The concept of cloud computing is an easy sell at most enterprises. After all, what's not to like? Massive scalability, dynamic load balancing and high utilization across existing infrastructure are all hallmarks of modern clouds.
But the devil, as they say, is in the details. One of the first crossroads on the way to the cloud is whether to go public or convert existing internal infrastructure into a cloud. Many experts argue that private clouds are not very cost effective because the enterprise remains trapped within its own resource confines and the cost of maintaining and monitoring that infrastructure is theirs to bear alone.
Upon closer examination, however, it turns out that the private cloud does bring some unique advantages to enterprise data environments, provided your legacy infrastructure is large enough to support one.
One of the primary attributes of the private cloud, of course, is the comfort that comes from keeping within your own infrastructure. As business2community.com's Dawn Altnam notes, entrusting data to third-party providers also means giving up control. Even though public services have been shown to be no more or less susceptible to data theft or loss of availability, there is a big difference between actively working to get your own data back on-line versus leaning on someone else to do it for you. As well, private clouds can be customized to suit an organization's unique data requirements, unlike a generic public cloud service.
The private cloud also helps alleviate a key problem that arises from the widespread use of public services: rogue infrastructure. As Wired's Bart Copeland points out, knowledge workers are finding it much easier to simply provision new services from the cloud rather than wait for IT, which ends up placing substantial amounts of data outside the enterprise with little or no oversight. But if employees had access to platform-as-a-service environments from a private cloud, the provisioning process would be greatly simplified, giving workers what they want when they want it without pushing data past the firewall.
This is all well and good, but how to actually build a private cloud? Enterprises that have long maintained traditional infrastructure may find cloud development a tad complicated, to say the least. Are there certain elements that can help make a private cloud not only functional but optimal? According to Nathan Coutinho of data solutions provider CDW, planning should center around things like advanced IT governance, server virtualization, storage consolidation and infrastructure convergence as a means to provide the foundation for an effective private cloud. Once these are in place, enterprises will find that they can deploy, reconfigure and manage cloud environments much more easily, and with greater flexibility, than is imaginable on legacy infrastructure.
An even better way to look at it is from a solutions perspective — something that channel providers should excel at, according to Embotics' Colin Jack. Rather than thinking "I want to build a cloud," CIOs would do better to envision their data needs over, say, the next decade, and then pursue a strategy that best meets those needs. If those needs include lowering costs, increasing competitive advantage and fostering greater visibility into data environments and usage patterns, then the cloud can certainly help. Once the overall goals have been established, the technical details of building the cloud can be more accurately assessed.
Although I hesitate to use the timeworn phrase "Resistance is Futile," there is truth to the notion that the enterprise needs to embrace the cloud for the sole reason that users are flocking to it so rapidly. Mobility, Big Data and rich media are all placing tremendous strains on legacy infrastructure, and the only ways to respond are to either build more infrastructure or embrace the cloud.
If you choose the latter, the best way to do that is to become more cloud-like yourself.