting engagements with Fortune 500 companies to increase their competitive advantage through IT initiatives.