The public cloud seems to have captured the imagination of the data-using population – both business users and consumers. However, when it comes to meeting the needs of the actual enterprise, private clouds are where the action is.
Large organizations have strict requirements when it comes to supporting their data and application environments, which is why many public cloud providers are starting to offer dedicated resources to top clients – essentially providing hosted, secure private clouds the way a colocation provider mounts traditional off-site infrastructure.
Largely, this is a case of following the money. A recent Opsview study identified private cloud technology as one of the top priorities among enterprise executives. And while many are working quickly to convert legacy architectures to the private cloud model, it is likely that just as many will go for the third-party option, provided it can deliver equal or near-equal reliability and performance as internal cloud infrastructure.
Ideally, the hosted private cloud should act as an extension of enterprise IT. That’s the goal behind Amazon’s Direct Connect service, which was recently expanded to the northwest U.S. region. The company provides high-speed, private-line access to its data centers using 10 GbE wide-area connectivity from Equinix. In this way, the company is able to cut latency to milliseconds, allowing long-haul infrastructure to perform at the same level as a LAN. Amazon already provides Direct Connect service in the mid-Atlantic region, the San Francisco area and in Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.
With the enterprise and cloud providers eager to put private clouds into service, the market is ripe for integrated solutions. Dell and SUSE recently announced a joint open source infrastructure platform that combines simplified manageability, rapid deployment and broad interoperability with third-party technology. The Dell SUSE Cloud Solution employs OpenStack to integrate Dell hardware with the SUSE Cloud management system, which the companies say combines simplified configuration and full lifecycle management in a broadly scalable, and customizable, package.
Meanwhile, and not without a hint of irony, some providers are using their cloud acumen to deliver cloud provisioning and management services to the enterprise – basically using the cloud to enable other clouds. A case-in-point is Persistent Systems’ Cloud Lifecycle Services (PCLS), an end-to-end solution that provides workload assessment, data migration, IaaS/PaaS management and other services to public, private and hybrid clouds. The OpenStack-based platform also features tools like an auto-scale engine and Hadoop to help integrate legacy infrastructure into the cloud. The company claims it can re-invent IT delivery with automated, self-service functionality.
For a long time, the private cloud was dismissed by cloud enthusiasts because its scalability was supposedly limited by the reliance on finite infrastructure. But as we’ve seen, private clouds are no more restricted by the user’s ability to pay than the public cloud – it’s only a matter of whether the user is willing to pay the premium that dedicated, third-party infrastructure demands.
Depending on the use-case, and the length of time the hosted private cloud remains active, the cost should still come in well under that of building infrastructure from the ground up. That means the smart money these days is betting that the enterprise will be more than willing to convert existing virtual environments to the cloud and then back them up with third-party private resources as data loads mount.
Either way, the private cloud is likely to remain a permanent fixture in enterprise IT infrastructure.