Jan 15 2010

The Project Managed Cloud

Over the course of my career in consulting I have been on many different projects at many different clients. On a number of those projects I have been at least partially responsible for procuring and configuring much of the hardware that would be used over the life of the project. Most of the time, this setup involves a significant amount of planning and a lot of pain. The pain is typically caused by the time that it takes to procure hardware to use for simple tasks.

On a recent project, the team pushed for, and received, four bare metal servers. We were provided with licenses for VMware vSphere 4, operating systems, applications, and 500 GB of Network Attached Storage and allowed to perform the installation, setup, and administration of these four servers. The benefits that the project has seen from having individual control over this environment have been many fold.

Benefits

  • Standard time to acquire new hardware (even a virtual server) from the client ranges from weeks to months. With the self service model we can provide a new machine for the project in 30 minutes.
  • Having a flexible stack allowed the project team to quickly set up and perform proof of concept activities during early design. These proof of concepts involved integration components, security design, and application co-existence questions. Performing these POCs allowed project estimation to be refined and initial assumptions validated or disproved.
  • Ability to create virtual workstations with project level software installed. These workstations allowed the team to get a jump start on working with new design products while our client based on trial licenses from vendors. This helped speed the project development by giving developers a head start.

Downsides

  • Lack of support from the client organization. The client will not support the software or hardware outside of very basic issues regarding setup and network connectivity.
  • Requires at least partial dedication of a team resource to setup and manage the environment.
  • It is possible to have different versions and configurations of software than what is used in production. If documentation of these standards is unavailable the information can be hard to come by.

I will write more in future posts about this cloud, but needless to say it has been a huge success for our project and brought a lot of new ideas on environment management and virtualization to our client. All in all it was a win/win situation.