Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Ed Featherston, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, William Schmarzo

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Five Capacity Management Challenges for Private Clouds

Capacity management enables cloud operators to maximize compute cycles delivered to a customer at the lowest possible cost

Organizations that are seeking to deploy cloud-based business models for their infrastructure face unique capacity management challenges. This article will review these challenges to enable cloud providers, either public or private, to avoid the pitfalls of improper capacity management.  While the article discusses both types of clouds, the needs of private cloud providers will be especially highlighted due to the unique challenges they face with this business model.

IT Becomes a Business within a Business
For years, we have been hearing "IT must behave more like a business." A hypervisor's ability to deliver utility computing moves this vision closer to reality. Using hypervisors to deploy an infrastructure cloud fundamentally changes the relationship between IT and their customers. Application portability combined with competing cloud offerings from companies like Amazon change the dynamic between application owners and corporate IT. If end users can't explicitly move their applications between cloud providers, they can at least compare prices and service levels between providers. Right or wrong, Amazon S3 becomes a measuring stick in price, performance and service for IT organizations.

To deliver an Amazon S3 experience requires significant retooling in IT processes. Capacity management is one of the areas requiring retooling. Virtualization alone causes changes to capacity management (for more information, see http://www.vkernel.com/solutions/capacity-planning). But virtualization deployed as an infrastructure cloud adds nuances to the capacity management problem. Capacity management for cloud providers is unique for the following five reasons:

  • Capacity monitoring in addition to planning
  • Chargeback is mandatory
  • Efficiency drives return on assets
  • Tenant reporting requirements are unique
  • Optimization is a value add

Variable Demand Drives Criticality of Capacity Monitoring
Cloud deployments of virtualization technology introduce many operational changes for IT administrators. The first is a change in the amount of control IT has over the loads deployed on their hardware. With cloud deployments, either public or private, end users deploy applications using self-service portals as they see fit, load them as they desire and consume resources at whatever pace they need.

Hence, unlike the careful P2V sizing process undertaken for the first wave of virtualization where applications are sized, scheduled and deployed in a methodical manner, clouds have no careful sizing or timing that the cloud operator is aware of. Applications of unknown sizes appear, consume resources, and may just as quickly disappear. Without adequate capacity, these applications will fail to perform to customer expectations. Without real-time capacity monitoring, application deployment can dramatically impact other applications.

Hence capacity planning, a well-thought-out process for making sure there is sufficient capacity en masse, must be supplemented with capacity monitoring. Capacity monitoring is a real-time process that takes raw performance and utilization data and transforms it into actionable information concerning system-level capacity requirements. Without capacity monitoring, system administrators are left to interpret real-time utilization metrics from individual virtual machines. VKernel's research has shown that properly monitoring capacity in real time involves collecting over 20 metrics per VM at least 10 times per hour, and keeping this information for at least 30 days. A 100 VM environment would require about 17 million data points to accurately monitor capacity in the environment. This capacity monitoring, however, is a must-have to augment standard capacity planning and prevent performance issues from impacting the cloud.

Chargeback Matters
For any cloud where resources can be deployed in a self-service fashion, charging back for resources becomes a necessity. Without a method to chargeback or show back, self-service clouds would quickly find themselves at capacity since resources are essentially free.

But chargeback is a tricky area. For commercial cloud and private cloud operators, charging back for allocated resources is fairly straightforward. But, since the private chargeback operator is simply shifting costs insides the company and not impacting the bottom line, the motivations for chargeback are different. The public cloud operator is indifferent to allocated resources and utilized resources. If the public cloud operator is charging for an allocated resource pool, they make money. In fact, the higher the ratio between allocated and utilized, the more over allocation of resources is possible and the higher the profit margins. For private cloud operators, however, the goal is to actually lower the costs for the company. Hence, the private cloud operator wants the allocated resource usage to be very close to actual usage to drive resource efficiency. Highlighting the difference between actual resource usage and allocated resource usage shows internal business units the amount of corporate resources they are wasting. This motivation can then be used to right size environments and reduce overall IT spend.

While chargeback is important, cloud operators need to be mindful of what they charge. For public operators, there are competitive pressures. For private operators, charging provides a way to directly compare internal IT costs vs. external costs such as Amazon.

Is a simple $/CPU comparison between internal clouds and Amazon a fair comparison? Does Amazon contain the same level of compliance? Of control? Is the company comfortable with data outside the company firewall?

More important, chargeback for private cloud operators is primarily a means to minimize the difference between allocated and utilized resources to drive up efficiencies and VM densities. Chargeback or showback becomes a control mechanism as opposed to an actual financial transfer mechanism. Hence the rate of chargeback is not as important as the difference between allocated and actual usage.

Even here, the challenges for private cloud operators are greater. Let's assume a private cloud operator hosts 200 internal customers. Assume each of these internal customers is wasting 50% of their resource allocation. On an individual basis, the absolute value of the wasted resources may be insignificant. But across all 200 customers, the magnitude of the IT spend could be quite large. The greater good theory for IT would require that IT actually reduce resource usage for all the internal customers to claim additional savings for the company despite what the internal customers want. Private cloud operators must operate not only for their internal customers' needs, but also for the company's needs.

Setting rates for chargeback is the final tricky area for cloud operators. For a public cloud operator, the rate needs to be competitive, provide some profit margin and match customer's value. Easy enough. But what about private cloud operators? Once again, being a private operator makes things difficult. What are the rates for chargeback for a private cloud operator? Is the goal to set rates to make an internal profit when 50% of the VMs slots are filled? 75%? But if the internal cost center is making a profit, is that the right thing to do from a budgeting standpoint? Is the goal cost reclamation or efficiency?

The net of this is that for cloud operators, chargeback is critical. For private cloud operators, chargeback's purpose needs to be clearly defined to align IT not only with their customer's goals, but also the broader corporate goals.

Capacity Planning Impacts Revenue and Cost
Customers expecting to use a cloud service have high expectations with regards to time to deploy a service. For public clouds, this expectation will be a nearly instant deployment after the service request. Private cloud operators may not have quite an instantaneous expectation for their customers. Either way, the "acceptable" wait time of several weeks to deploy a new server is gone. Immediate is the word, not days.

To enable this immediate capability, sufficient capacity must be on hand to deploy new virtual machines based on both steady state and unexpected increases in demands. To meet this accelerated time duration, a high degree of capacity planning must take place to predict future capacity needs ahead of demand and allow for the slower process of procuring and installing physical servers, networks and storage.

It's easy to meet rapid deployment expectations by over procuring hardware. The danger here is that over procurement impacts cash flows and profitability for a cloud. Having large amounts of depreciating assets sitting around is not a sound business strategy. If these assets are plugged in and configured, the added power costs worsen an already bad situation. Under procuring hardware is just as bad since cloud operators will be unable to meet customer needs should their systems not have available capacity. Hence the goal is to have a solid understanding of consumption and then apply a safety factor to allow for unexpected demand.

Understanding capacity needs across the entire IT infrastructure is important. But it's just as important to understand where there are available VM slots for the best placement of VMs from a performance and a capacity standpoint. Utilizing available VM slot reporting ensures the performance of the running VMs and increases the VM density per host, which is critical to achieving a high return on assets.

Capacity planning is critical to cloud operators to generate a high return on assets while also meeting customer demand for near instantaneous deployment requests.

Tenant Reporting
With a standard virtualized environment, the IT organization may report on environment status to a few senior IT leaders. Not so with an infrastructure cloud. For public clouds and private clouds, there is a greater expectation of visibility into the environment. Reporting for cloud tenants could involve availability, resource allocation, resource utilization, current charges, and pricing plan. The amount of information revealed to a customer could depend on the business philosophy or type of cloud. For a private cloud, revealing differences between allocated resources and utilized resources and the savings a customer could achieve by reducing their resources allocation makes sense for a company trying to save money. For a public cloud provider, however, suggesting ways to reduce resource allocations may not be in the provider's interest.

Beyond questions around what type of information to provide is the manner in which information is provided. For public cloud operators, online portals are most likely the reporting distribution mechanism of choice. For private clouds, however, information needs to flow seamlessly into the enterprises existing reporting infrastructure. This could involve connections with SharePoint, with IT service management frameworks, internal portals, or simple email distribution of reports on an ongoing basis.

Optimization Is a Value Add
Many times, when virtual machines are first deployed, they are over allocated CPU, memory and storage. In a cloud deployment, this over allocation does not cost the cloud operator revenue. In fact, just the opposite occurs. The cloud operator deploys the requested resources, but despite not being used, the cloud operator still collects the revenue. As discussed earlier, the cloud operator can decide whether to reveal this to the tenant or not.

While the cloud operator may not care about wasted resources to an application, the end customer does as does the firm's CFO. Decreasing requested CPU, memory and storage reduces monthly tenant costs. Hence, optimization becomes an optional value-add service for the provider to offer tenants to reduce spending. This would be the equivalent of your cell phone company contacting you to suggest a lower monthly plan. While it lowers the monthly revenue of the cloud operator, it dramatically improves customer loyalty.

Conclusion
Because of the increased need for chargeback, monitoring, capacity planning, and reporting, capacity management takes on added urgency for cloud operators. Capacity management performed correctly enables cloud operators to maximize compute cycles delivered to a customer at the lowest possible cost and, thus, capacity management is a key building block for any cloud implementation.

More Stories By Bryan Semple

Bryan Semple is Chief Marketing Officer at VKernel. A 15+ year high-tech veteran, he has spent the last 8 years working in server and storage companies focused on virtualization technologies. He comes to VKernel from NetApp where he was the general manager of the storage virtualization business unit. Under his leadership, the group experienced record growth, expanded engineering operations to India, and built global awareness for NetApp’s industry leading storage virtualization solutions.

Prior to NetApp, Bryan was VP of Marketing at Onaro where he established the company as a leader in storage management software and built the marketing processes that supported the company’s profitability and successful acquisition by NetApp in 2008. Before Onaro, he was the VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at server blade virtualization pioneer Egenera. At Egenera, he worked with early adopters of infrastructure and server virtualization technologies in the financial services industry as the company scaled from one to several hundred customers.

Bryan holds a BS in Systems Engineering from the US Naval Academy and an MBA from Stanford University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, will compare the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, e...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
Whether they’re located in a public, private, or hybrid cloud environment, cloud technologies are constantly evolving. While the innovation is exciting, the end mission of delivering business value and rapidly producing incremental product features is paramount. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Kiran Chitturi, CTO Architect at Sungard AS, will discuss DevOps culture, its evolution of frameworks and technologies, and how it is achieving maturity. He will also cover various st...
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Niagara Networks will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The bedrock of Secure Channels Technology is a uniquely modified and enhanced process based on superencipherment. Superencipherment is the process of encrypting an already encrypted message one or more times, either using the same or a different algorithm.
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
If you had a chance to enter on the ground level of the largest e-commerce market in the world – would you? China is the world’s most populated country with the second largest economy and the world’s fastest growing market. It is estimated that by 2018 the Chinese market will be reaching over $30 billion in gaming revenue alone. Admittedly for a foreign company, doing business in China can be challenging. Often changing laws, administrative regulations and the often inscrutable Chinese Interne...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration, and management solutions, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...
Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco, described how to scale cloud-based content management repositories to store, manage, and retrieve billions of documents and related information with fast and linear scalability. He addres...
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the protocols that communicate data and the emerging data analy...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
We’ve been doing it for years, decades for some. How many websites have you created accounts on? Your bank, your credit card companies, social media sites, hotels and travel sites, online shopping sites, and that’s just the start. We do it often without even thinking about it, quickly entering our personal information, our data, in a plethora of systems. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the information we are providing. It could be very personal information (think of the security questions you ...