Time to Get Serious About the Private Cloud

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    It seems that the march to private cloud infrastructure is finally under way in earnest, with both the technology and the business case for its deployment at a sufficient level of maturity for large numbers of enterprises to pull the trigger.

    This does not mean all questions have been answered, however. In fact, if the private cloud has anything in common with legacy infrastructure, it’s that the tweaking and fine-tuning will likely continue well into the future.

    One of the first dilemmas in fact, is the selection of a platform. To date, VMware has captured the lead in enterprise cloud deployments, according to database service provider Tesora, although OpenStack is rapidly closing the gap. In the company’s latest survey of North American developers, VMware owns about 15 percent of the market, compared to OpenStack’s 11 percent. Top applications for both public and private clouds are database processing for SQL, MySQL and other platforms, followed by web services and quality assurance. Interestingly, only about 9 percent indicated compatibility with Amazon Web Services as a top priority in designing a private cloud.

    While there has been a lot of talk regarding the ultimate goal of the private cloud being able to integrate with public services to create hybrid infrastructure, there are still many use cases for a purely private approach. As eUKhost’s Joshua Hold points out, many highly regulated industries are forbidden by law to store customer-identifying data in anything but owned-and-operated systems. This doesn’t mean they can’t convert to a cloud footing, even on a hosted basis, but it does indicate that many organizations will have to devise highly sophisticated data management platforms in order to ensure that data is making its way to the right kind of cloud.

    Regardless of the specific platform being deployed, all private clouds should contain a few basic elements, says Network World’s Christine Burns. The first is a converged infrastructure, most likely built on either a software-defined network (SDN) or some type of enhanced fabric architecture. As well, you’ll need advanced automation and orchestration for both system management and software distribution, accompanied by self-service provisioning and an accountability mechanism to allow IT to keep track of who’s doing what with company resources.

    But even with an open source approach like OpenStack, few organizations have the knowledge or experience to devise their own private cloud, which means you’ll need a vendor partner, says Avaya’s Pat Patterson. But how do you choose the right one? The first step is asking key questions of yourself, like what your capex and opex goals are following the transition and what applications you hope to support now and in the future. As well, are your potential partner’s capital and resources sufficient to support today’s needs, as well as those over the next decade, by which time you may be running mission-critical workloads in the cloud? And it’s never too early to begin retraining key IT staff on cloud technology and management, unless you want to be forever dependent on someone else to troubleshoot problems and optimize operations.

    It’s been said that cloud computing is a journey, not a destination. But even a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

    For many organizations, that step is the private cloud. If you can get that right, the rest should fall into place easily enough.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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