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Capacity planning was once critical to the IT profession. And although it remains an important factor, cloud computing’s maturity has affected the high cost of data centers that businesses traditionally grappled with. In the past, capital investments in storage and computing systems—all of which were once on premises—ate up much of the available budget and time.
We now live in the world of infinite capacity (read: hybrid cloud) in which scalability allows ramping up or cutting down, competition is reducing overall costs and budget-conscious IT professionals are becoming a more important part of the decision-making process.
While innovation has accelerated our advancements, data is the real driver behind the need for infinite capacity. It has become an important commodity in business, helping reach to customers you have, earn customers you don’t and deliver solutions more efficiently to the masses.
When the industry talks about capacity planning, it refers to “resource-based planning”—or, to put it more simply, how much is needed. It’s important that organizations are tracking what data you’ve consumed and are making sure consumption is executed in the most efficient manner. Additionally, you have to consider forecasting and ask questions such as
  • Do you have the capacity to spin another application on your current systems?
  • Will you need more physical space to build racks?
  • How does it affect the budget? Have you considered power and cooling costs?
  • Honestly, you can go down a rabbit hole chasing other cost drivers associated with your data center, both large and small. The onset of cloud and hybrid solutions have simplified this equation, but not without changing nearly all of the variables. Today when we talk about capacity planning, we’re speaking a different language.
    Some professionals in the IT world think capacity planning is no longer viable when it comes to the cloud: if you can go up and down, you needn’t worry about the capacity you have. To them, I’d say you’re wasting time and money. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Here are a few items to consider when managing cloud environments for capacity planning:
  • Identify your core goals and capabilities. Every organization is different. Your business, customers, data, and IT department’s hopes and dreams are all specific to your company. Your cloud utilization should reflect these factors. According to the McAfee State of Cloud Adoption survey, 73 percent of companies plan to move to a fully software-defined data center within two years. Conversely, 49 percent are delaying their cloud deployment owing to a cybersecurity-skills gap. These organizations will have different cloud needs, so identifying the necessary capacity, what departments will move to the cloud and who will manage these assets is the first step to planning.
  • Assess your needs against your resources. Now that you have a clear picture of your goals, you must assess the viability of your needs versus your budget. In the data center days, capital expenditure was a great investment, but cloud solutions are operational expenses—meaning they’re recurring rather than fixed. IT, along with finance and the executive team, must agree on how much they’re willing to invest.
  • Plan to gain greater control. I’m going out on a limb, but this is the most important part of capacity planning. From here, your planning must consider each reserved instance, virtual machine and spun application. It comes down to control. With the ability to easily scale up and down, you should have parameters regarding who can throttle usage to prevent costly overconsumption.
  • Implement to realize the power of the cloud. It’s time to get the cloud working for you! At this point you’ll see how you did on the first three steps. Do you have enough capacity? Is everyone in the organization reaping the benefits of the cloud? As you work through the implementation phase, you’ll have continuous opportunities to improve and course correct.
  • Monitor and adapt for continued success. Over the days, weeks and months of using your cloud solution, you must closely monitor usage. Doing so is pivotal to making the most of your investment and can help uncover instances in which you’re improperly utilizing your cloud infrastructure, and it can help you avoid paying for unused items. Although your IT department may be full of supermen and superwomen, it’s smart to have a cloud-optimization monitoring tool that can decipher usage peaks and valleys to reduce cost.
  • Now that those five steps are complete, go back to the first and do it all again! Capacity planning is a continuous effort, since cloud usage and optimization is a moving target. Some months will have heavy usage and cost overruns, while others will shrink.
    Capacity planning is all about resources—in most situations, you only have a finite amount. While you can increase your cloud usage to “infinite” capacity, budgets aren’t necessarily the same. To remain successful, always consider changing needs and monitor usage to reduce cost and to make the most of your investment by optimizing your cloud environment.
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