Private cloud capacity planning – getting it right
Cloud computing has brought many benefits to organizations since its inception, and very much changed the way that business operates – thanks to cloud we are now able to be more flexible, more agile, more mobile and more productive. However, cloud is not a cure-all – it does not mean that you are simply blessed with unlimited computing and storage resources – which is where capacity management becomes important.
In my last blog I wrote about how when it comes to digital transformation it is essential to be proactive. It is a strategic issue that affects an entire organization, so you must plan properly and be prepared for all eventualities. It is the same when it comes to capacity planning. Capacity planning is primarily an issue for the IT department but affects everyone within the business. It is about having sufficient hardware space to suit need, but with virtualization, virtual CPU and VRAM all in the mix it’ can be hard to plan and hard to manage. Which creates a bad image for the IT department.
Capacity planning is central to any organization ensuring that it has sufficient computing, storage and network resources available to the business, as and when needed, and at the optimum cost possible. And capacity management only comes into the picture when discussing private cloud, since the private cloud is that which an organization must manage for itself or with an outsourced cloud provider; public cloud capacity is an oxymoronic concept since in public cloud you are essentially buying a commodity or utility – you don’t need to know how much electricity or water your utility companies have to offer, you only care that that you have the supply when you need it and available to you.
Capacity planning is vital because the challenges an organization faces shift and change all the time; there are spikes in demand for bandwidth occurring constantly, whether based around particularly busy dates of the year or specific events, product launches, marketing pushes and the like. This makes it important to monitor usage patterns and factor them into your capacity planning. Nobody wants the scenario where your private cloud has run out of capacity ahead of a major event or busy period. Plus this of course means you not only run out of capacity but likely also budget and your projects will fail.
How do we get capacity planning right?
There are lot of automation tools for provisioning and orchestration of cloud such as BMC, CA, HP, CiRBA, VMTurbo, VMWare and more. These orchestration tools can help with cloud capacity planning. However, with any one of these state of the art capacity management tools you also need good processes in place to do capacity planning properly. A combination of automated tools and ITIL-aligned processes (governance) can be very useful for cloud computing resource availability and cost efficiency. So like all good things to do with cloud computing, the best way forward is to put processes and policies in place to keep your private cloud on track. And process starts with understanding your business requirements.
Begin by analysing historic resource utilization and use it to understand and forecast future business requirements. This means going through the entire Business Support System (BSS) from top to bottom, right through your product management, customer management, revenue and order management, track patterns and leverage that data. Similarly you should discuss with other departments and business units about their forthcoming need; what projects are underway, what projects are in the pipeline, what are likely periods of high customer demand and expectation and so on; then take this information and convert it into IT requirements and lay out your capacity plan.
Establishing this process also means monitoring and managing your usage policy to plan for how much additional hardware or bandwidth you will need down the line. Having the right process in place gives you leeway; if for example your capacity usage has reached 60 percent then you should order more hardware. If your utilization is up around 70 percent then it is time to order more bandwidth. Your policy should also take into account how long it can take for that new hardware or bandwidth to be delivered.
Other important elements of your capacity planning exercise include having an exception policy in place – there may be times when your organization needs a sharp rise in capacity, say a 25 percent increase over the very short, urgent space of time. So if you have an outsourced partner managing your private cloud you need the exception policy to cover this kind of eventuality – in fact it should form part of your SLA with your provider. Also, do not forget to have a process in place to understand when the capacity frees up and how to redeploy this freed up capacity.
When low cost resources are available usage will explode, so be prepared for that explosion. You need to have process and tools in place and take advantage of cloud computing to bring agility, innovation and digital transformation to your organization. Ultimately capacity planning is all about ensuring the smooth, ongoing running of the business and not wasting resources and money. Get your capacity planning process right at the beginning and you can enjoy delivering your IT services in the most efficient, cost-effective manner.
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