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Using HP Cloud Maps to optimise your business

Virtualisation has paid huge dividends in many areas of computing, but the most significant benefit has been for cloud services. Detaching operating system and application instances from direct connection to the hardware they run on means they can be provisioned from a pool of resources, rather than requiring specific, dedicated hardware to be prepared for each environment. So services can be supplied with a few clicks, rather than a lengthy procurement cycle. This has made the flexible, immediate cloud deployment we are now familiar with through consumer services like Dropbox a viable reality.

However, the idea of virtualised cloud provision is becoming increasingly sophisticated and useful at a deeper corporate level. Many have already enjoyed a quick sign up to obtain cloud storage, and it's not that much more difficult to provision a cloud-based web server or application server. However, with the latter, you will still need to install and configure your applications to run on the server, which takes time and considerable expertise. So the next step in cloud simplicity is a system that allows a whole environment to be deployed in one go. You could do this with a virtual disk image, and this has been used reasonably effectively for some common tasks like setting up a standard web server or MySQL database. But this will be very inflexible, giving you a generic deployment with little or no facility to customise for a specific implementation, leaving this to further work.

This is where a more granular approach, such as HP's Cloud Maps, comes in. Working in tandem with HP's CloudSystem, although not exclusively, HP Cloud Maps act more like scripts where you can configure settings for a specific use, but still have the elements that don't need to change installed and configured automatically, like a preset image. With a traditional solution, various expertise would be required to deploy a given application. Knowledge of the necessary hardware provision would be needed, so appropriate processing, memory, storage and network resources are supplied. Then the most stable operating system environment will be necessary, with perhaps a specific service pack or build. The application itself could require supplementary utilities, again with specific revisions recommended for maximum compatibility. You may also want to load data and settings before going live. During the life of the provision, you will need to revisit this expertise to apply patches and keep software up to date with the latest requirements.

A company might not have all, or even most, of the expertise in house to ensure that all of these requirements are taken into consideration and addressed. So deployment could well involve expensive external consultancy, and so would ongoing maintenance. Even if you do have the necessary experts within your company, getting each one to do their bit will still be some way away from single-click deployment, and probably entail weeks or even months of deployment. With HP Cloud Maps, however, this expertise is built into an automated process, which has already been set up to provision the appropriate software and hardware for the intended application.

HP Cloud Maps can work in tandem with the HP CloudSystem, which combines server, storage and networking infrastructure into one integrated solution to deliver services in minutes. This becomes part of a wizard- or template-based process that can set up the software environment as well the hardware for it to run on. HP has leveraged its decades of experience with independent software vendors, system integrators and its customers to create its Cloud Maps, condensing hundreds of hours of staff time into a process or template that can be applied in minutes instead, by a staff member who doesn't need to be an expert in every area. A Cloud Map can contain a series of updates, as well, to manage patches, versions, and upgrades on the fly.

A Cloud Map can be built and improved over time so that it encapsulates the very best practices when running a particular application. Cloud Maps are already available for the products from leading HP partners, including Altiris, Apache, JBoss, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. These vendors' knowledge of their own products has been integrated into the Cloud Maps provided. This is practical, real-world knowledge gleaned from actual deployments all over the world, and there are already over 100 Cloud Maps available, falling into three basic categories: infrastructure provisioning, application deployment, and life-cycle management.

A HP Cloud Map can contain a variety of elements. The lowest level of element comes in the form of templates that define infrastructure, operating system, middleware, database setups, and application configurations. These can be used directly with HP CloudSystem to allocate resources from the pool and install the necessary software. A Cloud Map can also contain guides for capacity and performance planning, so that resource provision can be adjusted according to your specific company requirements. Wizard-driven workflows and scripts automate the process, with a wealth of whitepapers available to help you customise Cloud Maps to meet your specific needs.

From all these possible elements, infrastructure-provisioning Cloud Maps set up the necessary hardware and networking, and may include basic application deployment. There are Cloud Maps for deploying enterprise applications, for example an Oracle database, Real Application Cluster or E-Business Suite R12, and here versions are available for Linux and HP-UX as well as HP CloudSystem. There are Cloud Maps for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Lifecycle Cloud Maps help ensure patches are up-to-date with any compliance requirements. Cloud Maps can be published in a catalogue, so users can choose ones that are configured for your environment, whether they be deployed on private, managed or public clouds.

The end result is a cloud service that can be much more dynamic and flexible, responding to business and customer needs as they arise. Forecasting can often be incorrect, as business circumstances change rapidly. But with HP Cloud Maps you can deploy and redeploy resources to fit current and near-future demand immediately. This can save money, too, as there is no need to over-provision just in case it will be required. Extra resources can be deployed so quickly that your business will be much more able to respond to the business climate, with clear implications for your company's ability to remain competitive.

To learn more, download the whitepaper below.