Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Webcast: Using what you already have to create a cloud

If there's one thing customers hate, it's a great idea that comes with a caveat. Especially a caveat that says something like: "In order to benefit from said great idea, you are required to tear everything out and start all over." That sort of behavior usually gets you kicked out of data center and IT operations meetings. Data centers don’t operate that way. Data center operators don’t operate that way.

However, if there's a way to link a new idea or technology incrementally with what's already underway or where investments have already been made, you're going to get a much warmer reception.

OK, so I'll apply the above truisms to cloud computing (and internal/private clouds especially). If organizations think that in order to get the benefits of an internal cloud they have to start buying their infrastructure anew, they are going to be interested only where they have plans (and budgets) that can support that kind of spending and that kind of change. That's especially difficult in this economy. In fact, there's a non-zero chance that they might be openly hostile and, despite the promised benefits for internal clouds, ignore the concept completely.

Instead, my belief is this: a really useful internal cloud is one that leverages what they already have. And, man, do people have a lot of messy, complex stuff -- VMs, physical servers, applications, networking, the works.

So, how do you build an internal cloud out of what you already have in your data center?

Based on our experiences with customers, there are a couple things you'll need to know and do. Some of these are organizational and technological challenges (Craig Vosburgh has talked about some of the issues in his posts here before), like a willingness to change current procedures and roles, or even having your once-relatively-static CMDB shift into a more dynamic mode.

Once you know you're going to be able to address some of those high-level concerns, you then have to get a real, live project going around an actual set of applications. Rubber, meet road.

To rattle off some of the things we've learned from our customers in getting internal cloud projects off the ground, we corralled a couple of our technical experts for a webcast on the topic next week. Steve Oberlin, Cassatt's chief scientist and newly minted blogger (check out Cloudology), and the aforementioned Craig Vosburgh, our chief engineer, are going to walk through what they've seen that works, what doesn't work, and -- probably most interestingly -- talk about how you can use the data center components you've already invested in as the basis for a cloud-style architecture on your own premises.

This webcast is a follow-on to one we did back in November with James Staten of Forrester, which covered what internal clouds were in the first place (you can view the playback of that one here -- simple registration required) and how they might help data center efficiency. This one is about the next step: where do you start?

One thing that might be of special interest: Steve and Craig will point out some internal cloud starter projects and the characteristics that make those projects good pilots. And, yes, they will talk a bit about how something like Cassatt's software can help, but mostly the webcast will be a synthesis of what we've learned in customer engagements in the hope that you can benefit from some of our war stories. And, the two of them are planning to talk for about 20 minutes each, leaving a bunch of time for live questions from the attendees. You have my word on that. (It helps that I'm the emcee.)

Thanks, by the way, to Eric Lundquist of Computerworld for pointing his readers to the webcast. "I don't usually plug vendor webcasts," says Eric in his blog, "but this upcoming one from Cassatt looks interesting. If you go to the webcast, let me know if you like it or not." We'll work hard not to disappoint, and we'll let you be the judge of that.

There's one caveat (of course): you'll have to show up to the webcast.

You can register for the Cassatt April 2 webcast "How to Create an Internal Cloud from Data Center Resources You Already Have" here.

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