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Cloudy with a Chance of ITIL

Implementation and management of your private cloud will be easier and much more efficient

Deploying a private cloud can be a daunting project to take on. But when you do, following Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices can better prepare you for moving toward the cloud.

The following are five examples of how ITIL can improve your cloud deployment.

Service Catalog: Service Catalog is a way to define the services that your users consume. Simply creating IaaS/PaaS virtual images does not necessarily mean that you have a service catalog for your cloud. Through the service catalog for your cloud, you define key attributes of those IaaS/PaaS images, such as how virtual machines are to be provisioned, how to request support; what are the key process documents, SLAs (time to create, uptime and support), and FAQs; and how backup/disaster recovery are handled. If possible, make your cloud Service Catalog actionable by using a standard shopping cart engine, allowing the users to select the IaaS/PaaS images, the level of support services, backup services, and add-on packages. Fully automate most, if not all, of your provisioning processes.

Change Management: Cloud computing provides an abstract layer for allowing users to obtain computing resources quickly through automation. Behind the scenes of any cloud is a complex mashup of servers, network devices, SAN devices, and virtualization and automation software. Because a team of skilled individuals manages the cloud, it is critical that all changes to any portion of the cloud follow an established approval process and that all changes be documented correctly no matter how simple or small the change is. The change management system must inform all support staff associated with the cloud and should provide an impact analysis and fallback plans. Failure to do so can lead to unnecessary downtime, wasted system admin debug time and missed SLAs.

Configuration Management Database: The CMDB is a key component of change management and is where all changes should be tracked. It is extremely important that all Configuration Items (CIs) in the CMDB be controlled and audited to ensure compliance and accuracy. The CMDB should also store the relationship between assets such as servers, power switches, SANs and network devices so that IT staff members understand the impact to changes that are being made in the cloud.

Also, when provisioning virtual machines (VM), your cloud should automatically add the VMs into your CMDB along with key configuration items that you want to track with the relationship to the VM and host. Adding basic user information to the CMDB improves end-user communication because the users can be informed if there are pending changes to the hosts where their VMs reside or if there are issues with their VMs. Figure 1 shows how the CMDB is updated through your cloud change management process. Continual service Improvement is another key component of ITIL, so don't forget to review the impact of your changes whether they're successful or not.

Capacity Management: Automation in the cloud is what drives users to continue to provision resources on-demand. This means that IT needs to do a better job of capacity management to determine the elasticity of their cloud and to ensure that they have capacity on hand for growth - including servers, processors, memory, SAN storage, SAN bandwidth, network bandwidth and power. Use data analytical tools to predict your growth, to understand peak pattern windows such as product development cycles or business cycles, and to provide visibility into how your resources are being consumed.

Life Cycle Management: If you don't control the life cycle management of your cloud, you will eventually run into a virtualization sprawl problem. IT needs to manage virtual machines from creation to deletion. Generally, deletion does not mean that the virtual machine is completely removed, but rather that it has been archived and can be brought back later. Never delete anything from your CMDB; simply mark it as "retired."

An effective way to manage virtualization sprawl is to set up renewals for virtual machines as part of your service catalog. Require users to renew their virtual machines at set intervals with justifications. If a user doesn't renew their virtual machine, automatically archive and retire the virtual machine so that the resources can go back into the cloud. Effective life cycle management can optimize cost, improve capacity management and make the cloud more responsive to dynamically changing business requirements by getting the right resources to the right projects at the right time. Figure 2 shows a simple workflow for cloud life cycle management.

Focusing on these valuable ITIL best practices can go a long way towards ensuring a successful private cloud deployment. Don't just stop at these five practices, though. Look to incorporate all potentially relevant ITIL processes into your cloud and look for ways to automate those processes. If you do, implementation and management of your private cloud will be easier and much more efficient.

More Stories By James Monek

James Monek is a Solution Architect at Unisys Corp. He has more than 18 years of experience in IT, focusing on Web 2.0, consolidation, modernization, virtualization and cloud computing. James earned a BS degree from University of Dayton and an MBA from Saint Joseph's University.

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