Do it yourself cloud
Komatsu turned to an external provider, but other organisations are choosing to create their own clouds as a more effective way of servicing clients.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is one example. The constrained resources available to the ABS have meant that it has long operated a chargeback model for its 3200 staff and 1000 field researchers.
But whereas the old model was based on CPU cycles, ABS director of infrastructure, Tony Marion, says that by reorganising its data centre using virtualisation technology, it has been able to configure it as a private cloud and charge clients based on variable overall resources.
“It is a variable charge, but it allows areas that want to do a lot of research and run really long jobs that don’t necessarily need a lot of capability [to not be] charged horrendously per CPU cycle,” Marion says. “So it is more enabler or an ‘evener’ for everybody — all receive an even share of the pie.”
Chargeback is handled through VMware’s Virtual Centre, with the ABS recording the main variables of CPU, memory and disk. Marion says the ABS is now able to provision a test and development environment for its offices almost instantaneously, whereas previously it might have taken two or three months.
Marion is also looking into desktop virtualisation within its cloud to enable staff work from anywhere on any device.
“Everybody has a virtual machine, so that your data never leaves the bounds of ABS,” Marion says. “And if we want to allow people to connect with us from outside, maybe we can set them up with a virtual machine. “These are the sort of things that we are thinking about — giving people more and more capability — because what we want to do is get the statistics out there as easily as possible.”
Similarly, the Catholic Education Network has created its own internal private cloud. CENet services the IT needs of 15 Catholic dioceses encompassing 705 schools across NSW, Queensland and the ACT and Darwin, with a student population of 250,000 and 20,000 teachers.
CENet chief executive officer, Bede Ritchie, explains that when faced with the need to refresh its server environment, the network opted in January 2010 to virtualise using technology from NetApp and VMware, giving it the basis of a private cloud. The initiative has also taken advantage of the Catholic Network Australia program that has improved the bandwidth to the majority of schools across the country. The new configuration enables CENet to offer infrastructure-as-a-service to the dioceses to run their own discrete services.
“The big benefit from my perspective is taking away the responsibility for them to have to worry about hardware,” Ritchie says. “A diocese can request a VM, request some storage, run it up, and three months later just make it disappear and go back in the pool again.
“They can be freed to use their smarts to assist teachers to implement ICT in classrooms, rather than having to kick tin.”
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