Now that the enterprise has gotten its feet wet in the cloud, the race is on to control and ultimately optimize cloud architectures in support of emerging data-driven business models.
A key element in this process is the development of the private cloud, which in turn leads to hybrid clouds and the broad scalability and dynamic data functionality that are the foundation of the new IT paradigm.
But many organizations are caught in a quandary when either building private clouds from scratch or converting legacy infrastructure to support cloud architectures: Which platform should you support? This is nothing new, of course; platform options have been around since the dawn of the enterprise. But this time, the ramifications could be far-reaching, because those that choose a system that ultimately proves unworkable will be at a distinct disadvantage as the digital economy progresses.
Many organizations are turning to OpenStack for their private clouds. This makes a lot of sense considering an open platform will supposedly have a high degree of interoperability with cloud architectures elsewhere, which is likely to be crucial as data environments scale across geographic regions. OpenStack is still undergoing development pains, to be sure, but you can say the same of any proprietary solution as well, and as Forrester pointed out recently, OpenStack is likely to be the most flexible option going forward with a constantly expanding set of plug-ins for both proprietary and non-proprietary solutions.
Meanwhile, Microsoft recently made a bold move into the private cloud space by releasing an on-premises version of its Azure cloud. The Azure Stack lets the service’s application development and deployment model be deployed on any private or hosted private infrastructure, says Tech Crunch’s Frederic Lardinois, allowing for broad scalability across data centers and onto the Azure cloud. The release includes modules for software-defined networking, DAS pooling, virtual machine management and a host of other functions using either Windows or Linux as the base operating system. Deployments can also be tied to the Azure Preview Portal so users can self-provision their private clouds first and then burst onto the public cloud when needed.
Smaller providers are also making inroads to the private cloud. Seattle’s Blue Box recently launched a hosted/on-premises version of its OpenStack-based cloud, complete with an integrated hardware stack for added support. Blue Box Cloud Enterprise edition comes with Dell PowerEdge R630 servers running top-end Xeon E5-2600s that can scale up to 96 physical cores. As well, it offers object storage support under the OpenStack Swift project and block storage capability using Nimble Storage’s Adaptive Flash platform. In addition, Blue Box is releasing a Hadoop-as-a-Service platform to help customers manage Big Data loads across the cloud.
These and other options present the enterprise with a series of tough choices when it comes to the private cloud, starting with the old favorite: open or proprietary. According to 451 Research, proprietary systems provide the best TCO at the moment, although this is due to the premium salaries that experienced OpenStack engineers are drawing right now. As the platform matures, it is reasonable to expect that the pool of available technical talent will increase and costs will come down. At that point, the decision will come down to feature sets, functionality and individual enterprises’ unique requirements.
If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, you are right. Choosing between open vs. proprietary solutions is a time-honored tradition in the data center, and nothing about the emerging virtual ecosystem changes that. To be sure, cloud architectures are much more fungible than the integrated hardware/software stacks of the past, so any missteps in the initial deployment stages are not as consequential as before. But the speed at which digital architectures are evolving these days requires a thorough analysis of where the enterprise is now and where it is likely to be in the future, and the selection of a private cloud platform should reflect those goals in a very fundamental way.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.