The private cloud has long been the Rodney Dangerfield of enterprise infrastructure: no respect.
Initial criticism that it lacked the scale and flexibility of the public cloud quickly evolved into the private cloud being too complicated, too expensive and too sophisticated for the legacy architectures that populate most data centers.
Despite this, the private cloud has become a big hit, with nearly half of all enterprises planning to launch one in the coming year or supplement existing projects, according to TheInfoPro. A key driver, somewhat surprisingly to the doubters, is cost, with more than a third expecting to shave up to 10 percent from their overall IT budgets. And of those who say they face significant challenges in building a private cloud, the leading concerns are non-technical issues like personnel and budgeting.
Indeed, building a private cloud will only lead to frustration and failure without a solid plan from the get-go, according to tech consultant Charles Smith. His step-by-step plan begins with shoring up infrastructure and the virtual layer, followed by consolidation and optimization of server, storage, network and application resources, and then capped off with healthy doses of automation and orchestration. This is by no means an easy or inexpensive process, but that’s largely the point: development of a private cloud is an ongoing process, not an end to itself.
Poor planning, in fact, is one of the primary reasons why many private cloud initiatives fail, says Glasshouse Technologies’ Ken Copas. When you combine an IT department that does not fully understand the needs of users with a vendor that promises an instant cloud using rebranded versions of existing products, the end result is a mish-mash of architectures that is neither scalable nor efficient. Remember: technology is only 20 percent of the cloud. The rest comes from changes to governance, processes and training.
Ironically, some of the biggest cheerleaders for the private cloud are, wait for it — public cloud providers. Companies like Rackspace are developing private cloud reference architectures as a means to build commonality between their public services and internal enterprise architectures. One of the leading drivers for public clouds, after all, is the need to burst data loads when they exceed available resources. What better way to do that than to offer a public service that sports the same architectural design as the client-side cloud?
Critics of the private cloud fail to recognize several key aspects of its broad support in the enterprise. First, scalability is not the primary driver, as in the public sphere. Rather, enterprises put higher value on driving efficiency in their existing infrastructure, and cloud architectures are nothing if not flexible, particularly when it comes to matching resource utilization with data loads. As well, the cost advantages of the public cloud are not as rosy as early boosters predicted. The same goes for reliability.
But most importantly, the private cloud offers the ability to build in-house knowledge of cloud infrastructure and how it interacts with the wider data universe. And for many organizations, ownership of the data environment is still a key business asset.