4 tips for making the leap to unified computing

Alaska’s Enterprise Technology Services has launched a private cloud based on a unified computing platform to provide shared services to state agencies and improve services to its citizens.

ETS is using the FlexPod platform, composed of Cisco’s Unified Computing System, VMware virtualization software and NetApp’s storage devices. Cisco’s UCS is a unified data center offering blade servers, networking and storage as well as management in a single box.

Their goal is to eliminate redundant devices and layers of management complexity, said Corey Kos, Alaska’s enterprise architect, who oversaw the deployment. Kos pointed out four migration hurdles his team encountered in implementing Cisco’s UCS.

1) Culture matters

Even though ETS merged network and server personnel, it still took time for them to mesh and work well together. The Cisco UCS platform is already enabled, but there is still the human factor, he noted. “It took time to work through it, to figure out the new unified world,” Kos said.

2) Education Is imperative

Kos acknowledges that he should have done a better job of helping his customers, the IT personnel in the other state departments, understand what ETS was trying to accomplish. “You have the black box factor, a unified thing running in the data center. It’s just rocking along.” But engineers in other departments with their own IT don'’t always understand or trust the new unified system. So Kos has changed tactics, “peeling back the design” and explaining how the system works and why it is being deployed.

3) Plan for the multi-tenant model

Make sure you plan and engineer for every scenario you can think of as you’re setting up a multi-tenant environment, Kos advises. Consider not only what customers are coming into the environment but what type of services they bring with them. Networking was the area that took the biggest part of time, Kos noted.

4) Validate security posture

An issue that came up for Kos’ team was how to integrate the unified computing system with servers in the security or demilitarized zone. Alaska’s primary data center has a split architecture and infrastructure for security reasons. So there is one set of switches and servers for the DMZ and totally different hardware for the internal base network.

ETS’ network engineers were able to work with Alaska’s security office and industry experts to achieve a diverse hosting environment. The unified computing-based platform reaches out and touches both environments in a secure way, Kos said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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