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GE Plans 'Private' Cloud Computing Environment

General Electric Co. 's road to better data center efficiency is paved with virtualization. Now, as GE looks to build an internal or "private" cloud computing environment, virtualization will once again play a key role.

GE has tens of thousands of servers in 10 primary data centers, and the number of servers in those facilities is growing 20% annually, amid increasing demand for IT resources from its business units and consolidation of servers from secondary data centers. GE has been investing in making its data centers run more efficiently. One example: 60% of new servers put into operation utilize virtualization.

CTO Greg Simpson isn't satisfied. He's now looking to handle GE's ever-expanding number of virtual machines by managing servers as a pool of resources rather than discrete units. "You get efficiencies when you start to manage that as a single entity," he says. "You can flex that capacity across applications, back it up, monitor it, and manage it as one large entity."

GE is in the early stages of a three-year project to implement technologies that give it the flexibility, automation, and manageability Simpson seeks. It's evaluating whether to have one expansive internal cloud or multiple discrete clouds dedicated to, say, Web serving or financial systems. Simpson's leaning toward the latter scenario, but either way, he wants to offer IT resources on demand and to charge business units for what they consume.

It's too early to say which products will serve as the foundation for GE's private clouds, Simpson says, but emerging virtualization and systems management technologies will play a role. He pushes virtualization aggressively--he talks of a "virtualization stimulus package" within GE--for all but the apps requiring extremely high I/O on dedicated servers. GE already uses a lot of VMware technology, so the vendor's vCloud technology will likely play a big role in GE's private cloud strategy.

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