Private Cloud: 50 Shades of Great

Ok, I admit, I just liked the pun and would struggle to list 50 things great about any cloud.

49nocloudThis post is to clear up some of terminology around private cloud, because not all private clouds are the same, but “private cloud” is a dirty word in some circles.

Private Cloud:

An incomplete and often misconstrued term to describe something about speccing up hardware and running software to manage the infrastructure before anyone gets to do something with it. On its own it doesn’t mean much, but often seen as a bad thing. Often described as a niche in today’s “you’re an idiot if you don’t do public cloud, despite the fact I know nothing about your specific business, its economics, its deals, its customer’s requirements or the way it is run” world.

On-Premises Private Cloud:

A term that describes the DIY running and operation of hardware and software, like OpenStack (and weirdly, VMware vSphere), in your datacenter.

Pros: for businesses that have no motive to run off-premises (public cloud or hosted datacenter beyond their physical control) this provides the answer to their in-house developers for using a hugely supported API driven platform. Fixed hardware/known costs – whether rented or bought up front and depreciated over time. Software for running a Private Cloud, such as OpenStack, is free, and has many IT vendors providing support to integrate with their hardware.

Cons: up front hardware investment. Capacity planning is a fairly regular exercise. In-house IT skills must include the software used to operate the platform. Normal DC operations rules apply: hardware contracts, etc. No specific architecture or rules for running On-Premises private cloud software means the business may have created their own support snowflake.

Notes: Scaling of the underlying hardware is easy, but only in the context of pre-planning. (Obviously scaling the instances/storage is easy if the underlying capacity is there. Fun fact: same of public cloud – there’s just lots of it for you to even notice that happens!)

Remotely Managed Private Cloud (Private Cloud-as-a-Service #1):

A term that describes an On-Premises Private Cloud that is in your datacenter but remotely installed, managed and monitored 24×7 on architecture dictated by the service and support company. Hardware is usually owned by the customer (in which case usual DC Ops rules apply), however roll-in racks of hardware can also be provided – in which case the managed service provider fully looks after the hardware too.

Pros: Get all the advantages of using a Private Cloud in your datacenters but without the overhead of needing in-house skills to manage the platform. The deployed Private Cloud architecture is standard based on industry experience. The customer just enjoys the on-premises private cloud with an extended support team at their call who’s sole responsibility is to ensure that platform is working as intended.

Cons: In the case of the customer owning the hardware, where specific requirements are given by the managed private cloud service provider may mean initial additional costs. The architecture and features available may be less flexible than a DIY On-Premises Private Cloud.

Notes: Scaling the underlying hardware requires co-ordination between customer (to provide or take the hardware) and managed service provider (to install the software to provide the increase in capacity).

Hosted Private Cloud (Private Cloud-as-a-Service #2):

A term that describes a fully managed dedicated cloud and infrastructure in a managed service provider’s datacenter.

Pros: All hardware and software is in a remote facility, removing the overhead of managing hardware contracts. Access can be through public links just like public cloud access but to your completely dedicated infrastructure, or through dedicated VPN equipment. Customer just consumes the dedicated cloud platform but allows customisation of additional devices and suite of services hosted in the managed service provider’s datacenter to enhance the capabilities of their dedicated cloud infrastructure.

Cons: Datacenter is remote, so questions of motives of using a manage service provider’s dedicated cloud offering vs a pure public cloud provider need to be assessed. Scaling the underlying hardware still has some lead-time between hours and days depending on service provider.

We have reached the point where variations of Private Clouds are often discussed and assessed as a normal due diligence exercise for businesses looking to enhance the services they offer in their datacenters, or as a strategy to move away from operating their own datacenters and even for targets of migrations away from public clouds. In many cases, OpenStack often complements existing infrastructure, assisting migrations and working in multi-cloud environments where some workloads just do not make sense to run on a public cloud. OpenStack is the open standard for On-Premises and Managed Private Clouds and I urge you to assess both the OpenStack Marketplace and OpenStack Project Navigator before committing. I also urge you to look beyond some of the noise and terminology used out there because what makes sense is what works for you. And of course, you should always reach out to an experience managed service provider, like where I work at Rackspace, to help fulfil your complete cloud and OpenStack journey.


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