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Measure Twice…Cut Once: How to Avoid the Cloud Factory Default Button

This is one of those old woodworking adages that really applies when you are starting the process to build out your own private cloud. What does this mean and how does it apply today? Well, I can remember all too well my junior high school shop teacher repeating this over and over again to us as students. I think he told us measure twice, cut once almost as many times as he told us to remember to take the key out of the chuck in the drill press or to stop drag racing with the belt sanders. I can also remember telling my shop teacher it was a whole lot more fun to crank up the table saw and start cutting than to use a tape measure.

Well this same thing applies today in IT. The point is to plan properly or you will end up buying more wood for your project, ultimately wasting a lot of time and money. Without a blueprint how could you build a house? Would you build a shed in your backyard without a plan? Technologists love to rip open the box and start installing things; often times the first thing that gets set aside are the instructions or the manual. You often hear people saying “instructions, who needs instructions, toss them out.” We are all guilty of this, even at home. We get a new gadget and the first thing we do is to power it up and start playing. Why, because it’s more fun! How often do you end up starting over and referring to the instructions? This is why there’s a factory default button on so many technology products.

Well guess what? There isn’t a factory default button for your cloud! For that matter, this same principal applies to a lot of large scale projects: VDI, Active Directory, email, networking and unified communications. I think this is why we are seeing so much more talk about Converged Infrastructure from companies like VCE and HP. They do a lot of the planning, testing and design validation for you. This lets customers focus on the parts that are important to the business.

Proper planning is the most critical aspect when it comes to building your private cloud. In fact, we typically recommend spending a majority of the time in this phase of the project. This will avoid that inevitable press of the factory default button. I know that I have been called into projects many times when things start to go south. When you start to dig in you often find that proper requirements, such as gathering and planning, may not have been done. Requirements gathering gives you and your team something to work toward and keeps the project on track.

Take storage for example; this has a significant impact on performance and scalability when planning for both VDI and a cloud. Determining IOPS, the read/write ratio, and RAID level can have a huge impact on performance and available storage. I recently had a customer that had planned for a very moderate Read to Write ratio of 70% Read and 30% Write and only 10 IOPS per desktop. As it turned out, the applications they were using required a much more substantial 30% Read and 70% Write ratio and about 55 IOPS per desktop.

The results of this were catastrophic; the storage design had to be completely re-architected at a substantial cost to the project. The negative impact to the project and the perception to the end users were very difficult to overcome in the end. Once a user experiences something negative, such as poor performance within their applications or desktop, it often becomes very difficult to overcome the perception the users have to satisfy their needs.

Vendors put together a tremendous amount of information such as white papers, reference architectures and best practices. These documents should be read with caution; it is not a one size fits all solution for everyone. Often your consulting partners have firsthand experience and can bring an enormous amount of “lessons learned” in the field to the table.

Although it may be more fun to rip the boxes open and jump right in, proper planning and requirements gathering is key to the success of your project and will help you avoid having to press that factory default button.

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