It is no longer a matter a question of “if” most organizations are going to implement a private cloud; it is more a matter of “when” and “how to best proceed.” This is where it can get a little hazy as it is not always clear what path an organization should follow to ensure it ends up with a private cloud that meets its needs. While this path is not the same for every organization, there are three principles that organizations may follow to have a high degree of assurance that they will end up with a private cloud that meets their needs.
#1: Select a hypervisor that will scale as your private cloud grow. The simplest choice right now is to choose VMware vSphere. It is the most widely adopted and mature of the available hypervisors and most server and storage hardware providers have reference architectures to help facilitate its initial deployment and then ongoing growth.
This is not to imply that it is the only choice. Some organizations may want and need to consider alternative hypervisors when they look at VMware’s cost and how much flexibility it gives them to extend their private cloud into publicly available clouds in the future.
On the cost front, both Microsoft Windows 2012 Hyper-V and Red Hat Linux Enterprise Virtualization are available at a lower upfront cost. Granted, these two lack some of the feature functionality that VMware offers but may have enough features to meet the current private cloud needs of many organizations.
Where they may even have an edge over VMware is in the flexibility they give organizations to extend their private clouds into public clouds in the future. VMware vSphere certainly has the capability to do this. What is unclear is if this will even be an option as many cloud service providers (CSPs) internally use Microsoft and Red Hat Linux. However my guess is that if there is sufficient customer demand for VMware vSphere, CSPs will add VMware to their portfolio of supported hypervisors.
#2: Select a hardware provider that offers a private cloud reference architecture. A reference architecture is server, networking and storage hardware that is preconfigured and pre-tested to work with a specific private cloud hypervisor. Included in the reference architecture are documented configurations that are known to be able to handle the workloads associated with a specific number of virtual machines (VMs).
The appeal of a reference architecture is intuitive: it takes a lot of the guesswork out of deploying a private cloud. Most hardware providers have learned (mostly through the school of hard knocks) over the last few years which of their hardware configurations work best in private cloud deployments and under what conditions. This has resulted in their creation of reference architectures to minimize the risk for both them and their clients.
A number of hardware providers to include Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, and NetApp already provide these reference architectures. More notably, their reference architectures span the various storage systems models in their product portfolio so a reference architectures exists for almost any size organization.
#3: Update your data protection solution to protect your new private cloud. Updating your backup software does not necessarily mean “rip-and-replace.” It may be as simple as upgrading to the latest version of the backup software that you already use.
The rationale behind doing this update is that almost every backup software product has added a LOT of new features to better protect VMs. Of these new features, the most notable is their ability to take advantage of the new APIs for Data Protection (VADP) that are available in VMware vSphere.
In the majority of cases, organizations no longer even need to put backup agents on individual VMs. Rather they may rely on its new integration with VMware that improves the backup experience as it expedites the backup itself while making the overall backup process simpler to implement and manage.
Two key decisions that organizations will need to make as they look to update their backup software is:
- Do they want a single product to protect their combined physical and virtual environments or do they want separate products to protect these separate environments? There is no one right answer here but if protecting a combined environment, backup software such as CommVault Simpana, EMC NetWorker, Quest NetVault Backup, Symantec Backup Exec or NetBackup and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) are probably the best suited for these dual roles. Conversely, if a product is needed that is specifically targeted at virtual only backup, products such as EMC Avamar, Quest vRanger and PHD Virtual Backup may be in order.
- Do they want to obtain a backup appliance? Backup is critical but spending a lot of time obtaining the needed software and hardware and then configuring it is not. Backup appliances allow organizations to get their backup updated with the solution they want without spending a lot of time on it. Top products in this space include those from STORServer, Symantec and Unitrends.