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Building the Best in Class Private Cloud: (2 of 4) Automate Your Infrastructure

In my first post I introduced how to build the best in class private cloud. You need a programmable software-defined infrastructure, a good cloud management platform, and the right people and processes. This article covers the importance of infrastructure automation for a private cloud. VMware Cloud Foundation provides this very infrastructure automation. This is a great way to build a private cloud. (Note: Cloud Foundation is also available for public clouds. But here I focus on the private cloud aspects.)

Programmable infrastructure is key for the private cloud
Programmable infrastructure is key for the private cloud

Infrastructure Automation Requires Standardization

Public cloud service providers automate their offerings. You get immediate access to seemingly unlimited capacity. Automation is facilitated by a highly standardized infrastructure. Because of this you may have to change your applications to run them in the cloud. You also will need to create security rules for data and access.

On the other hand infrastructure in classic data centers is much harder to automate. Heterogeneous physical systems run traditional applications. They provide control about data and access security. But often they lack standardization. This makes automation hard and expensive. However, you need automation to build a private cloud.

Data Center Automation Scale
Data Center Automation Scale

Businesses love the agility of cloud scale infrastructures. IT departments recognize this and evolve their infrastructure automation capabilities. Waves of innovation have swept through data centers:

  1. X86 servers reduced costs.
  2. Compute virtualization brought real innovation with capabilities like vMotion.
  3. Converged systems streamlined the infrastructure.
  4. Hyper-converged systems like vSAN facilitated storage handling.
  5. Networking virtualization (NSX) brought the next generation hyper-converged infrastructure.

Each wave has increased automation capabilities. This brings down cost and increases agility. Finally, we end up with a software defined data center where all infrastructure is virtualized and controlled by software. This is the path towards a private cloud. In this context VMware vSphere, vSAN, and NSX are key for the best in class private clouds.

Reality Check for Your Private Cloud

Even if you pick the best solutions you still need to deploy and manage them. You need to keep the infrastructure up to date. So IT departments spend a lot of their budget on keeping the lights on. Changes involving manual activities can be risky. We need to drive automation beyond individual products. They need to grow together into a natively integrated solution. This is exactly what VMware Cloud Foundation does. It integrates vSphere, vSAN, and NSX and provides comprehensive automation with SDDC Manager. This automation improves time to market and maintaining your infrastructure.

Time to Market
The time it takes to bring up infrastructure is critical. And this time-to-market-effect can be much bigger than any of the CapEx cost saving potentials. I remember customer discussions about reducing CapEx by 100,000 Euros. But at the same time the business was losing revenues of millions of Euros, because they could not roll out a service on time which generates 2m+ Euros per month.

VMware Cloud Foundation brings up the SDDC infrastructure in less than 6 hours compared to weeks. In addition, you can also provision new resources faster and in a controlled way. Consider this option to improve your time to market.

The Update Trap – or – Data Center Infrastructure is a Living Organism
Data center infrastructure is a living organism. Environment configurations drift, and over time undocumented dependencies appear. This is why many customers update with delays. They view updates as a change which can have undesired side effects. Hence there is a steep hurdle until the value of new product capabilities justify to update the environment.

With VMware Cloud Foundation you get pre-tested combinations of hardware and software in your data center. Updates are always applied in the right order in a consistent state. This lowers risk and effort. In the end your environment is up to date and ready for new capabilities faster. Also, support services will have an easier job solving issues, because the architecture is well known.

Next Steps

We have learned how an automated, software-controlled infrastructure is the ideal base for the best in class private cloud. The next two articles will explore the remaining aspects to build a private cloud. They are cloud management platforms and people and processes required, respectively.


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