The question of whether you should be in the cloud or not, in some capacity, should be a forgone conclusion at this point. There is value to be had in the cloud for all businesses, whether big or small. Most businesses are probably already using the cloud in some manner, even if it is just through the use of a storage service like Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive.
The next question then became whether you should build a private cloud or use a public cloud, such as those offered by Amazon, Google and the like. This question came down to size and cost considerations, as well as how much staff you had to support such an undertaking. It makes a whole lot of sense for smaller organizations to go the public route, but what if you are a large organization that has decided to make the jump into building your own private cloud? Where do you go from the decision to do so?
I see lots of organizations that have made this decision and the result is the sudden spin up of multiple projects, by multiple internal organizations, to produce proof of concept deployments meeting their individual needs. What I don’t see a whole lot of are companies coming together, defining the real need, defining the standards they want to follow, defining an architecture to use for guidance, and then…and only then…beginning proof of concept on a deployment that will meet the needs of the greater organization. If you want to do this correctly this is the path you need to follow.
First, make sure you understand the need. Are you looking to deploy an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model for your internal customers, external customers or both? If you are tired of a long drawn out process where you using up valuable resources setting up servers or VMs for your internal customers to do with as they please, or are looking to provide this type of service to your external customers, then this is your route.
However, is that ALL you want to support? If it is there are many good turnkey, vendor developed and supported cloud solutions available out there that offer a converged infrastructure and management software on the market that will serve you well. If you are looking to move beyond this to Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, then the same solutions will likely continue to support you more than adequately. But, do you also want to move into Network Function Virtualization (NFV) where you want to deploy routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, etc into your cloud that will function as part of your network OUTSIDE the cloud? In this case you may want to go to more of an open cloud architecture utilizing commodity hardware and something like OpenStack. To make these decisions you MUST understand what you want to do with the cloud, or you will end up deploying multiple clouds, with multiple technologies, and see skyrocketing costs for maintaining and managing it all.
Once you understand your need…REALLY understand your need…you need to make decisions on standards, technologies, and architectures you want to use as guidance. Notice I did not say vendors. That is for a later step. Do you want to go with an open source approach? If you are going the NFV route you most likely want to focus on the work done by ETSI on NFV and the emerging work done by OPNFV on defining a reference architecture for this space. Once you have researched the standards and technologies required to support your needs you can safely settle on the architecture that best fits your specific situation. If you have followed the steps this far you are well on the way to cloud success.
Lastly, you use all of the above information to produce an RFP for vendor selection. The key here is make sure you define your need, then work toward the architecture to support that need, THEN work on picking a vendor. Don’t jump straight to a vendor, no matter how sure you are they are the right fit, until you have done so. This process shouldn’t take very long, and if it does take a long time…well, that just drives home the point of how much you needed to follow through on those steps. Take this seriously and cloud success is yours!