TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Combating the Fear of the Cloud Computing “Unknown”
- Managed Private Cloud 101: Overview and Benefits
- What to look for in a Managed Private Cloud Provider
- How to Successfully Transition to a Managed Private Cloud
“By 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets,” or so predicts leading information technology research and advisory company, Gartner. This decrease in the need for IT hardware stems from an acceleration in the adoption of cloud enabled services, with managed private cloud offerings steadily gaining ground. For companies looking to reap the numerous benefits that public cloud computing affords, but achieve more control, reliability and security, managed private clouds prove to be more than just an IT finance manager’s dream come true.
This white paper explores managed private cloud computing, explains what to look for in a private cloud provider, and provides a case study of one organization’s success in moving their mission critical data from an onsite model to a secure managed private cloud, forever changing the landscape of their business.
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
“The Cloud” has been defined in many different ways over the past few years, which has led to some confusion and uncertainty about internet based computing as a whole. For some CEO’s who have relied on their IT staff to manage the growth and security of their data over the years, there can be an underlying sense of reluctance to embrace a virtual outsource model, particularly with regard to highly secure and regulated data. Take Hospice of the Chesapeake for example. Three years ago, they had thirty-two 9-year old servers onsite at their Annapolis, Maryland facility. They found themselves with unpredictable IT expenses and field equipment upgrade needs far beyond their current environment. They had serious concerns that their aging equipment, continual power failures and outdated IT infrastructure would not be able to respond to the ever changing healthcare environment.Their servers had performance, stability and maintenance issues and they found themselves in need of a cost saving hosting solution that would address these issues and allow them react to their need to deploy field equipment as well as emergency preparedness requirements. The Hospice IT Director spent several months researching and preparing his proposal to upper management that the flexibility, scalability, and affordability of ByteGrid's private cloud offering would not only save time and money but would also allow Hospice to respond to their ever evolving business climate. After several months of research, the creation of a quantitative cost analysis comparing current IT costs to cloud costs, extensive datacenter tours and a thorough evaluation of ByteGrids' past experience hosting HIPAA compliant medical records, Hospice leadership choose to move their data into a managed private cloud environment - a complete change in mindset for the organization. This decision to modernize their network infrastructure to a virtual environment afforded Hospice the consolidation, availability and continuity they required along with the flexibility, portability and scalability that today makes cloud computing a popular go-to option for non profits across the nation.
MANAGED PRIVATE CLOUD 101:
So what exactly IS Managed Private Cloud Computing?
Simply put, cloud hosting is defined as internet based computing whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand. “Public Cloud” is based on this standard cloud model and “Private Cloud” refers to a scalable pool of computing resources dedicated to your business and your business alone. “Managed private cloud” is therefore the cloud infrastructure operated for an organization by a third party provider, basically managed hosting meets cloud computing.
So why private cloud and who benefits from a private cloud model? Private cloud essentially aims to lessen the security and uptime assurance concerns of the public cloud, but also offers some other attractive benefits including greater flexibility and better resource management. In addition, private cloud offers significant time and cost savings and in the case of managed private cloud, peace of mind knowing your mission critical data is in the hands of an experienced, professional Datacenter operator. Using the example of Hospice again… Here you have an organization with very strict privacy laws and concerns regarding patient records, seeking a cost effective yet highly secure data management program that would allow them the flexibility to respond to changes in the healthcare environment. Hospice needed more than just a hosting contract, they needed a technology partner in who was fully committed to their success – someone who would walk them through the migration process and stay with them through the years as they continued to grow. Through private cloud consulting, ByteGrid uncovered their needs and ultimately custom designed an environment for Hospice that allowed them to employ all of their applications (from windows to physicians practice software) in the cloud, giving them predictability, from an expenses standpoint, with highly elastic resources. The complete migration of Hospice’s IT infrastructure into a HIPAA compliant, managed private virtualized environment has allowed them to gain significant efficiencies that have saved the organization immense amounts of time and money.
SELECTING A MANAGED PRIVATE CLOUD PROVIDER
The search for a high quality private cloud provider is not only a quest for a hosting company with a reliable datacenter and the technical know-how to satisfy your hosting needs, its also a search for an innovative, forward thinking systems integrator partner who understands your business, knows how a private cloud can truly benefit your organization, is committed to your company’s success and is looking to the cloud’s future with your business in mind. Ideally, this partner should offer information management consulting services to help you organize your systems and business process workflows so as to make best use of all that a private cloud has to offer.
Another important quality your provider should possess is strong industry partnerships. These partnerships are a key component to your success as they are the backbone of the cloud offering. Look for a provider with strong relationships with companies like Dell and VMWare, knowing that these partners will become your partners as well.
Lastly, remember that a key word here is “managed.” All of the resources in your private cloud should be fully managed by your provider freeing you of that burden. The ultimate goal here is to relieve your self of costly and time consuming IT concerns allowing you to focus on your core business.
HOW TO TRANSITION TO A MANAGED PRIVATE CLOUD MODEL
One of the most important aspects of any move to a cloud infrastructure is the actual move itself. While certain tools are available to service providers to ease the migration burden, the appropriate application of these tools is the most important element in terms of a successful end result. Below are important considerations to address before migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure.
How is your current infrastructure working for you? Beyond the typical capacity based assumptions like “my systems would be better with more RAM, CPU, faster storage,” is your environment setup correctly for the role that it must play in your organization? If you are not satisfied with your current architecture, chances are you will be dissatisfied with your systems as they function in the cloud as well. This is a common mistake that organizations make when moving to the cloud. A forklift approach to migration, while it may be the easiest, is really just throwing more resources at the problem.
If your organization is in the above group, the good thing is that migration time is the perfect time to slow down and take an objective look at your current solution, identify the weak points and make addressing these deficiencies part of your migration plan. This is where your managed private cloud provider comes into the picture. The provider must not only understand the intricacies of your existing solution, but also understand how to extract the maximum operational efficiency of your new infrastructure.
In the case of Hospice of the Chesapeake, ByteGrid carefully reviewed the existing infrastructure and worked with the Hospice IT staff to identify those systems that should be simply converted to VMware servers and those that should be built up from scratch on an entirely new build with manual data migration. As the Hospice and ByteGrid IT staffs worked over the existing solution, it became evident that to achieve the expected performance levels for their “LAN in the Cloud,” a massive overhaul would be needed. To achieve this, a two month, multi-staged move was initiated. First, migration of their existing systems was completed using VMware’s conversion tools. Once, the infrastructure was up and running the second stage was initiated. Ninety percent of their servers were then rebuilt in the new cloud environment, using the latest 64-bit architecture operating systems.
The result of the migration was an efficient, reliable system that moved Hospice’s entire mission critical infrastructure to an environment well suited to serve patients and physicians. This put ByteGrid right by the bedside with the clinicians as an important enhancement to patient care.
In summary, with more and more companies seeking the high level security, reliable backup and scalable bandwidth that private cloud hosting affords, it’s clear that managed private cloud offerings, with their added bonus of IT administration, will continue to be a highly desirable hosting solution. For many businesses and organizations, a shift in mindset must occur taking them from the old way of personally managing their IT assets to a new streamlined outsourced model. But once the migration has begun, businesses can turn their attention back to that which they do best – run their business. Companies must exercise caution when selecting a managed cloud provider, looking for a partner rather than a contract, and they should seek a provider with strong industry contacts and thorough knowledge of the IT pipeline. A good managed private cloud provider anticipates your IT needs, makes recommendations on your behalf and is fully committed to your company’s overall success. Cloud hosting specialists such as Annapolis-based ByteGrid, that serve as private cloud consultants guiding clients every step of the way, help make the transition to a managed private cloud a seamless cost and time saving, forward-thinking IT decision that can have a significant impact on the future of your business.