Mistrust of the public cloud is driving many enterprises toward the pursuit of private clouds. For critical data and applications, this may seem like a no-brainer as it is wiser to keep the important stuff on trusted infrastructure.
Not all private clouds are the same, however, and unless you happen to be a platform developer, you’ll end up placing your trust in someone else’s technology, just as you do with physical and virtual infrastructure.
At the moment, it seems the private cloud is shaping up to be a battle between VMware and the OpenStack community, says cloud broker RightScale. And according to the firm’s latest survey, nearly a third of enterprises are looking to turn legacy vSphere and vCenter environments into private clouds. But that doesn’t mean the market is a lock for VMware. OpenStack deployments are on the rise, driven largely by a desire to avoid vendor lock-in, even as vCloud Director adoption is starting to flag.
For VMware, the stakes are high. As the dominant server virtualization vendor, extending its reach into the cloud is similar to Microsoft’s attempt in the early 1990s to leverage its dominance of the operating system to control Internet search and other applications. While public cloud providers like Amazon tout visions of the data center-free enterprise, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger notes that more than 90 percent of the cloud is on-premises at the moment, and even Gartner expects that figure to drop only to 77 percent by 2020. Nevertheless, a declining market is not one to pin your hopes to, so VMware and many other legacy data center vendors are busy touting private infrastructure as a key component of hybrid data environments.
Security and reliability will undoubtedly be among the top concerns among IT executives when it comes to deploying cloud architectures. Despite the high proportion of cloud deployments going to private infrastructure cited by VMware, only about 26 percent of enterprise data resides on private clouds, according to a recent survey by IDG Research conducted on behalf of Unisys. And that figure is only expected to rise to 33 percent by 2016. It seems lower costs, increased flexibility and all the other benefits touted by cloud providers are still no match for the unease that accompanies the migration from tried-and-true infrastructure to something that is still largely unknown.
Of course, private clouds do not necessarily have to reside within the enterprise data center. The market for hosted private clouds is on the rise, essentially placing cloud functionality on the same colocation footprint that has long helped enterprises flesh out their legacy physical infrastructure. These kinds of arrangements can lead to significant complexity when it comes to equipment acquisition, software licensing, service arrangements and a host of other factors, say tech consultant Ben Fox and IT legal expert Marc Lindsey. The good news is that colocation providers are competing aggressively for hosted cloud services, which the enterprise can leverage in order to strike a favorable deal.
The choice between public, private and hybrid clouds is not likely to be exclusive, however. The flexibility of virtual/cloud architectures is so great that organizations will be able to choose the right platform for the right application with relative ease. Indeed, it is quite possible that, with the proper governance, security and management policies in place, those kinds of decisions may wind up with the applications themselves.
For the CIO, then, decisions regarding which cloud infrastructure to pursue are not as etched in stone as they were with the physical environments of days gone by. In this new world, mistakes can be undone with relative ease, and new solutions can be implemented in short order.