From Ground to Cloud: What Facilities Pros Need to Know About Cloud Computing

Bill Kleyman is a virtualization and cloud solutions architect at MTM Technologies where he works extensively with data center, cloud, networking, and storage design projects. You can find him on LinkedIn.

Bill Kleyman, MTM TechnologiesBILL KLEYMAN
MTM Technologies

There is now a direct connection between facilities teams and those engineers tasked with designing a cloud solution. Too often, the first response from IT professionals regarding the cloud is that of unease. The primary reason for this type of reaction is oftentimes the result of a lack of understanding revolving around cloud computing. Remember, when we’re working with any sort of cloud infrastructure, we are effectively only transferring data over the Wide Area Network. There are, of course, accelerators, monitoring tools, virtualization metrics and other components to a cloud solution. But in its simplest form – it is the transfer of data over the WAN.

Help from Facilities Pros

When cloud computing comes into the conversation – it’s important to have a basic understanding of the technology. From there, facilities people can really help the design and deployment process. The reality is that without solid facilities professionals, cloud computing can hit some limitations very fast. When it comes to cloud computing, the following are just a few of the important topics where data center professionals can really help out.

  • Data Center Sizing. When designing a cloud solution, it’s important to know how many racks are going to be set in place and how they will be distributed. This is where designing the actual data center, placing hot/cold aisles and making smart choices on the infrastructure can really pay off. Cloud architects will look to work with facilities pros that can understand the design of a cloud solution and apply that to a well laid out data center environment.
  • Wiring and Cabling. Cloud computing and virtualization is all about user density and efficiency. So, the data center should have the same mentality. More recently, Unified Computing Systems (like those from Cisco) are creating server and blade designs which require minimal wiring. Creating dense environments capable of handling numerous users per rack is something that cloud computing and virtualization requires. This is where facilities pros can really help with creating a solid, logical wiring design.
  • Power Requirements and HVAC. There will be times when creating a consolidated environment requires less power – but there are times when this is the opposite. Although we may be removing physical servers, the replacements may take more power and require more cooling. In creating a cloud or virtualization environment, data center engineers have to work closely with the folks designing the cloud environment to know how many servers are being placed in the rack and what type they will be. Creating an intelligent power and HVAC system can really help a cloud environment’s performance.
  • First Response Monitoring. Data center infrastructure monitoring is a topic all in itself. However, facilities professionals are sometimes on the front lines of detecting and stopping major errors. Having a good response system is something many cloud engineers rely on and trust their data center counterparts to be good at. Catching server faults, closet problems, or wiring issues before they become major roadblocks is almost invaluable. Being proactive — both within the data center and the cloud — will speak volumes when it comes to overall infrastructure performance.
  • Resource Allocation. In a cloud and virtualization deployment, resource allocation is everything. Aside from RAM and CPU, data center resources play a big role as well. Data center space, power, cooling, and other variable all have to be measured and understood prior to any project. This is where cloud architects and facilities professionals need to coordinate their efforts. By understanding the groundwork for the cloud environment, engineers are able to deploy the best possible foundation for the infrastructure.

Depending on the project and the size of a given engagement – the above list can certainly be expanded. When working with cloud computing, there has to be integration between multiple IT teams within an organization. The reality is that cloud computing cannot be made possible without knowledgeable and efficient data center and facilities professionals. These are the folks who will help build the underlying infrastructure design to support a potentially massive solution. Cross-team communication and collaboration is crucial to the success of any project. Now that cloud computing is being integrated within many organizations, team-work is as important as ever.

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  1. Definitely some great insight, Bill. An understanding of the technologies involved is definitely beneficial when making transitions to the cloud. Meaghen Mosaic Technology

  2. jimmydorry

    Not sure what the point of this article is. It is miss-leading in the sense that a few servers sitting in a datacentre somewhere does not equal a cloud solution. You missed out on mentioning availability, redundancy of data, not to mention ownership and security. In "cloud solutions" of the true sense, the end-user does not need to worry about where they are and what is happening in the company data centre somewhere. Was this article meant to give us insight into what we need to understand before designing our own cloud... or was it simply the parts of a datacentre?

  3. @Meaghen - thanks for the comments! Much appreciated. Trying to take a holistic approach to cloud computing from the ground up is never easy. Primarily because cloud computing can be very diverse and interesting to set up. @jimmydorry - You make excellent points in your comments. In fact, I think I'll take a few of them for a future article. The truth is that this piece could have gone on and on. The point of this article was to illustrate how important facility functions are to cloud computing. Good wiring techniques, monitoring, proper DC sizing and resource distribution can all affect how the cloud works. On that note - you're right: Data redundancy, security and infrastructure availability are also extremely important in a cloud solution. And all of those can certainly affect facilities people as well. Like I said earlier, great additional points. I appreciate the comments and thoughts!