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How to build a private cloud

Four must-have features of a successful private cloud

By Christine Burns, Network World
June 03, 2013 06:08 AM ET
Private cloud computing
Sam Bosma

Network World - A private cloud looks and acts like a public cloud, giving your corporation all the speed, agility and cost savings promised by cloud technology, only it’s single-tenant, and that tenant is you, right?  Well, that’s the goal, but it’s not quite the reality yet for most enterprises.

The definition of enterprise private cloud currently exists on a continuum. This lack of commonly defined ground is proving to be a bit of a stumbling block to achieving the velocity and dexterity promised by private cloud vendors inside traditional IT settings.  

5 tips for avoiding private cloud failures

Stack wars: OpenStack vs. CloudStack vs. Eucalyptus

Gartner doesn’t track private cloud installations at this time, says Aneel Lakhani, research director for virtualization and cloud.

“There is zero consensus on what enterprise IT considers private cloud to be. Installations labeled ‘private cloud’ now range from data centers having several virtualized machines, to having some very basic ability to automate processes, to possibly having some self-service components. With that much variation, the results of conducting a self-reported study based on this space would be completely invalid,” Lakhani says.

Forrester Research late in 2012 published results of its Forrsights Hardware Survey, in which 31% of the more than 2,300 midsize and enterprise IT respondents claimed to already have a private cloud in place, while another 17% said they were going to put one in sometime this year.  

“But if you dig a deeper into what this self-described group is actually doing, you can see that they may be using some sort of private cloud portal with some underlying virtualization, but the number actually tapping into the services that would give them the core value-add propositions of speed and agility, is really quite low,” says Lauren Nelson, Forrester's private infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud lead.  Her firm sets that number between 7% and 13%.

That’s the dirty little secret about virtualization in the enterprise, says Peder Ulander, vice president of product marketing for cloud platforms at Citrix. “Yes, 90% of IT departments have been virtualized, but those virtualized data centers are generally only being utilized to 30% of their capacity,” Ulander says. “Private cloud is really about driving efficiency and nailing the optimization.”

Objectively speaking, analysts, vendors pushing private clouds, and practitioners hired to implement private clouds say there are up to four basic tenets that must be in operation for an enterprise IT department to fully take advantage of a private cloud.

1. There must be a converged infrastructure.  “We’re talking at all levels. Servers must be virtualized. There has got to be underlying software defined networking and a converged storage fabric,” says Andrew Hillier, CTO of CiRBA, a supplier of capacity management software for virtualized and cloud environments in Toronto.

Josh McKenty, CTO and founder of OpenStack-based private cloud provider Piston Cloud Computing, echoed Hillier’s requirement of a fully converged infrastructure.  But McKenty, who has been working on private cloud networking issues since 2008 when he was working at NASA and served as a technical lead on the project that evolved into OpenStack, says corporate IT must also factor in disaster recovery, replication and placement logic for their private clouds. Also, private clouds are likely to exist across multiple data centers so as to support another tenet of cloud computing, removing any single point of failure in the service.

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