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Monday, March 7, 2011

Your Company’s Own Cloud - How Private Clouds Are Created

by Seth Colaner - PC Today September 2010
article update information technology
For many companies, the idea of cloud computing—powerful on-demand hosted services, the ability to scale your company up or down easily, a massive reduction in hardware costs, and so on—can at first seem incredibly exciting, but can lose some of its sheen when companies are faced with some of the potential pitfalls and costs required.

Cloud computing solutions can be expensive to implement, and there are always the issues of trusting your vendor with your security and avoiding vendor lock-in (which is when you get stuck with a bad service but are bound by a contract). You have to have a great deal of trust in your cloud vendor.

One part of the cloud computing paradigm is private clouds, which can deliver some of the benefits of the cloud without some of the problems.

What It Is

Simply put, the difference between a public cloud and a private one is that the former offers companies all the aforementioned functionality and perks of cloud computing from a remote location, while the latter delivers cloud services from a company’s own IT software, hardware, and infrastructure.

According to Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst of ESG (Enterprise Strategy Group), private clouds “are essentially internal IT operations that provide services like public cloud providers, only to their own constituents.”

A private cloud, says Duplessie, is “normally a set of services offered by your own IT department to offer infrastructure provisioned to your requirements (normally virtual servers, storage, and network assets) in a secure manner.”

A description of a public cloud could almost be identical, but replace “your own IT department” with “a third-party cloud vendor.”

Public vs. Private Clouds

The primary upside of cloud computing is present in both private and public clouds. Simply put, according to Duplessie, “They allow services to be provisioned quickly at known costs.” From there, however, they differ in pros and cons.

Because a private cloud is built on a company’s own equipment, the issues of having to trust a vendor with a solid SLA (service level agreement), your company’s crucial and potentially very sensitive data, and your security, are nullified. However, building and maintaining a private cloud can be expensive and requires an IT staff with the appropriate level of expertise to manage it. Depending on the size and scope of a private cloud, a company may also find that its cloud is missing some of the capabilities it could have purchased from a cloud vendor.

On the other hand, you can purchase virtually any type of cloud feature or service you can imagine at any scale with a public cloud, and your dollars also get you the ability to scale your required resources up or down with great alacrity, in most cases much more so than on your own private cloud. However, you have to be comfortable with losing all the control you would have with a private cloud.

It’s a tradeoff. “There is limited security in most public cloud offerings as they stand without adding additional controls on your own site,” says Duplessie. “Because you share the public cloud resources with many others, you can't guarantee quality of service or that issues will be addressed as you would like. In short, you get what you pay for.”

Many companies employ both public and private clouds to meet their and their customers’ needs, smartly leveraging the strengths of each and diminishing the overall risks. Cloud computing certainly doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing venture; pragmatic managers will find the best use of a given technology to help a company work more efficiently and spend less on operating costs.

Elements Of A Private Cloud

To put together a private cloud, you need a solid plan. Your onsite data center must have the horsepower
and capacity to handle on-demand tasks that fluctuate—this includes a lot of hardware and software, as well as virtualization all the way around. On top of that infrastructure, a private cloud needs the capability to automatically dole out resources when users request them, and the service must be easy enough for users to work with and offer consistent performance.

Additionally, depending on your particular organization, there may be an organizational, human element. Perhaps not every department is thrilled about moving to a cloud format, or maybe two departments aren’t keen on sharing those resources

Implementing a private cloud at your company is certainly not a cakewalk. Indeed, purchasing your cloud services from a third-party vendor is a great deal simpler. Either option, however, requires a great deal of research and forethought before any action should be taken. Even so, Duplessie points out that it doesn’t have to be a painful or overwhelming experience: “Private clouds are how most enterprises will adopt any widespread cloud services in the near term. Cloud is more confusing than it need be; it’s simply IT in the modern world.” ▲

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