Ten mistakes that can kill a private cloud

Gartner’s Thomas Bittman wrote a blog post in August 2009 titled, If You Build a Private Cloud, Will Anyone Come? Unfortunately, the Field of Dreams all too often becomes a Field of Nightmares as organizations spend millions of dollars building private clouds – only to have them sit mostly idle. Here is a list of ten mistakes to avoid.

1) Failure to Understand the Business Requirements
Private cloud is business-focused, not IT-Centric. IT staff cannot design the cloud in isolation. In order to both understand the business requirements and to identify opportunities,they must develop relationships with the business customers. Proactively questioning users enables them to discern what IT services will be of value. Only then can they design a cloud that will be utilized.

2) Business Unit Confusion about Private Cloud Value
Businesse users typically don’t have a good understanding of private cloud or how it can help them be more successful. They may not even value the top cloud attributes of speed and agility. IT must help them grasp how important these attributes are in achieving both efficiency and innovation. A private cloud not only enables them to respond more quickly to their customers, it allows them to experiment with new technologies without requiring large capital investments or months of time.

3) IT Staff Skepticism about Private Cloud Viability
CIOs tend to be adept at putting together wonderfully compelling presentations for senior management about how private cloud will transform the IT organization into a service model. But they often neglect to sell their staffs who are the ones tasked with building the environment.

A healthy skepticism is baked into most IT professionals who have become jaded from years of magic bullet promises. Private cloud’s complexity tends to set off alarms. Not only are the myriad technological pieces challenging in their own right, but the requirement for new configurations, processes and behavioral changes can quickly make a private cloud initiative overwhelming.

Staff resistance can translate into a more drawn-out implementation which in turn can spell cloud stall or outright project failure.

4) IT Staff Concerns that Private Cloud Will Automate Away Their Jobs
While they might not be the most thankful jobs in IT, infrastructure tasks such as hardware management and software patching provide a visible and reassuring sense of purpose. Perceiving private cloud as a means of automating these functions is bound to generate at least some IT staff resistance.

Effectively addressing new business-driven needs requires that the IT staff focus on what is inside the VM rather than technical details of disks, servers and networks. They must let go of the daily infrastructure maintenance and firefighting. A private cloud, rather than eliminating their employment, opens up many more opportunities to focus on higher business value taks. They will be able to grow IT services in a much more effective and fulfilling manner.

5) Relying on Technology Manufacturers for Private Cloud Design
While CIOs get the importance of transforming IT to a service provider model, it’s easier said than done. Many look to technology manufacturers to enable the leap from virtualized environment to private cloud.

These vendors offer products with wonderful capabilities utilizing converged infrastructure, orchestration software, self-service portals and chargeback models. But they fall far short of making a private cloud.

Private cloud requires focus on higher-level services offerings, workflow and features that enable a consumption-based environment. For example, if a workload cost exceeds approval authority, it should automatically be routed to appropriate parties for approval. This type of capability is missing from most cloud-based solutions.

The private cloud architecture and products cannot be meaningfully evaluated in isolation or even against alternative solutions on a features or price basis. A private cloud initiative must start with identifiying the business objectives along with the requirements to meet these objectives. Only then can the products be effectively evaluated – but within the context of achieving the identified objectives.

6) Trying to Bite off too much at Once
Attempting to deploy a private cloud in one fell swoop is highly unlikely to address the myriad business needs. It can also result in compromises early in the implementation stages such as abandoning SLAs and chargeback. The functions instead are handled manually with assurances that they will be automated down the road. Inefficiency and user dissatisfaction ensues while growth is inhibited.

A private cloud implementation should start small – targeted to specific business units with pressing needs that are likely to ensure utilization. But, the big picture should always be kept in mind including the projected customers (both internal and external) as the system and capabilities grow. And enterprise components such as services catalog, SLAs, security, chargeback, etc. should be incorporated from the start. Unanticipated variables may warrant modifications, but wholesale abandonment must be avoided.

7) Offering Too Much
Without a good understanding of the business requirements and constraints around commonly provisioned workloads, IT may try to include non-standard items on the “menu” between the users and the services. This leads to lots of cusomization and daily changes – not a good environment for private cloud.

Not every workload and IT service is a fit for private cloud. Starting with low-hanging fruit enables many small wins which builds credibility and enthusiasm while simultaneously reducing the cost of managing the traditional IT infrastructure.

8) Not Utilizing the Best Management Tools
Organizations frequently venture into private cloud with the same management tools they utilized in a virtual environment or, even worse, in their former physical data centers.

Virtualization tools such as VMware vCenter Operations Suite are essential to a private cloud in order to tell which virtualized components are acting abnormally. Private cloud additionally requires metrics to ensure appropriate speed and agility along including SLA performance. They need to provide tenant transparency and Line of Business access. Accurately measuring services allows pricing to enable IT-as-a-Service without time-consuming negotiations and interdepartmental budgeting meeting.

In many cases, the new cloud tools can substitute for older tools no longer required. This frees up recurring maintenance expenses.

9) Failure to Embrace an IT-as-a-Service Mentality
Continuing to perceive its role as a static cost center will increasingly render IT irrelevant. Business units will instead utilize services external to Corporate IT which may be less effective, lack required security and compliancy parameters, and which can even be more expensive. They can also soak up corporate resources when IT is called in to resolve issues.

Transitioning to ITaaS requires that IT functions in many respecs like a public provider. This entails organizational change along with new processes and retooling of traditional roles. These changes, in fact are far more important than the technology. IT leadership must both drive the ITaaS vision along with the changes required to make the vision a reality.

10) Failure to Embrace the Public Cloud
Increasingly, Public cloud services offer users attractive options for effectively doing their jobs. IT mandates to shut down these options only increase business unit dissatisfaction and resistance.

IT needs to embrace the public cloud – incorporating SaaS, PaaS and even IaaS where appropriate, but ensuring that security, compliance and recoverability standards are met. IT becomes the intermediary – helping with contracts, relationships, problem management and integration. As a trusted advisor to the business, IT should provide the best and most cost-effective services whether internal or external to the organization.

See Also:
Cloud Services can save you Money – if you’re Careful. 03/13/2013. Nancy Gohring. Computerworld.
Getting Private Cloud? Better Change Your Funding Model. 09/25/2012. Steve Kaplan. By The Bell.
Cloud: If You Can’t Beat It… 07/22/2012. Steve Kaplan. By The Bell.
If you Build a Private Cloud, Will Anyone Come? 08/09/2009. Thomas Bittman. Gartner.com.

Presidio’s Vishal Nangrani, Jeremy Oakey and Ryan Hughes all contributed to this article.

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