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Play by the rules for private cloud automation

Despite its name, private cloud automation doesn't come automatically. Instead, organizations need to carefully define cloud workflows and rule sets.

Private cloud automation provides a number of benefits to the enterprise, including self-service capabilities, resource management and monitoring. But, ironically, successful private cloud automation doesn't happen automatically.

Even the most powerful automation engines depend on extensive rule sets to define private cloud resources, as well as the necessary steps for IT asset provisioning. Each automation tool or framework can use radically different dialogs or instructions for creating rule sets, but there are four common components to consider when developing rules for private cloud automation: definitions, authorizations, workflows and reporting.


Rule set definitions establish a menu of predefined resources or services that can be made available to private cloud users. For example, rather than allow a user to request specific amounts of processor and memory resources for a new virtual server, IT admins can establish prefabricated virtual machine sizes -- such as small, medium and large -- from which users can choose. Admins can apply similar definitions to storage and network bandwidth. As a result, users don't need to provide specifications for a desired instance, or even understand their IT infrastructure. The business defines what is available and users pick from that list.


Rule set authorization defines which users can or cannot perform specific functions. This is vital for private cloud automation because authorization rules are typically the only gatekeeper separating users and functions. For example, a call center or manufacturing floor employee might not need access to a company's private cloud at all, while software developers are able to select any kind of virtual instance or storage.


Workflows are a detailed series of steps that translate an authorized request into a defined resource or service. A typical workflow could involve getting authorization from the user's supervisor, provisioning the predefined virtual machine instance, granting access to a service and copying data from one storage instance to another. Each defined resource or service in a private cloud likely has one or more associated workflows.

Depending on the sophistication and business needs, workflows can become convoluted. The advantage, however, is that once a business establishes and tests a workflow, it ensures consistent results and reduces errors.


Finally, a rule set must go beyond permissions to include notices and reporting. This helps inform the business about private cloud use. For example, when a user consumes a new private cloud resource, that resource is added to a list within the user's department, allowing supervisors to see that utilization and identify corresponding costs.

Remember that private cloud automation rules are not single, static entities. There are often numerous rule sets within the private cloud to accommodate different departments, work groups and user types. IT teams should periodically review and update each rule set to verify that it still functions properly and meets business needs. For example, new security or regulatory concerns may prompt rule changes to add more levels of reporting in the future.

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