The Hidden Hazards within Private Clouds

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Understanding and avoiding the unintended consequences of building an internal cloud.

Cisco Consulting Services (CCS) recently interviewed 45 enterprise CIOs to learn more about their adoption of cloud technologies.

  • Most enterprises, the interviews revealed, are building cloud environments on their own.
  • And they are doing so despite a lack of internal cloud skills, a high level of complexity, and the uncertainty that comes with them.

“We were surprised that most enterprises want to figure out the cloud themselves before they ask for help from solution and service providers,” says Uwe Lambrette, director of Cisco CCS. “It’s a learning process that leads to understanding and comfort.”

There can be hidden hazards along the way, warns Erik Vogel, director of data center services for Cisco Services. The architect of the Cisco Domain Ten framework, which helps guide and simplify data center and cloud transformation projects, Vogel knows all too well the challenges of planning, building, and managing cloud environments.

“People tend to view cloud purely through hardware and software lenses, but there is so much more to consider,” Vogel says. “Process, governance, security, business and IT alignment, and pay-per-use models. If companies don’t get all of it right, there will be unintended consequences.”

Avoiding sprawl, unnecessary costs, and imbalance
The hidden hazards within private clouds can be large or small, technical or operational in nature. If enterprises don’t implement effective charge-back and decommissioning policies, for example, they will inevitably face virtual server sprawl.

“Provisioning servers in a cloud is so easy,” Vogel explains. “Without proper governance, internal teams will keep spinning up more and more servers. Eventually, sprawl will occur, CPU capacity will be wasted, and IT assets will be underutilized.”

Server sprawl can also cause application sprawl, which typically raises software licensing fees. As internal teams provision new cloud environments and add applications to those environments, they’re not always aware of the licensing costs they are incurring.

  • Proper governance and usage policies are essential for any cloud environment, and can help mitigate server and application sprawl.
  • The intent is to make sure internal teams only provision what they need.

“Effective charge-back policies are the key,” says Maurice DuPas, director of data center and cloud services for Cisco Services. “Without them, internal teams will take more than they need. But if they are paying for assets and services, they are much less likely to let them sit idly.”

  • The balance between customization and standardization is also a tricky but necessary consideration for companies building private clouds.
  • Too much user customization can result in security, administration, and cost issues.
  • Too much standardization can lead to rigidity and an inability to meet the diverse needs of internal teams.

“The right balance between control and enablement will be different for each company,” explains DuPas. “This is why cloud and technology decisions can’t be made in a vacuum. They must include business stakeholders, and focus on business needs and opportunities.”

Earning the right to grow
Despite a number of hidden hazards, Vogel and DuPas are bullish on the benefits of private clouds.

“Cloud technologies can be a tremendous catalyst for change,” says DuPas. “They can help companies explore new operating models and create additional business efficiencies. But every journey is unique.”

“Don’t try to do it all at once,” Vogel recommends. “Keep the end state in mind, but start small, achieve success, then do more. You’ve got to earn the right to grow.”

  • Employing the Cisco Domain Ten framework, Cisco Services assists organizations with cloud planning, development, and administration.
  • After defining the desired end state and overarching business objectives, Cisco Services helps create and implement a roadmap that brings together people, process, and technology.
  • Beyond hardware and software expertise, companies receive advice and support that stimulate cultural and operational transformation.  

“Mistakes are common,” says DuPas. “We see them all the time, we understand them, and we know how to avoid them. We can help speed up the journey and ensure success along the way.”

“The cheapest thing you can buy is another person’s experience, and this is absolutely the case with cloud,” says Vogel. “Fact is, we have a ton of experience with this stuff.”