Private Versus Public Cloud Computing
A plethora of applications are being considered for the cloud, but it may take at least another year before cloud computing goes mainstream in the enterprise.
While some people are skeptical of private clouds, there are certainly companies gaining real value from them. One example is FedEx. CIO Rob Carter cuts to the chase in discussing the benefits of a private cloud in an InformationWeek piece. He says:
What's happening, and this is such a big deal in our world, is that for the first time ever, you can make investments in a whole new class of technology for about the same price of just maintaining the base.
To the article's credit, it doesn't get hung up on trying to define private cloud. Instead it makes the point that FedEx is benefiting from virtualizing and standardizing its infrastructure. The goal is to make servers, networking and storage as "workload agnostic" as possible, so FedEx can enjoy the obvious advantage of moving workloads to more effectively utilize its resources. The company uses commodity x86 servers, each with just a single 10-gig Ethernet connection for networking.
In addition, FedEx is standardizing applications as much as possible, so they are more portable. FedEx employs a services-based approach, with apps calling on common data sources for 24 core transportation-related services. The apps utilize common foundations such as database or messaging technology. Says Carter:
Getting the applications to run in a common framework, common environment, makes it so much easier for them to tap the new services that are being set up, and makes the workloads more portable.
Some observers see private clouds as testing grounds for more scalable (and in theory less expensive) public clouds. Since both private and public clouds are based on the same underlying technologies, Carter says it should be a relatively simple matter to move applications from private to public clouds. It's worth noting it should become even easier as more cloud providers adopt interoperability and compatibility standards.