Do you remember the Star Trek movie from the ‘80s – Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan? At the end of the movie, in an attempt to finish off Captain Kirk and his crew, Khan sets off the Genesis Device, a machine that can terraform dead planets. After the explosion, a new planet takes shape; land, water, atmosphere and, yes, clouds, are created. I am struck by the fact that in real life, cloud appliances are often hyped up to play a similar role: drop in a cloud appliance and presto – instant cloud. Were it only so easy!
In the movie, Spock and McCoy debate whether the Genesis Device brings creation or destruction. Spock notes that using it on a planet where life already exists “would destroy all such life in favor of its new matrix.” In a very similar vein, the challenge when building a cloud in your data center is to avoid breaking what you already have.
Leveraging a cloud appliance to build your private cloud is an excellent first step. A pre-configured, pre-installed cloud management environment can simplify the initial implementation and transition. You need to ensure, however, your newly formed cloud can communicate with and is integrated into your existing infrastructure. If not, you may end up with two completely separate environments to manage and run when your original goal was to simplify your data center management and lower associated costs.
There are several areas where your cloud should be integrated with your current environment. For example, can your new “cloud-in-a box” manage existing resources equally well or does it only manage the resources that came with it? From a security perspective, make sure it meshes well with your existing identity and access management environment. A nice plus would be if it provides a “single sign-on” capability avoiding the necessity of having to log in multiple times. Does it integrate well into your existing ITIL processes and ITSM systems? These are key areas where your cloud appliance should really be more than just a “black box”. Ensuring a good fit between your cloud and your data center requires proper upfront planning, else you may end up creating a de facto island in your data center.
It would be nice if a cloud would automatically come into being, fully functional and completely integrated at the press of a button. Unlike in the movies, however, it takes a bit more than that. When you choose your cloud appliance, make sure your new infrastructure meshes well with your existing environment. And recognize that it isn’t just about the appliance. Choosing the right partner who can help you integrate that environment and guide you around any potential pitfalls is just as important as choosing the right appliance.