By David Davis
Fellow vExpert, Jon Owings, is a friend of mine who runs a website called "2 VCPs and a Truck" and he goes by @2VCPs on Twitter. Jon's website has good how-to articles for VMware vSphere Admins but I think there is more to his site name than just a joke. If you aren't familiar with it, "2 VCPs and a Truck" is a play on a common home moving company in the USA, "2 Men and a Truck". Certainly the "2 VCPs and a Truck" are the movers that that have been performing P2V consolidation – moving physical servers to virtual servers. So how does this relate to "the cloud"?
With the move to server virtualization maturing, now comes the move to the cloud. Enterprises and Service Providers alike are warming up to the idea (and some doing it) of creating hybrid clouds. Like any house move, this move will require an old house, new house, a truck, and movers. Let's look at this move to the cloud just as we would any house move.
Why are we moving to begin with?
I think that the most difficult question that enterprise IT admins face related to the cloud is "why do we need to make this move at all?" Mike DePetrillo said that if you are a cloud provider, you don't try to sell cloud computing to IT Admins – you go directly to the CFO or CEO. This is an important point.
Enterprises make the move to the cloud for business reasons – not IT reasons. The cloud offers a change from businesses having to lay out capital expenditures (capex) to a monthly operational expense (opex) model. This makes sense to the CFO and CEO. This is the same reasons that companies might hire contractors and pay them more than full time employees.
Another reason to move to the cloud is business agility. Perhaps your IT group struggles to keep up with demand during the Christmas retail season or during registration at the University.
Finally, businesses move to the cloud to refocus staff on more critical company projects that offer real ROI – not just "keeping the servers up."
In other words, you do what you do best (your business) and let a cloud provider do what they do best (keep the servers up). This is the same reason that you likely don't bake your own bread or sew your own clothes – you let someone do this who can do it quicker, easier, more reliably, and cheaper than you can to allow you to do what you best (like go to work or spend time with your family).
WANTED: Cloud Movers – Must Have Vast Knowledge of IT Skills
Just like moving your house, moving servers can be a lot of work – more work than one person or group wants to take on. So how do you move? Likely, you need help. You'll need people who know the virtual infrastructure, people that know the applications, and people that know the end users. If the CFO or CIO is the person opting to make this move, they will have to champion the project with these disparate groups of people in order to make the move a reality.
Certainly these "movers" need skills – cloud skills. They may know vSphere inside and out but the cloud is a new animal. The cloud empowers the users to participate more in IT and the lifecycle of a server or app. These movers must have a wide breadth of IT skills. The guy who only knows COBOL (sorry Mr. Dinosaur – surely I'm offending someone) isn't going to be too helpful when it comes to moving to the cloud. The movers need not only vSphere skills but also networking skills, application knowledge, business knowledge, performance knowledge, and troubleshooting knowledge. They need to know vSphere, the SAN, the network, the OS, and the Apps. Someone has to work with the cloud provider to communicate the business's needs related to IT. Someone has to assist the cloud provider in migrating these VMs and their apps.
Finally, don't forget the cloud providers. They need "movers" too. Their movers need to work with your movers to get the move done. But let's leave the topic of cloud provider expertise to another blog post and move on to "the trucks".
Where are the Trucks?
You could move your house across town without trucks, sure, but moving trucks make the job tremendously easier. Trucks are the tools that allow the movers to do their job quickly, efficiently, and at a reasonable cost.
In cloud computing, the "trucks" are the software and hardware that link your current infrastructure (the private cloud) to the cloud providers (public cloud) to create a hybrid cloud. That hybrid cloud is going to allow you to move your virtual servers (and their apps) to and from the private to the public. And, if your cloud provider isn't living up to their promises, you also want to be able to use your "trucks" to quickly move your VMs to another provider.
In my mind, these "trucks" are still maturing. Certainly you could shutdown your VMs, copy them to a provider, and power them back up. However, what you really need are intelligent connections that allow you to securely move running applications from private to public clouds. Recently, I wrote about Afore Solutions CloudLink. BlueLock has CloudConnector that works with VMware vCloud Director, and other cloud providers offer their own solutions. Whatever solution you use, you want to make sure that you aren't stuck in "Hotel California" as VMware CEO Paul Maritz pointed out at VMware Partner Exchange 2010 (you can check in but you can't check out = lock-in).
If you aren't planning a move to the cloud today, the least that you should do is "start packing". What I mean by that is to get your IT infrastructure as virtualized and efficient as it can be. Try to achieve 100% virtualization. Know your applications and end users. Understand your IT costs to the point that you can put a monthly price tag on each virtual machine. Streamline, consolidate, and document what you have now. By doing these things, you will not only make your IT more efficient and save money but be prepared should your company consider a move to the cloud. Finally, educate yourself with to the point that you are an "enterprise admin" ready to be a cloud mover so that you aren't left out of the cloud equation completely.
Where are you in the cloud moving process? Learning? Packing? or Moving? I welcome your comments!
David Davis is a VMware Evangelist and vSphere Video Training Author for Train Signal. He has achieved CCIE, VCP,CISSP, and vExpert level status over his 15+ years in the IT industry. David has authored hundreds of articles on the Internet and nine different video training courses for TrainSignal.com including the popular vSphere video training package. Learn more about David at his blog or on Twitter and check out a sample of his VMware vSphere video training course from TrainSignal.com!