[Editor's Note: This is the fourth article in a six-part series that looks at the primary considerations as well as the process of self-discovery that is required in the definition, development and implementation of private cloud computing. The articles were prepared by cloud experts at Logicalis, an international provider of integrated information and communications technology solutions and services.]
by Steve Pelletier Solutions Architect for Logicalis
Assembling the servers, storage, networks and backup that are the underlying technology for your private cloud environment is the easy part. The infrastructure for a private cloud can be defined in the familiar language of specs and reqs. A server is what it is, even a virtual one.
To realize the full potential of your private cloud environment, however, you will also need to address several key concepts that are not so easily defined. These involve squishy terms like “management,” “automation” and “orchestration” that need to be defined in terms of where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow ... however far off tomorrow may be.
By itself, your private cloud infrastructure is a proverbial tabula rasa, i.e., before your private cloud environment can live up to its potential, you have to teach it to think. Management, automation and orchestration provide the tools you will need to write on the blank slate that is your private cloud’s brain.
Most IT departments have some of the tools and some of the skills they need to create an intelligent cloud environment; at least enough to get started. One of the benefits of developing a private cloud, in fact, is that it provides the opportunity, however challenging, to define exactly what you are trying to do with IT in your organization as you go forward.
The key to management is monitoring. You can’t manage what you can’t see. Most IT departments are able to monitor their hardware, storage and networks to some level. Once you start spinning up and tearing down virtual servers, sharing resources and providing self provisioning, however, you will need to be able to see what’s happening at a virtualization level and an application level, as well.
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) provides best practices that can guide development of the comprehensive IT service management (ITSM) strategy that you will need to develop to ensure that your cloud is serving the needs of your business users. ITSM components you will need to define, if you haven’t already, are a service catalog; Incident, Problem and Change procedures; and a configuration management database (CMDB). (You can read more on the role of ITSM here: http://www.cioupdate.com/cio-insights/the-cosmology-of-the-expanding-itil-universe.html)
The discipline of developing an ITSM strategy will help you determine the parameters you want your cloud to live by. And, once they have been defined, an effective way to apply them consistently is through automation and orchestration.
Automation streamlines repetitive data center processes such as server operating system, application deployment and other administrative procedures. There are many automation tools available, and most IT departments have automation procedures for many of these tasks already defined.
Orchestration is a more complex undertaking. It defines the workflow to link a variety of automated tasks and IT resources to complete a process like provisioning an entire new service. Orchestration is often combined with a portal to designated resource users. Ideally, the combination of automation and orchestration allows IT deployment to match the speed of business, providing rapid time to market for new initiatives.
Orchestration needs to be able to interact with both your monitoring tools and your configuration management database to ensure that the approval procedures and technical parameters you have established are met. It goes without saying that you need to establish the parameters and approval procedures before you can orchestrate them. As “smart” as technology has become, it still cannot think for itself.