Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Cloud - Are you ready? - Part 1

Cloud computing and overall Strategy in its current lifecycle is mostly at the early adopter stage. However with the popularity of methods such as metered server usage, shrink and grow capability and per hour driven costs for workloads, based on what Businesses want from IT with the limited budgets available today means the strategy is quickly turning it into a solution which will most likely become mainstream in the next 2-3 years as a common core business strategy for delivering and supporting core services.

This Three part series of post's will hopefully provide an overview of each the component layers that formulate a cloud strategy, I will provide detail on example attributes that exist within the relevant component layers and I also provide some operational and architectural readiness advice to be able to ensure that you can exploit the cloud strategy and reap inherent benefits.

Cloud stacks

Cloud Computing is not a tool or piece of hardware you buy, it is not software you buy off of the shelf and it is not something you can buy from an SI or an Outsourcer, so to your average IT professional it has very confusing definition statement about what it actually is which can be very misleading when trying to adopt and preach the strategy to internal business leaders and potential sponsors for your initiatives.

For this series of posts I define each component that builds up the typical Cloud Computing stack. There are many views on the definition of cloud computing is, upon observation in the proprietary world it appears that Cloud Computing is being defined into the "as a Service" stack layered component approach, from which I fully agree with and embrace for simplicity. Below is a diagram (or attempt) which shows the component layers that build the Cloud stack and the relevant attributes within each Relevant "as a Service" section that we commonly know today in most areas of IT and the datacentre;

The important thing to note with the above shown Cloud stack is that each component and running attribute within is portable and naturally decoupled from each layer and can easily shrink/grow on demand according to business requirement.

For a model example of something within this stack is a typical Web application, for this app the underlying Server workloads are needed (IaaS), the Middleware to run session data and to broker info to/from a database is needed (PaaS) and the presentation layer of a Web application that feed data's from the end users (SaaS) is used.

Cloud Computing is defined as all of these services and components glued together to become a complete extensible engine for your Datacentre. To gain a more broader picture of how the Cloud and inherent stacks fit together privately and publicly check out my post on the future vision I have on operating cloud services across public and private based cloud infrastructure.

So is your current IT ready for cloud?

Adopting a service oriented view of hosting infrastructure whether Privately or Publicly means you will need to introduce some changes and amendment to how you operate IT today and how your Business processes operate. You probably think you are going to struggle to adopt a cloud strategy, however you are not the only organisation who won't initially be able to successfully transition to cloud based services with your current IT and process.

Most organisations big or small have barriers in the way for adopting new strategy, for the larger enterprises is usually a financial barrier, current outsourcer lock in, or a people political barrier and for smaller sized organisations it maybe that you have again invested in Infrastructure and cannot justify throwing away kit or you just don't realise what you can achieve from using cloud strategy. In the next sections I set the scene on some hot areas you can focus on developing and progressing to ensure you can work towards implementing a cloud strategy.

The first steps

In order to put what you have today into a "Cloud" perspective I am firstly going to talk about IaaS which is at the lowest denominator of the cloud stack. If you have Server Virtualisation in your datacentre you are certainly in a good position to start to transition into cloud strategy at the IaaS layer. If using Private Clouds you can establish yourself as having basic foundation capability for hosting decoupled servers that can move from one IaaS provider to another. If starting to deploy a private cloud you have flexibility to perform fast deployments on the fly and you also have granular visibility of metered usage to bill out to internal customers.

Because everything whether it is in a private cloud or whether hosted in a public cloud needs to be paid for in some shape or form some of the questions you need to ask yourself about your virtualisation estate being capable for an IaaS strategy are;

Whether you do any of the above is most likely for the majority to be a no, a lot of companies have only just started to adopt the strategy for how Infrastructure is billed and how it gets paid for using Chargeback and Opex based financing in your business. If you have implemented such processes aligning and moving to a Cloud strategy will be far much easier. The below diagram is a conceptual on benefits which can be achieved by combining Orchestration and Chargeback models within current virtualised infrastructure, Like I said on my questions above if you have this today you are at the extremely mature end of adoption for your current Infrastructure and will most certainly find moving into a Public or building your own Private cloud easier than most.

If you don't have the above process and underlying technology to support such a process flow for service requirements from your business, define your requirements from the business and then look to relevant tools and solutions which can enable them within your Infrastructure.

Once you have the "engine" and the IaaS platform that can be exploited to support a complete cloud it is then important to look at how your costs are defined for the provisioned services that your customers require and want. It is important to know that even within the Cloud world cost is based on Opex and not up front Capex for services. With the cloud the end goal is that you only pay for what workload you want, you can shrink and grow application landscapes and financial to avoid the upfront capital expenditure to procure more physical Infrastructure to support any growth and burst.

The key for moving into the start of Cloud is to ensure you have processes in place, my diagram is a conceptual vision and is by all means not going to be completely relevant to your organisation, and with that you need to engage with who is responsible in your business for budgeting and finance and ensure you align this to cloud based strategy.


Hopefully for the first post in this series I have set the scene as to what the basic components that exist within a Cloud are and what layers build up the cloud. Additionally hopefully you have learned about what the first component in cloud strategy, Infrastructure as a Service is and how you can possibly start to move into a cloud strategy a lot quicker than you may think.

In the next post I will describe what PaaS is and how I think the common OS will operate and function in the future PaaS Cloud stack. Additionally above this layer it will be interesting as I have no idea how middleware and such like works so it will certainly be an interesting read for you I'm sure!


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