The private cloud continues to be a conundrum for the enterprise as it seeks to reconfigure data infrastructure for the emerging digital economy.
On the one hand, it provides a marked improvement over traditional infrastructure in terms of scale and efficiency, but on the other, it is neither as scalable nor as efficient as the public cloud. And yet, in many respects, the private cloud can actually outperform public resources and, depending on the workload, can be a lot cheaper as well.
As I said, a conundrum.
So what is the enterprise to do? The first thing is to recognize that there are many different ways to build a private cloud, and there are many different use cases in which they can either exceed or trail other forms of data infrastructure.
A good place to start when devising a private cloud is the configuration management database (CMDB), says Tech Republic’s Keith Townsend. The CMDB acts as the system of record for all data infrastructure, which makes it vital to the automation and orchestration functions that differentiate the cloud from legacy architectures. Since the cloud is much more likely to contain multiple complex configurations, due to self-provisioning and other factors, a robust CMDB goes a long way toward ensuring that data can navigate available resource pools in highly dynamic environments.
In many cases, the biggest drawback to the private cloud is the need to implement an entirely new management structure for what initially turns out to be a relatively small portion of the overall workload. The way around this, according to Cloud Computing News’ Ajay Gulati, is SaaS. By implementing the management stack as a service, organizations gain a ready-made solution that scales in step with the environment while reducing the need for in-house management expertise. Today’s SaaS platforms provide an all-in-one approach to everything from provisioning and configuration to on-going, end-to-end management and monitoring.
Some organizations are taking this a step further by outsourcing all the management responsibilities of their private cloud to a third party. This is kind of like a hybrid of a hybrid cloud, says Tech Crunch’s Ron Miller, in that it provides all the benefits of a public service on private resources, so the end user can rarely tell the difference. Typically, these constructs are built around OpenStack and managed by one of the commercial Linux developers like Canonical, but lately alternatives like Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry have gained traction through partnerships with Rackspace and other public providers.
Private cloud software stacks are becoming increasingly popular in highly regulated industries like health care that are facing explosions in data volume but do not have the same flexibility to distribute it among third-party infrastructure. Data analytics firm ClearSense, which specializes in the health care vertical, recently tapped DriveScale’s Software Composable Infrastructure to bring cloud-like scalability and flexibility to its internal infrastructure in support of Big Data workloads. ClearSense reports that it has lowered both capex and opex of its Hadoop infrastructure since the deployment, while maintaining real-time analytics results for its clients.
Although many experts maintain that public clouds are the way of the future, the burdens of implementing private clouds have diminished dramatically over the past few years. No matter how you allocate virtual resources, data that is kept as close as possible to those who need it will experience shorter lag time and greater performance characteristics than data distributed across a wide area.
This dynamic will naturally break down in organizations that support a highly mobile workforce, but in the traditional corporate headquarters scenario, a private cloud can still provide a highly dynamic, scale-out data environment.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.