Building a private cloud for Wigo4it
Uncharted territory, but so popular!
WHAT ARE WE BUILDING TODAY?
We’ve been modernizing the datacenter at Wigo4it, one of our clients. Wigo4it is an IT service provider for social services. Wigo4it is a cooperative. Its owners and customers are the social services of the four largest municipalities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht). Wigo4it focuses on improving the digital services delivered to the general public. Wigo4it builds and manages applications, and initiates innovative IT solutions. Anyway, they’ve been relying on a private data center for years now, and we’re building them a private Cloud to work in from now on. The benefits are many: much more freedom and mobility through self-service and workload automation.
OK, AND WHAT ARE YOU ADDING TO THE MIX?
I’m the Infra Cloud Architect. I'm in charge of overall design and making sure what we promise actually gets built, so our development teams can benefit from it.
HOW HAVE YOU APPROACHED THE PROJECT SO FAR?
Well, building a private cloud essentially means building a Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC) on which you can automate and orchestrate any workload. And you arrange for workloads to be provisioned through a Self Service Portal.
Any datacenter will consist of three common building blocks: Compute, Storage and Network. So we put together a team that build and run a datacenter as well as an expert in Automation and NSX, which are new technologies involved. The entire construction is primarily based on VMware ESX, the full vRealize suite and NSX.
IS THIS A DIFFICULT THING TO DO?
Building a private cloud that approaches the characteristics as a Public Cloud provider like Azure or AWS is a challenge. The operation itself is a fairly new procedure, so we chose to at least base our private cloud entirely on proven technologies and software. The benefits are obvious: proper documentation, regular updates, support and the fact that the experts to build it are actually available as well.
Still, even though the technology is proven, the operation itself isn’t so much yet. And the entire architecture that integrates those Compute, Storage and Network functions needed to be re-designed and aligned simultaneously. It isn’t just installing some software: it requires a bit of artistic vision. Getting all disciplines working together, to achieve the same goal.
Moreover, the complexity of adopting a private, software-defined datacenter isn’t just the technology. It requires a new organizational maturity. Put plainly, it really takes some getting used to. Roles and responsibilities shift from operations to development; developers can now create their own workloads through a Self Service Portal, for example. That Portal should then become a catalyst for the transformation of the organization: the move towards a dev/ops culture and the introduction of Cloud engineers. It requires that they redraw the existing boundaries between many different stakeholders.
We’ve had to define our own terms and strategies to work with.
It’s been the most challenging, fun and educating project of my career so far!
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THAT YOU’D DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?
Ah, let’s see. Most important: don’t ask the people to follow the technology; rather, get the technology to follow the people. For one, that means you should train the operational people to service a new tech before you implement it. Secondly, that you communicate with your customers about the benefits they can expect from a new technology, and how they might use it to their advantage. It just gives you so much more support for the upcoming change.
HAVE YOU ENJOYED THE WORK?
This has been like exploring an uncharted territory – but it’s a terrain that everybody wants to learn about! Almost every company with their own data center is trying to replace it with a private cloud to some degree. But it’s still an innovative step – there are few best practices or working examples to follow. We’ve had to define our own terms and strategies to work with. It’s been the most challenging, fun and educating project of my career so far!