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Ten years on: How did that cloud strategy pan out?

How to avoid vendor lock-in

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Think of everything

Here's what you have to think about before you start building your cloud:

Take a survey of your IT infrastructure

Until Diane Bryant took over as general manager of Intel's data center and connected systems group earlier this year, she was Intel's CIO. Last year, when she was still CIO, Intel did a server audit and found 2,500 servers doing absolutely nothing.

During her keynote address at Oracle OpenWorld in October, Bryant said that when she became CIO in 2008, not one server in the Intel data center was virtualized - even though Intel had been selling server processors tuned for virtualization for four years. Now all of them are.

Storage arrays were running at under 12 per cent utilization, but with de-duplication software the company has been able to save $9m a year in storage costs.

In your shop, the savings from virtualizing servers and storage and running both more efficiently can help pay for cloud projects.

Survey your apps and operating systems

Find out how many applications have been virtualized and how many cannot be easily virtualized. If it isn't virtualized, then it probably isn't the place to build a cloud.

There are metal-as-a-service features with Ubuntu Linux and similar tools for managing images and data for physical servers on Unix and proprietary systems, and you will need to consider these as well. But the object of this exercise is to identify what apps might be a good starting point for your first cloud. And while you are at it, find out how much stuff you have running out on Amazon EC2 and other public clouds.

Get those Microsoft, VMware and Red Hat coffee mugs

There is nothing quite like having multiple vendors competing for the same projects.

"I see lots and lots of people with OpenStack science projects, and by the way I see lots of Hyper-V science projects, too, where someone thinks this is a great part of their negotiation with VMware," says Jacques.

Think through your hybrid strategy

Your first cloud is just your first step on a journey to a fully virtualized, software-defined data center .

Standardization

By standardization, we mean choosing one thing to support all jobs – this has often been espoused as leading to significant benefits. But companies with decades of investment in legacy applications on myriad types of systems can't just start all over again.

If we could, we would all be running on the cheapest possible platforms available at any given time. Systems persist because applications do. Odds are that you will have to cope with managing disparate platforms in the future as you do now, so it makes sense to keep your options open.

Don't skimp on training

By definition, if this is your first cloud, you don't know what you are doing. And you don't just want to give an army of consultants a blank check, either.

So get some training for yourself and your staff. This is costly on the front end, but so is the time you waste when you try to manage a cloud without proper training. Your first cloud project is not proper training, however much you learn from it.

Don't skimp on the budget

This is not about getting some servers and storage and slapping on OpenStack or vCloud. Figure out how your simple cloud could evolve towards more sophisticated self-service and management as well as the workloads it will be able to absorb. Plan for both.

Don't forget all those legacy systems

Wherever possible, you want to be able to provision and scale these systems using the same tools as you use on your clouds.

In many cases, such technology does not yet exist. So start putting pressure on vendors to get their act together. ®

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