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Defining Private Clouds, Part Two

Defining Private Clouds, Part Two

Your guide to public vs private

As noted in the last post, private clouds are a hot topic these days, but not everyone agrees on a definition or the potential benefits. In my view, building a private cloud offers:

1. A role for existing infrastructure: Instead of treating data centers full of equipment as obsolete junk, a private cloud can incorporate existing infrastructure into a new, internally-located cloud.

2. Application agility and scaling: One of the key challenges for internal data centers as traditionally managed is the inability of individual applications to grow readily when confronted with large increases in traffic. Likewise, applications offer poor economic performance when resources are put in place to meet peak demand and remain dedicated to an application even when no longer necessary. In essence, in traditional practices, resources are sticky -- difficult to get moving and hard to eliminate. By putting a private cloud into place, applications that need additional headroom will no longer bang into an equipment ceiling and suffer from poor performance.

3. Lower security and privacy risk: Many IT organizations are reluctant to move much of their data to shared public clouds due to a concern that there might be risks that wouldn't exist if the data were held within the corporate data center. By implementing a private cloud, these concerns are obviated.

From a 30,000 foot level, what's not to like about this vision? All the benefits of cloud computing, with none of the drawbacks of public cloud services.

However, little detail is available from the 30,000 foot level, and when the details are examined from a closer vantage point, many of the key characteristics necessary to implement a private cloud come into focus.

This series of blog posts examines the requirements that accompany a private cloud so that IT organizations will have a better understanding of what actions they need to take to achieve their cloud computing vision.

The fundamental fact that comes into play is that private cloud functionality imposes a dividing line between IT inventory provisioning and IT resource consumption. In terms of the groups associated with these two activities, they may be identified as data center operations and business application groups. The vision of cloud computing is that someone in the latter group, who wants to create or run an application that requires IT resources, can push buttons (on a mouse, of course!) and have them provided-all without human interaction. The data center operations group's responsibilities lie in ensuring that sufficient resources are in place and available to be called upon at a moment's notice.

Last week, I discussed the responsibilities and key service capabilities needed by data center operations (or IT infrastructure operations, to give it a more formal description) to implement cloud computing. This week, I examine private cloud functionality from the perspective of business application groups; in other words, what services need to be in place for cloud computing to be in place for these groups.

The right way to read the chart is from the center out. The hardware and software resources that intertwine both groups are located in the chart's center. This reflects the fact that IT resources are the basis of cloud computing, and that both groups are involved with them-but with very different perspectives about them, and a very different ways of interacting with them. Nevertheless, hardware and software resources are at the center of cloud computing, because it is, ultimately, about a different way to marshal and deploy IT resources. The different perspective and different interaction mechanisms are denoted by the black broken line that runs across the chart horizontally: below the broken line, the services are those germane to IT infrastructure operations, which must put functions into place to support cloud computing; above the broken line, the services are those necessary for application groups to use cloud computing as part of their application activities.

The next level out (above) the central resources represents four key functions (or services) that must be in place for business application groups to take advantage of cloud computing. These four services are:

Agile Provisioning: Agile provisioning is what many people consider the totality of cloud computing. Agile provisioning means IT resources can be requested on a dynamic basis through some kind of automated system. The premier example is Amazon Web Services: Getting a working virtual machine up and running can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes. What this implies for an internal cloud is the ability for an IT resource user to instantiate compute resources as quickly as he or she can from Amazon. In essence, the demand for agile provisioning a la Amazon is analogous to the pressure IT groups felt when end users kept pestering them about why the company's internal apps weren't as easy to use as web-based apps or products like iTunes. In this case, Amazon Web Services has set a new expectation about how quickly IT resources should be ready.

The vision for agile provisioning is that a resource user should be able to access a web page and on-the-fly configure a new application infrastructure-a certain amount of compute resource, memory, storage, and network bandwidth (actually, the latter is probably not configurable, since most data centers have consistent bandwidth capability, which today means 1Gb or 10Gb). In practice, it's unlikely that there will be unlimited flexibility of resources; more likely is something like Amazon, where you get to choose from three or four different capability configurations, a sort of small, medium, and large arrangement.

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