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Virtualization to cloud: Planning, executing a private cloud migration

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Private Cloud as a Service delivers OpenStack, ensures governance

SaaS-based private clouds give enterprises benefits of cloud -- faster development times and self-service portals -- without the management angst.

Enterprises wary of moving mission-critical data off-premises to a public cloud provider such as Amazon may find an OpenStack private cloud fits the bill.

But private clouds can be costlier than public clouds, and relatively few IT employees have OpenStack skills.

"We had quite a bit of developer need for self-service; we were spending quite a bit of time on deploying images for developers and just needed to get out of that for my team," said Joe Specht, senior director of system infrastructure at Seattle-based Tableau Software.

Tableau adopted Metacloud's "Private Cloud as a Service" product a little more than a year ago to help out.

"We were probably averaging three days to deploy an image for dev, and now they can do it in mere seconds," he said.

Metacloud's service, an OpenStack-based software called Carbon|OS, is akin to using a Software as a Service (SaaS) model to deliver private cloud. This approach appealed to Tableau, which has a lot of internal code systems the company's IT teams "do not want to exit the building," Specht added.

With Private Cloud as a Service, companies can access some benefits of public cloud by having engineering and operations teams supplement in-house staff's capacity without moving off-premises or turning over control. And with OpenStack's steep learning curve, this type of arrangement could increase efficiency.

Tableau also considered providers that offer OpenStack distributions or management, such as Mirantis Inc., Piston Cloud Computing and Rackspace -- as well as VMware's vCloud Director, which Specht considers too costly.

"We didn't have enough talent on the team to write an OpenStack implementation," Specht said. "It boiled down to Metacloud [being] willing to write tier-one support -- meaning the first call, the first alert, went to their team for anything in our OpenStack environment."

OpenStack's steep learning curve is considered an elephant in the room and a barrier to use in production environments, according to Torsten Volk, research director of systems management and former senior IT industry analyst at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates.

"[Metacloud is] talking to companies that want OpenStack as the real deal," Volk said. "There is so much hype around OpenStack currently … but to use it in production? It's really not production-ready."

Volk questions OpenStack's security and performance, as well as the ability to ensure service-level agreements and to receive updates without applications going down.

Specht, however, has been satisfied with the service so far -- thanks partly to Metacloud's support.

"There's been a couple times when it's been really good to have somebody who knows the ins and outs of OpenStack environment, where I don't think that even if my team had deployed it and had been running it for a year, we would have gotten solutions nearly as fast as they did," Specht said.

Governance in a box: It's a matter of trust

Companies that need to keep data in-house but don't have IT pros with cloud skills can still build private clouds, thanks to plug-and-play software.

A lack of IT resources, plus governance and data-security concerns, pushed U.K.-based Amity Financial Solutions toward a plug-and-play, cloud-in-a-box approach from AppLayer, said Nick Chadbourne, CEO of Amity.

"As a financial services company, there's a huge amount of regulations assigned," Chadbourne said. Before using London-based AppLayer, Amity accessed a variety of SaaS-based applications, such as customer relationship management and email, from different interfaces. "We wanted to consolidate them all in one place," he added, "so we use AppLayer as the conduit between suppliers."

AppLayer's "industry clouds," or clouds for specific verticals like finance, pull together all software and enterprise uses and adds an orchestration layer that allows end users to download apps as needed through a self-service portal.

When a customer buys AppLayer's private cloud-in-a-box, which is bound to IBM hardware and the IBM Flex System, it simply plugs it in -- all software licenses and security are built in.

And being able to plug in a new system, turn it on and allow end users to choose their apps meant Amity didn't have to hire someone to manage it all directly.

"It feels more secure giving it to [AppLayer] than keeping it in-house," Chadbourne added. And having a single vendor manage all software licenses and remain up to date on ever-changing compliance regulations meant Amity's developers could focus on creating products to keep the company competitive.

"We needed to make sure that wherever the data was held -- and however it was being transferred -- was in our compliance rules," he added. "This gave us more of an audit process for compliance."

About the authors:
Caitlin White is site editor for SearchCloudComputing. Contact her at cwhite@techtarget.com. Michelle Boisvert is executive site editor for SearchCloudComputing, SearchWindowsServer and SearchDataCenter. Contact her at mboisvert@techtarget.com.

This was first published in September 2013

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Essential Guide

Virtualization to cloud: Planning, executing a private cloud migration

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