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Transforming Datacenters into Private Clouds: A New Approach

Added 11th Oct 2012

This article has been contributed by Symantec.

Virtualization of the server is the first step to creating an agile infrastructure that enables datacenters to operate with the scale and economy of clouds. However, there is still a long way to go before tier 1 or even tier 2 applications can be moved to a virtual environment with confidence. Indian organizations, now, have the opportunity to transform the way IT is delivered by converting their existing datacenters to secure and resilient private clouds.


Existing datacenter investment considerations should take into account that real-world cloud architectures will have a mix of virtual and physical platforms with the applications that run on them. By design, these cloud architectures are also able to accommodate larger scale than existing datacenters. The following drivers are triggering interest in building private clouds:

Scalable Architectures: Organizations need to create architectures and distributed availability components that allow efficient and easy scaling.

Holistic availability: Organizations need availability across physical and virtual environments spanning heterogeneous vendors and applications, providing availability from the application layer to the database and coordinating it across the entire service to ensure actual availability.

Automation: The scale and availability needs of the cloud mandate that you automate wherever possible to ensure predictable results and efficiency.

To make any cloud solution viable, the storage infrastructure needs to deliver on the storage-as-a-service paradigm, which adheres to the following requirements:

On-demand Storage with Elasticity: Clouds are based on the fundamental premise of operational efficiency through the pooling and sharing of resources. This requires discipline from the applications and infrastructures to use only what is required and then return resources that are not used to the pool. In the context of on-demand storage, new techniques are being adopted to meet this need by providing the ability to provision storage on the fly in an efficient manner. One of the technologies that enable this vision is thin provisioning. By provisioning storage on an as-needed basis, and utilizing the benefits of pooling, the amount of storage consumed by applications can be significantly reduced and storage can be delivered in a timely manner.

Controlled Storage Costs: One of the common practices that existed in the many legacy datacenters was the allocation of top tier storage for all applications, regardless of the requirements of the application. This was usually done to ensure that the minimum SLAs and performance were met for any application. It also usually reduced administrative overhead. However, in the private cloud, this strategy doesn’t make sense. Storage vendors, now, routinely include multiple storage tiers within a single array. For that reason, it does make sense to put data on the appropriate class of storage based on a set of criteria that can be easily configured.

SLA-driven: Just as availability on the server side is critical to the success of cloud initiatives, storage SLAs will also play a significant role in the success of the cloud. It is not enough to be able to create storage on demand; the right kind of storage, based on the needs of services and applications is also necessary. 

Chargeback-enabled: Long-term viability of the cloud solutions depends on having a sustainable model wherein services and resources are tracked and charged back to the consumers based on their usage. Chargeback also helps control the storage sprawl by creating incentives on the demand side to reduce storage usage. 

Security at the Source: A storage cloud should be designed to handle the workloads expected for the applications hosted and provide security at the source. Ultimately, the design of the cloud must be tailored and molded to its needs. It is important to consider the kind of workload that will be addressed before embarking on a private cloud. The workload determines the access protocols, the amount of flexibility needed with respect to connectivity to server, the scale of storage, and the backup strategy associated with it. Organizations, sometimes, want to move datacenters completely to a virtualized model; however, certain workloads and availability assurances prevent that from occurring. A hybrid approach that trades flexibility with performance is usually preferred and more effective.

An Ideal Architecture: Servers and Storage Together

A typical private cloud build-out should take into account both storage and servers. It should include servers that are built to be resilient, and that can provide the SLA required for multi-tiered applications. The environment should also have requirements for managing traditional workload applications. These applications should be capable of accessing storage through an agile and secure mechanism using the protocol that is most suitable for the applications. An SLA-oriented storage service that is capable of moving data from one tier to another is required and should be based on the context of data and performance requirements. Any type of storage that is based on an application requirement should be capable of being used in the environment.

Ultimately, the private cloud should be bridged to the public cloud through an access gateway. In short, the whole environment should be heterogeneous—from the server to storage, and cost should be one of the major driving factors. All of this should be managed by an orchestration subsystem that is capable of provisioning virtual machines and analyzing the environment along with tools that ensure whether the SLA of the application is met.

Private cloud helps virtualized datacenters cut costs in half, solves performance and complexity issues, and returns an impressive return on investment. For Indian organizations, it provides the ideal combination of scalability, security, and efficiency.