The private cloud is the best way to bring enterprise applications and data to a scalable, flexible infrastructure.
The private cloud is a waste of money and will never compare to the public cloud.
With such stark differences of opinion throughout the IT industry, it’s no wonder most enterprises are in a quandary over how much, if anything, to invest in the private cloud.
But as I’ve mentioned in this space numerous times, it does not matter what your peers are doing or what they think. All that really matters is finding solutions to the problems that impede data productivity, and if the best solution happens to be on internal cloud infrastructure, so be it.
Datamation’s James Maguire said as much recently following a scathing report from Gartner that claimed 95 percent of private clouds were failures. While it is true that public cloud adoption is dwarfing private cloud and many enterprises are still struggling to properly align their private clouds with their computing needs, the fact of the matter is that the enterprise has only taken the first tentative steps toward the private cloud, and most of the issues that have arisen stem largely from deploying such an advanced solution on legacy infrastructure. As the technology evolves and the enterprise gravitates toward open, modular infrastructure, private clouds will become easier to deploy and manage.
Already, some of the major pain points are starting to lessen through the normal refresh cycle. With support for Windows Server 2003 about to expire, organizations that have not already done so will move up to Windows Server 2012 R2, which happens to be chock full of cloud-friendly features. For one, says PC Connection’s Salvatore Salamone, R2 pushes past mere server virtualization into wide-scale pooling and aggregation at the data center level. It also supports web-based service delivery and high elasticity, allowing users to provision their own resources and then scale environments up or down depending on workloads.
Part of the problem that many organizations are having with their private clouds stems from a misunderstanding of their key benefits, says Cisco Senior VP Nick Earle. In the first place, the capex/opex advantages are secondary to the agility and flexibility the private cloud brings to the digital workforce. This is why most successful deployments follow a managed private cloud model that stresses automation, self-service and on-demand resources while remaining safely behind the enterprise firewall. And it should go without saying that putting any kind of advanced architecture in place is of little use if employees are not trained to use it properly.
Indeed, the biggest problems that many organizations encounter when deploying a private cloud stem from skimping on the automation stack, says CBR Online’s James Nunns. This is a sure way to drive up costs and drive down productivity because it forces IT to babysit the general functions of the cloud rather than develop innovative new functionality. And as a recent survey by InfoBlox and the Tolly Group points out, routine manual processes like discovery, tracking and provisioning of VMs are vastly more time- and labor-intensive in the cloud than in traditional infrastructure. A good management system can cut VM inventory time for about 500 instances from about 42 hours to 16, while network discovery for 20 VMs drops from about 17 minutes to 45 seconds. So without a strong automation stack to take care of these issues, the enterprise will find both cost and complexity too much to bear in the private cloud.
Of course, the public cloud has the key advantage of being ready for deployment right now – just sign on the dotted line. While this will suffice for a large portion of the enterprise workload, there are still some applications that require a little more hand-holding than generic, third-party resources can provide.
So in all likelihood, the enterprise will utilize public resources to a great degree as it steps up to meet the looming challenges of Big Data and the Internet of Things. But this is all the more reason to shift legacy infrastructure conversion into high-gear, because ultimately, the best way forward is a three-pronged cloud strategy featuring a healthy mix of public, private and hybrid resources.
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.