Many people in IT related roles today are aware that moving to a private cloud represents a paradigm shift up and down the IT stack, from how IT pros will deploy services to how end users will consume them. And while the cloud's benefits are attractive, typically any shift in IT infrastructure, CIOs and IT strategist need to do some careful planning to achieve those benefits. Here are three steps that IT managers can take to get ready for cloud computing:
Identify the Low-Hanging Fruit
Practically every organization will have one or more applications that are obvious cloud candidates. Sit down with your IT workers and identify these applications. Then talk about the most appropriate cloud infrastructure for these applications. Remember that cloud computing isn't a whole-hog architecture. You don't need to wait until your entire datacenter has migrated into a slick private cloud infrastructure before deploying applications. You can build a smaller private cloud infrastructure first; or rent some private cloud infrastructure from a third party; or deploy an application on Windows Azure; or even simply access an application as a cloud service, like Office 365. No need to boil the ocean. The important thing is to let your IT workers and your users experience cloud computing for themselves, which will pay dividends later on when you begin bigger or more difficult cloud projects.
Develop Your IT Workers
The cloud's benefits are obvious to many CIOs and high-level IT managers - cost, ease of deployment, ease of management automation, easy scalability and more. But to IT workers dodging daily bullets in the trenches of your datacenter, those aren't everyday benefits. Making sure those workers are trained in implementing a private cloud solves two problems: First, it will help allay concern that the cloud will make them obsolete. Once IT workers see that the building blocks of private cloud infrastructures are similar to the platforms they're already managing in the datacenter - Windows Server 2008 R2 & Hyper-V, Active Directory Federated Identity, the System Center management suite - they'll realize that many of their existing skills are applicable to deploying and managing a private cloud infrastructure, while they'll also have the opportunity to learn new skills to help develop their career. That will help get them more excited about this paradigm shift, and you'll benefit from their passion and innovation instead of becoming bogged down managing unnecessary fears.
Second, with some skilled private cloud implementers on your staff, you'll be able to get an accurate idea of how much work and new infrastructure a private cloud project might require. While your trained IT staff is working to prep the infrastructure you've already got, you can manage procurement to make sure that the additional pieces they need are available when they need them. Microsoft will be releasing quite a bit of cloud training over the coming months. But to get started right away, check the Microsoft cloud pages, TechNet's cloud resources and especially the Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track pages for in-depth technical guidance. There's much more to come, so check back often.
Design the Capabilities of Your Private Cloud
Once you've got some private cloud expertise on your staff, you should be ready for the third step. Implementing a cloud solution around low-hanging fruit applications should be relatively easy. Now examine the rest of you software portfolio. Discuss with your front-line business managers and workers where these applications need to go in the future. Then act as a bridge between those requests and your IT staff. A private cloud is a powerful resource with many possibilities, not all of which might be required for your business.
For example, does your company require fast global reach? That might necessitate the ability to access a public cloud - which means your IT staff needs to examine what's needed to bridge the gap between your private cloud and Windows Azure, including Azure-capable applications and Active Directory Federated Identity management. Is there benefit to allowing your users access to self-service features to provision new applications, servers and other IT resources? Again, if yes, then your IT staff needs to examine the identity management features needed to enable these features as well as the Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0. Would access to instant additional private cloud resources via a third-party hoster be beneficial? This is an exciting and burgeoning field for hosters and large IT consultancies, so start looking around now for companies with whom to partner on these requirements.
Properly implemented, a private cloud is a powerful and highly flexible infrastructure fabric. Timely and thorough planning can help ensure that your organization gets the most out of such a resource.