3 types of private clouds: Which one’s right for you?

3 types of private clouds: Which one’s right for you?
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From open source software to preconfigured infrastructure, there are lots of private cloud options

Forrester Research describes the Infrastructure-as-a-Service private cloud industry as healthy, growing and “intensely competitive.”

“Customers no longer question cloud computing
 as a viable technology choice,” writes Forrester senior analyst Lauren Nelson in a recent report. “And in a growing number of enterprises, cloud is now the first choice.”

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But not all customers are willing to brave the public cloud, dominated by Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. So, the market for private clouds has emerged.

Nelson and her colleague Richard Fichera recently examined 50 private cloud vendors to identify pros and cons, divvying the market into three major buckets to help customers decide which private cloud is right for them.

Private clouds are IaaS offerings dedicated to a single customer, meaning that unlike with public clouds, users don’t share resources. Private clouds include virtualized infrastructure – like compute and storage – that users can access in a self-serve manner. So which type of private cloud is right for you?

Software solutions

Software-only private cloud management platforms sit atop customers’ existing hardware. This private cloud variation automates the provisioning of resources, manages access to the infrastructure resources and keeps track of usage.

This is typically the best path for organizations that have recently upgraded their hardware and have a high percentage of their infrastructure virtualized. Many of these clouds are built atop VMware infrastructure, with VMware or third-party private cloud management tools above that. Open-source OpenStack is another popular software management stack.

Examples of software-only private cloud suppliers: CA Technologies, Cisco, Dell, Egenera, EMC, HotLink, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Joyent, Microsoft, Mirantis, OpenStack, Oracle, Rackspace, Red Hat, RightScale, VMware

Pre-integrated converged systems

Forrester estimates that about 13% of the private cloud market is made up of systems that are sold as combined hardware and software packages. These typically include a converged infrastructure hardware stack that has compute, network and storage resources, along with management software that includes automation capabilities. Forrester calls this the “fast-track” to private cloud because it is purchased as a bundle.

Pre-integrated converged systems are ideal for customers who may want to prioritize their focus on the organizational changes when adopting a cloud architecture, Forrester says. They’re also ideal for customers who want a relatively simple, out-of-the-box platform that sits on their own premises.

Examples of pre-integrated converged system providers include: BMC, Cisco, CSC, Dell, EMC, Hitachi, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, Mirantis, NetApp, Oracle, Unisys, VCE, VMware

Managed private cloud

A small segment of the market is made up of managed private clouds, which are typically combined hardware/software bundles that sit on customer premises, but the biggest difference here is that they are managed by a vendor. In this model, the vendor provides support, maintenance, upgrades, and even remote management of the private cloud. It’s a way for an organization – perhaps one that does not have appropriate personnel on staff – to shift responsibility of the private cloud to the service provider. Sometimes vendors even offer services further up the stack, such as managing the software applications that run on the cloud.

Examples of vendors offering managed private clouds: Citrix, Cisco, CSC, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Mirantis, Rackspace

There’s one other option, too: Customers can go the pure open source route. That is, take a platform like OpenStack or Apache CloudStack, download the code for free and deploy it. This is a very labor-intensive process though, and requires highly technical skills.

Customers should evaluate what business needs are driving their consideration of a private cloud deployment and determine how able their staff is to handle it. A critical aspect of any cloud rollout is the training, education and ongoing integration.

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