Ask the IT Consultant

Feb 4 2012   10:30AM GMT

Cloud Use Cases – Making the cloud work for you!

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question:  My company is exploring building a private cloud.  What uses that will best leverage my cloud infrastructure investment?

The magic of the cloud is that it can do anything.  It is both robust and flexible, the best of both worlds.  Ok, I admit that I have been spending far too much time reading cloud marketing materials lately.  Now back to reality.  Yes, the cloud is highly flexible and it can do almost anything, but if you want to get the most out of your private cloud investment, you need to pay attention to the underlying hardware as I discussed previously, and you need to define what you are planning on using it for by creating and testing use cases.

Use case planning seems counter-intuitive.  After all you can sign up for a web server with Amazon in about 5 minutes.  Amazon does not know what you are planning on doing with it.  Wrong.  Amazon’s product management department spends plenty of time figuring out exactly what would be attractive to their typical customer and honing the service to deliver it.  For the enterprise, the planning process is no different, but instead of planning for an external paying customer, for example, the use could be for internal application developers or a web portal.

To give you an idea of how this works, let us say, you are planning on using the cloud for the company’s E-commerce website.  This means that you will need to plan for applications that will support thousands of sessions per second, variable workloads and lots of complex and changing data.  By identifying the key metrics such as number of concurrent transactions per second, size of database, etc. you can then build a method for testing your assumptions.

To get the conversation started here is a short list of possible use cases for a private cloud.  Over the next few weeks I will be digging deeper into how to leverage the cloud model in the enterprise.

Archive storage — Many companies have moved to keeping their archives on line instead of on backup tape for many excellent reasons.  Using SAN or near-line storage is still expensive.  Cloud object or block storage is an attractive alternative because of its optimized approach to high availability.  It also scales nicely as archives grow over time.

Federated hypervisor/VM management – This is one of the main reasons that the enterprise is interested in the cloud in the first place – any server, any service, any time.  Adding self-service, charge back and transparent delivery of the right resources from a federated pool can be very cost effective.  Look for a cloud that provides cross platform hypervisor support and robust VM management tools.

Development and test – One of the best use cases for an enterprise cloud is a shared development and test environment.  Self-service is essential, but the private version allows much more control on resource use by using a rules based delivery model to optimize IT investments.  Creating an enterprise PaaS environment is also desirable because it allows better integration across applications and more standardized application development.

Application spaghetti rationalization – An enterprise cloud delivers better application portfolio management and more efficient deployment by leveraging self-service features, rules for deployments based on types of use.

Web services, portals and e-commerce – Web services of all sorts are a natural for the enterprise cloud.  They are well suited to being able to take advantage of the inherent elasticity and automated workload based provisioning and deployment capabilities.

VDI Support – VDI is another natural for an enterprise cloud.  VDI is often used to better maintain control over workers’ compute environments, but the workloads are inherently highly variable, which is an excellent reason for implementing such systems on the cloud.  An obvious extension is mobile application support which is a growing part of the enterprise service portfolio.

Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity — Again the cheap storage and VM management makes a good case for using the cloud as a secondary site.  The public cloud is already heavily used for these purposes, but moving the function in-house could be cost effective for a very large enterprise.

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Cloud Technology Partners, Inc.  Transforming Businesses with Cloud Solutions

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