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Monday, March 7, 2011

Private Cloud Hosting Options - Vendors & Options Proliferate

As interest in cloud-based computing grows, more and more businesses are looking at private cloud options: access to externally hosted services and deployment tools provided by vendors who’ve already built complex infrastructures and who—for a price—are willing to share the power of that infrastructure with you. This is appealing, of course, because developing and deploying in a “private cloud” is a way of benefitting from these new tools while still addressing potential security issues—a worry that remains one of management’s greatest concerns about cloud-based computing.

According to Info-Tech Research Group reports, few see the cloud—public or private—as a wholesale replacement for typical internal infrastructure; however, even fewer see the cloud as not playing any role at all. Therefore, since it’s likely that your organization will be utilizing cloud resources to some extent, we’ll give you an overview of some well-regarded private cloud providers.

Private Cloud Vendors
Amazon VPC
Amazon’s suite of cloud-based services, collectively known as AWS (Amazon Web Services), is the big dog in cloud-based development and hosting. The company’s private offering, Amazon VPC (Virtual Private Cloud), creates what the company calls a “seamless bridge” between a company’s existing IT infrastructure and the AWS cloud. VPC is a way to connect a company’s infrastructure to isolated and protected AWS computing resources via a VPN. Amazon VPC integrates with Amazon EC2, the company’s Elastic Compute Cloud—a Web service meant to quickly provide scalable computing capacity in the cloud.

Amazon VPC provides end-to-end network isolation by utilizing an IP address range that you specify, and then routing all network traffic between VPC and your data center through an encrypted VPN. This allows you to leverage your existing security infrastructure, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

VPC runs within Amazon’s proven global network infrastructure, and makes use of its worldwide network of enterprise-class data centers and servers.

As with all such services, pricing varies widely, depending on usage and on contracted services. You can estimate some typical costs using the Amazon Web Services Simple Monthly Calculator (tinyurl .com/2q4e3t).

Windows Azure
Microsoft’s Windows Azure is a flexible (and, it goes without saying, Windows-based) cloud computing platform that provides scalable infrastructure for which you pay according to your resource usage. Azure includes an SDK (software development kit) that allows the creation of Azure-based applications that can run in the cloud. Not surprisingly, Azure is tightly integrated with such tools as MS SQL, .NET, and other Microsoft technologies.

Azure is development-centric. That is, it is in many ways more like Google’s App Engine or’s development tools than a true private cloud hosting service. Nonetheless, Azure appears in this overview because Microsoft is positioning it as a complete solution, one that includes “an integrated development, service hosting and management environment maintained at Microsoft datacenters.” The environment includes storage and hosting, as well as development tools.

As with all such providers, the cost of Azure varies depending upon the uses to which you put it, the load you place upon it, and the resources you consume. Typical costs are outlined on the Windows Azure Platform Pricing Info page ( Discounts are available for MSDN and Microsoft Partners Network members.

Virtacore Systems
Like most other providers, Virginia-based Virtacore offers both private and public cloud solutions. And, as with most others, the difference boils down to the fact that in a private cloud offering, a virtualized/optimized infrastructure is made available only to those residing behind a specific firewall, via a VPN or similar secure technology.

Virtaware touts its solution as offering availability, security, and scalability—all with a minimum of capital outlay, thus resulting in a lower total cost of ownership.

Orcsweb, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, provides managed private cloud hosting that includes virtualized dedicated servers in an environment isolated from other clients. Hosting also includes a dedicated support team, full system backups, proactive system monitoring, and the application of critical Microsoft patches.

All Orcsweb private cloud solutions also include the SmartTools Professional bundle: SmarterTrack Professional (two agents), SmarterMail Professional Edition 6.x (250 mailboxes), and SmarterStats Professional Edition 5.x (50 sites).

Orcsweb SAS 70-certified data center facilities are provided by Peak10, in Charlotte, N.C.

Toronto-based Fusepoint is a Microsoft Gold Certified Hosting Partner that delivers managed hosting services from multiple SAS 70-certified data centers. Fusepoint supports VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization technologies and handles patching, operating system, Web, and database server management, as
well as firewalls, networking, and backups. The company boasts a purpose- built 85,000 square foot data center in Toronto, as well as facilities in Vancouver, Montreal, and Quebec City. Fusepoint is
owned by Savvis, a global leader in cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions with more than 2,500 clients.

Online Tech
Online Tech offers private cloud hosting that features service-level agreements reflecting a SAS 70-certified, dedicated environment that includes dedicated and customized servers and storage. The company uses VMware to deliver virtualization services.
WWW.HOSTING.COM provides a dedicated VMware-enabled infrastructure that includes licensing and management, with resources administered via a self-service customer portal. The SAS 70-certified company uses Dell R-series servers and offers multiple North American data centers. The company, which has been in business since 1997, can also offer dedicated support teams.

BlueLock offers a virtual private cloud solution that provides a virtual, fully managed and encapsulated\ environment. Straddling the multiple—and sometimes confusing—definitions of exactly what constitutes a “private cloud,” the service, called The BlueLock Box, can reside either on your local network or in the BlueLock data center. BlueLock is SAS 70-certified, and uses HP servers and SANs and VMware or vSphere virtualization tools.

INetU offers a dedicated set of physical hardware and software resources with a virtualization layer running on top of it, creating a pool of virtual servers, all of which are dedicated to your enterprise.
INetU utilizes VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer virtualization. In business since 1997, INetU offers direct access to real-time monitoring and bandwidth information.

Google App Engine
While most private clouds are actually delivering infrastructure (thus the oft-seen IaaS label), Google App Engine and its ilk are really tools for platform delivery: Technically, App Engine is really a PaaS (Platform as a Service) utility that utilizes cloud-based tools to help developers avoid the costs of procuring, setting up, and then maintaining and scaling the hardware and software required to build and deploy applications. (This is similar to, the virtual PaaS offered by SalesForce .com; provides a development and delivery platform, but one that is linked to—in fact, requires the presence of—the “parent” platform.)

Google AppEngine is free, up to a point. Beyond that point, fees are charged for additional storage, bandwidth, or CPU cycles required by the application. Those fees are variable and are outlined on the Google App Engine Billing And Budgeting Resources page (

Google AppEngine supports the Python and Java programming languages (and their derivatives and related frameworks), and features bulk downloading via Python. App Engine itself can only execute code called via an HTTP request; C and Pyrex Python modules are not supported.

A Changing Landscape The number of cloud vendors—indeed the definition of “public” and “private” cloud itself—continues to change rapidly. As tools mature and as new technologies emerge, more providers come to market almost weekly—while a few disappear almost as frequently. The providers noted above are representative of “best of breed” cloud vendors, and all offer benefits you should seek when looking at any potential cloud vendor, including a solid SLA with a guarantee of 100% uptime, a minimum latency, appropriate security certifications, and pricing commensurate with resources used. ▲

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