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Overcoming Complexity and Dynamics to Move Data Centers to the Cloud

Overcoming Complexity and Dynamics to Move Data Centers to the Cloud

IT will never be the same.  Analysts expect that IT budgets will not be growing in 2012. Since the last financial crisis an ongoing volatile economy has been pushing IT professionals to do more with less, increasing the amount of delivered business projects with the same or reduced resources and decreasing operational costs. Consolidation through server virtualization has been a key initiative in many data centers focusing on lowering costs of operations and infrastructure. This was really the initial move for taking the data center from the physical level to cloud.

Cloud Trends

Nearly everyone down the line in IT (from service providers to enterprises) are interested in implementing cloud-based services. The enthusiasm for cloud computing comes from how it can enable businesses to quickly access hosted private and public resources on-demand, decreasing the time requirements and complexities that are typically associated with physical IT infrastructure, particularly the investment, installation, configuration and deployment. As cloud computing matures, the question companies face isn’t so much whether to migrate to the cloud, but rather what cloud service architecture to adopt?

During an event we conducted with Forrester Research, we surveyed audience of IT professionals, over 60% responded that their organization has either launched at least one private cloud project (34%) or was planning to launch a private cloud initiative in 2011. Gartner recently projected that by 2016, all Global 2000 companies will use public cloud services. “Cloud computing represents a shift in the relationship between the providers and consumers of IT-based solutions. Worldwide cloud services revenue (including public and private services) is forecast to reach $148.8 billion in 2014.” It becomes evident that the future lies in a hybrid cloud environment combining private cloud with multi-source public cloud elements. In the short term future existing physical data center remains an essential element of the hybrid IT environment.

Managing Data Centers in the Cloud

Cloud computing is literally shaking up the modern datacenter, as organizations strive to implement the operational and cost efficiencies that the cloud promises. However, while cloud solves many of the key challenges associated with traditional infrastructure management — other challenges arise and they are as big if not bigger, and more complex. By its design, the cloud is abstracted. This abstraction is viewed as one of the cloud’s main benefits, providing the ability to set up components that will meet demand without understanding the technology’s details needed for supporting that component. Yet the limited visibility into the content of virtual machines comprising a business system and dynamism of virtual machines allocation, make monitoring of IT changes and IT configuration very difficult. This very state of abstraction creates a complete lack of visibility into the stack. This puts system stability in jeopardy and exposes organizations to incidents that can proliferate into outages and costly lost opportunities.

How can the intelligent processing of real-time information that’s led to better business decision-making be applied to the management of data centers in the cloud?

IT Analytics for Cloud Services

One of the biggest challenges faced by nearly all “cloud players” is the complex integration of the variety of software components from various vendors. The system that results from this integration can often be expensive to develop, and equally if not more hard to operate. This can even come to the point of actually nullifying the motives for moving to the cloud in the first place.

Mary Johnston Turner of IDC notes (Effective Management of Heterogeneous Datacenters and Multi-hypervisor Environments) that multi-hypervisor environments can experience the same management issues that affect heterogeneous physical environments. She says, “Each vendor’s hypervisor will have its own set of APIs, performance monitors, and VM provisioning and migration technologies that need to be integrated into consistent, standardized workflows and automated provisioning profiles. This added layer of complexity makes it even more challenging for IT teams to operate effectively.”Applications, application infrastructure, hypervisors, and other parts of the virtual and cloud stacks all create troves of performance, events, and availability data. The challenge isn’t finding data. It’s will be to find a way to make this data useful.

Mary Jander ( observed that “IT professionals are ready for IT analytics; they’re also ready for cloud services, which are likely to become a key vehicle for delivery of enterprise IT analytics.”

The success of a cloud-based deployment relies heavily on its ability to provide reports on performance and service levels.  Without reporting mechanisms about what is happening, administrators will face huge obstacles in meeting service levels, maintaining performance, billing and achieving compliance. Critical information must be able to be extracted from the cloud-based environment to ensure that the system remains compliant, secure and performing at optimum levels, making analysis of granular levels of captured data key.

Application Knowledge: A Requirement Before Going Cloud

In addition to new applications developed to run in the cloud, enterprises still run a tremendous amount of critical business systems that would be too expensive to rewrite immediately. To migrate to the cloud means for enterprises to migrate existing business systems. What will enable enterprises to carry out such migrations? To be able to make applications cloud-based, IT ops need detailed configuration information of the applications.  This means a comprehensive understanding of all the application’s components, their relationships and their detailed configuration. The application’s configuration parameters will need to be understood and identified, so that it will be clear what needs to be updated in order to configure the application when moving them to cloud. The same information becomes critical in order to validate that the migration is successful.

Gathering the essential, configuration information that is critical for this process is a huge undertaking, with literally thousands of configuration parameters per technology – some critical and some not. Use of this overwhelming configuration data is impossible without analytics bubbling up information that is essential for migration. Today this information gathering process is largely manual. Modern configuration tools can greatly reduce the time it takes to gather this information and analyze what parameters to focus on to smoothly move from the data center to the cloud environment.

By Sasha Gilenson

Sasha Gilenson is founder and CEO of Evolven Software, currently launching a new software-as-a-service Change & Configuration Monitoring solution. He spent thirteen years at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP) where he managed the QA organization, helped establish the SaaS offering, and was key to the development of their Business Technology Optimization (BTO) strategy, while serving as top “guru” in quality processes and IT practices domain.

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