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Network World — The definition of “private cloud” tends to vary from source to source, but at First American Corp. in Santa Ana, Calif., which is building a private cloud, the benefits are crystal clear: the project will eliminate busy work for IT professionals while giving users more control over their IT resources.
First American began moving from a physical to a virtual environment four years ago, and now has 5,000 VMware virtual machines running most of its critical business applications. While the virtualization project was designed to reduce the burden of managing physical hardware, Jake Seitz, chief enterprise architect at the financial services firm, says the company is going a step further with an internal cloud that will reduce the time IT spends spinning up VMs.
“I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for us to be paying tier 3 engineering folks and so on to bush a button to spin up a VM,” Seitz says. “I think it’s foolish and it’s one of the first ways of using resources.”
First American is building a self-service interface — powered by VMware on the back end and Microsoft SharePoint on the front end — that will let employees provision their own resources. Another key vendor is F5 Networks, whose BIG-IP devices provide content delivery, load balancing and disaster recovery between First American’s two data centers in California and Texas.
“For us, self-service means we’ll let the user interact directly with the cloud,” Seitz says. “The end user can provision their entire environment. We’re not limiting them to ‘you can only build Windows or SQL or a development environment.’ They can literally say ‘I need to add 2,000 people for mailboxes.’ They don’t need to know all the things on the back end.”
First American, a services provider in the insurance and mortgage industries, has about 45,000 users worldwide. The private cloud is in beta, and Seitz hopes to have most IT services delivered through the cloud within two years. After introducing the self-service interface, the next major step is to roll out a metered billing system to charge users for the cloud resources they consume.