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HP Software's community for IT leaders // April 2012

Optimize your operations for the cloud in five easy steps

You’ve either built your enterprise’s first cloud, or it’s on your horizon. But without the proper foundation, you won’t reap the benefits.
When the business requests a new service, there’s almost always a sense of urgency: They want that service in hours, not six months down the road. Building a private cloud is one way to respond to business needs faster. Imagine: You could build a simple self-service portal where people could go to provision services with the click of a mouse. From that point on, service provisioning would be automatic and fast, saving substantial time and money.
But that scenario won’t be possible if you haven’t prepped the underlying infrastructure. If your cloud portal is merely window dressing hiding an inefficient infrastructure, launching services will still require manual work from your staff. Whether you’re only now setting up your first private cloud or expanding your hybrid model, follow these steps to ensure your cloud initiative is primed for success.
Standardize and consolidate your environment
You’re probably juggling multiple operating systems and versions, a hodgepodge of software and hardware, and a host of different vendors. This is especially true if you’ve been building out new applications as quickly as possible during the past few years. But there’s tremendous value in standardizing your technology and consolidating the number of vendors you work with and the versions and types of operating systems you employ: less variability in the processes dealing with those tools and people. Less variability saves you time when deploying, maintaining and operating your infrastructure.

Virtualize and automate
You’re probably already virtualizing infrastructure elements like servers and storage. Virtualization and automation are critical to cloud readiness, and while virtualization is common, many enterprises have yet to realize the advantages of automation. Automation makes it easier for IT to better meet business demands for faster delivery while also enforcing best practices and compliance.
The challenge for many organizations is that their automation relies on hundreds or thousands of scripts. There are many problems with using scripts. For starters, if the person who created a script leaves the organization, maintaining and enhancing the script can be difficult. Scripts do not lend to consistency, repeatability and best practices. Replacing manual scripts with an automation tool addresses the issue. The next few steps focus on how to perform automation within the data center.
Baseline your environment
After you’ve virtualized your environment, a baselining initiative helps establish processes and best practices across all your data centers. You’ll evaluate the required configurations, dependencies and resources needed to run your infrastructures and applications successfully. The process will help with audits by defining normal operations. Good baselining will document:

  • Physical and virtual server configurations and resources;
  • Topology of the various elements in the data center highlighting the interdependencies for normal operations;
  • Performance metrics for the network, storage, servers, databases and applications;
  • The utilization rates necessary to deliver the services without performance issues;
  • The use of storage for efficient operations and the amount of storage available;
  • Change policies and how to address different types of changes;
  • Access policies; and
  • Software versions.

Automate tasks
Every server in your environment comes with a long list of tasks throughout the lifecycle, from deployment to retirement. And when you examine each of those tasks, you may see dozens of sub-steps. And that’s just servers; consider all of the storage devices, network devices, and applications in the data center, and you’re looking at an unwieldy list of tasks that consumes a lot of time and energy from your staff.
But having standardized and baselined your environment, you can begin automating tasks. Task automation is the first step in freeing people from routine operations and maintenance activities, letting them focus on managing more complex tasks. Until you automate mundane tasks, you can’t create a true self-serve cloud delivery environment.
Automate processes
After you have identified and automated tasks, you can start to automate the process workflows around them. This is the final step before establishing your cloud. Automating processes involves combining multiple tasks, now automated, into workflows. Automated workflows not only enable faster service setup, but also enforce best practices, eliminate humor error, accelerate the time to market and make it easier to comply with regulations.
Prepare now to save time later
Whatever cloud model you’re deploying—public, private, hybrid, on-premise or off-premise—it will need to be managed efficiently to ensure expected business outcomes. Baselining and automation are key to cloud success. To learn more about getting ready for your next step in the cloud, take HP’s free cloud readiness assessment, and visit the cloud hub.


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