How to Build a Private Cloud

How to Build a Private Cloud

Despite it being so easy to just hook into the public cloud by going to Google, Amazon, Microsoft and other public cloud vendors, a private cloud offers a bit more control to your virtualization and automation efforts. Many people have already tried it and posted up how they did it and all of them have mentioned the headaches and migraines that are in store for you. The main reason this is so, is because there is no one set way to build a private cloud, although there are some attempts currently underway to do so (OpenStack, etc.). At best most private clouds are something cobbled together by the IT staff and glued or duct taped in certain places with VMware or some other Virtualized solution. As such, this is in no way a definitive guide on how to build a private cloud but it does attempt to provide a “one method fits all” approach for those looking to build a private cloud. I will use a typical ADDIE process to outline it as below:

  • Analysis – Take a good hard look at your current infrastructure. If you already have a datacenter then you’re well set to continue on the next step, but if you don’t then perhaps other alternatives should be considered. A private cloud is not an easy thing to implement on the whole but studies have shown that SMBs (most of whom do not have datacenters) have the easiest time of adopting a Cloud infrastructure. Take stock of what you have, what people need the most and how a Cloud infrastructure will deal with this. Do some feasibility tests, re-affirm what everyone uses to glue the network together and ask everyone in the company how willing they are to share resources with each other. In short, find out what your needs are and how building a private cloud will solve them.
  • Design – After the analysis stage you can map out a possible private cloud using the method which will cause the least amount of change as possible or the path of least resistance. This is because the easiest path to adopt would be the one more likely to succeed. If you’re using a linux-based server to maintain a network of similarly Linux or Ubuntu based machines then going wholly Ubuntu with VMWare Fusion is one of many good ideas or approaches. For those more entrenched in Microsoft products, going with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 RC would perhaps be a better idea. Likewise if you are not running or do not intend to run any virtualized applications then perhaps all you need is an easy to access Cloud storage solution so that the people in India or the Philippines can see the spreadsheet file you were working on, then iSCSI or NAS based private cloud would be enough. People are less likely to make the move to Cloud adoption if it means having to totally abandon how they are used to working already. Make it seem that business will go on just like usual (except on a virtual machine) and you’re set for the next step. From my personal experience this could be finding a virtual application that is the most similar to the application that everyone is using to do their work. Do not forget about security and you’re all set.
  • Development – Research your solutions and try them out. If you have the CEO’s backing then you have more drive behind you (and more impetus to make sure it is successful) but different sections of a company are less likely to support you than most. The marketing department will mostly be indifferent but the financial department won’t want to share at all. Find the best and most complete solution at this stage so that when you do the roll out or try to convince everyone else, you will have proven results and numbers to back you up. Consider the best way to do automation of services here and how much easier it will make make life for everyone. If you’ve got everyone convinced and signed memorandums of understanding between departments then you’re all set for the next step.
  • Implementation – This is basically the roll-out of your private cloud. Provide ample training, documentation and face-to-face consultation on how to use applications and it should actually be the easiest step of all. There will be teething problems, but there will also always be workaround solutions for any problems or issues you might encounter.
  • Evaluation – Things do not stop once implementation has been successful as you now need to make things better. Evaluate your private cloud and streamline processes as you see fit. The smoother a process flow is, the better. Tighten up security and get ready for the next evolution.

Bear in mind that this is just a generalization of the overall processes required to build a private cloud. Personally, I don’t recommend it, as public cloud is a lot easier to implement. However, 2012 could well be the year for hybrid clouds (mix of private and public) to rise, so knowing how to build a private cloud could be something your CEO lays on your platter to investigate as part of this.

By Muz Ismail

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