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Practical Lessons In Cloud Computing

          A guide to getting you safely out of the woods and into the Cloud
          By Sunil Chavan, Director, Software Group & Cloud solutions, Asia Pacific, Hitachi Data Systems 
          During his brief stop in Singapore in January, Hu Yoshida, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, HITACHI DATA SYSTEMS, shared his top 10 predictions for storage in 2011. One of them was his forecast that Cloud will be accepted as a valid infrastructure model. Sunil Chavan offers his expertise to help you unravel the mysteries of virtual storage, before you venture into the world of Cloud. What are the do’s and don’ts for a successful adoption, which deployment works best for you, and how do you get the most out of Cloud?
          Just what is cloud computing anyway? Skeptics might say it is nothing but industry hyperbole, visionaries might say it is the future of IT. I truly believe that it holds real potential for new types of on-demand dynamic IT services.
          In driving toward on-demand IT delivery, it hasn’t taken long for customers to recognize the benefits of cloud. First and foremost, customers are realizing significant cost savings. From a capital expenditure perspective organizations generally over-purchase to deal with the ebb and flow of storage and resource requirements to support the business, leaving them with an abundance of underutilized hardware assets. Cloud’s ability to grow and contract storage resources, in concert with the business needs, minimizes this upfront capital expense, moving from “fixed costs” to “variable costs.”
          Customers can reduce much of the operational expenditure by deploying cloud models, paying only for what they consume and eliminating the day-to-day management tasks altogether. 
          While on-demand access to computing resources is what the industry is striving for, it also poses concern and risk for IT organizations. This can be very disruptive to business process and control. If business users begin to outsource to cloud providers in order to get faster support, sensitive information could be put at risk. To mitigate this risk, IT organizations should be thinking about developing an internal cloud-enabled architecture to provide greater business agility, in addition to a process for if and when projects need to be outsourced to a public or hybrid cloud provider. This way they can move into the cloud in a controlled, programmatic fashion, mitigating any associated risks.
          There are primarily three deployment choices to consider for moving into the cloud – private, hybrid and public. It is extremely critical to start your cloud initiative with the right deployment model.
For simplicity, let’s define a private cloud as cloud-enabled infrastructure within the physical walls of a data centre. A private cloud can provide many of the benefits of cloud without the security risks associated with public deployments. Because it’s accessed over an internal network or intranet, it’s as secure as the rest of your data. Since you control it and the environment around it (i.e. networks, servers, etc), you can achieve enterprise level SLAs. But you do sacrifice some of the operational cost savings such as physical floor space, power, and cooling. Unless you are leveraging a managed service you are also subject to management overhead. 
          I believe that private deployment model is most appealing in near-term for organizations as it eliminates 2 biggest hurdle of cloud adoption – security and performance. After all, the cloud infrastructure is right inside organization’s data centre. A scaling storage platform like the HDS Virtualized Storage Platform (VSP) is a key element in successful private cloud deployment for storage.
          Now let’s take a look at the hybrid or trusted cloud, which we will define as infrastructure that resides at a trusted service provider. In this case, access is limited to appropriate resources at your organization and delivered over a virtual private network or secure internet connection. Since the infrastructure is out of the organization’s direct control, service levels could be impacted by external factors. Customers also need to think about the physical security of the environment, which is why it’s important to understand the service provider’s process and requirements around physical access. 
          Lastly, the public cloud can be described similarly to the hybrid, except that there is usually more general access over the internet providing limited security. Many public cloud offerings are very inexpensive or sometimes free and SLAs are generally not guaranteed or measured differently than how an enterprise measures their SLAs. Additionally, value added services and features such as encryption, compression, backup, tiering and replication are not available from public providers as they are from private or hybrid cloud providers. 
          What Makes A Cloud?
          Regardless of the type of cloud, there are some key features every cloud platform should have. Foremost, is a secure, direct connection to get data into the cloud, such as a REST interface or an on-ramp to connect applications to the cloud without requiring application recoding. There also needs to be multi-tenancy capabilities to logically segregate the data, so that SLAs can be assigned to specific data types or applications. The cloud should also have namespaces with access rights and security layers to prevent unauthorized access. Look for a scalable, multi-tenant object store which has REST interface, with value added features like compression and single instancing to improve cost savings, encryption to provide greater security and billing and chargeback for organizations or service providers that wish to bill each business unit or organization based on consumption. 
          Given some of the trade-offs between the various cloud deployment models, how do you identify the most appropriate candidates for deployment? Well, to start with, use a phased approach. There’s no need to jump into the deep end without at least dipping a toe in to check the temperature. Start by identifying the data in your environment that generally has lower business value and lower SLA requirements. For example think of data types like home directory shares, static data or backup content that can be moved from on-site “primary” to cloud “secondary” storage. 
          You can get immediate cost savings by moving this peripheral data –data that doesn’t require active management or constant read/write access to the cloud. Why pay such high administrative and management overhead for this non-business critical data? This helps in a couple of other ways. First, it frees up resources to focus on the core business applications, improving operational efficiency and utilization of your existing assets. Next, it allows your organization to gain experience and develop best practices for cloud deployments. Lastly, it allows you to move toward your core, tier 1 applications at your own pace.
          A private file-tiering solution could help you tier the inactive data off to cloud-storage. The cloud-storage can be inside your data centre, so that you won’t have to worry about security and performance as it is within the company’s firewall. 
          Organizations need IT agility to maintain their edge in today’s competitive market. To achieve this, cloud promises an on-demand service model that can support your business needs today, while providing a solid foundation for the data center of the future.
          Sunil brings more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry working in different Enterprise Sales & Marketing capacities and developing business in New Economy Growth Markets across Asia. Prior to joining Hitachi, Sunil worked with Oracle to develop the SMB business in ASEAN region. Sunil has worked with Interwoven Inc, a leading Enterprise Content Management company as Regional Manager for South Asia. During this tenure, he developed business for Interwoven in India. He was then promoted as Country Manager for India Operation. Before Interwoven, Sunil worked with Mphasis Software (EDS Group Company) as Regional Manager for South Asia. Sunil has worked extensively in FSI, Telco and Airline verticals in the region. He has deep experience in Enterprise wide content management strategy implementation.

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