I Don’t Need a Private Cloud. I Already Have One!

imageHow many times have you heard that? When speaking to IT managers or business decision makersCloud and Datacenter Solutions Hub about a Private Cloud or a Hybrid Cloud, most think that they already have one. But, do they, really? Most IT professionals already know that virtualization does not equal cloud. Although virtualization may power a private cloud, it does not define one. (Running virtual machines on a hypervisor does not alone mean that you are running a Private Cloud).

In fact, 70% of companies that think they have a Private Cloud actually do not have one at all. According to a recent CIO.com article, “The line between virtualization and a private cloud can be a fuzzy one, and according to a new report by Forrester Research, up to 70% of what IT administrators claim are private clouds are not. "It's a huge problem," says Forrester cloud expert James Staten. "It's cloud washing."” Briefly stated, cloud washing is IT or a vendor’s attempt to re-brand an existing product into a cloud-based product by simply adding the word “cloud” to it. It is just not the same thing, but it is happening inside IT departments everywhere.

IT professionals are telling their business customers that they already have a Private Cloud and they do not need another one. Why? It is a combination of two things. First, it is the good-old-fashioned comfort zone. Virtualization admins are happy, comfortable and safe in the services they provide today. When approached with a new concept of a Private Cloud, they think of it as “add-on” services that they can provide and keep doing everything the same way as yesterday. Some do not accept that a Private Cloud is an entirely different way of managing the data center compared to what they do today.

Second, it is lack of understanding of what a true Private Cloud entails. Some virtualization admins think a hypervisor and a self-service portal equals a private cloud. Some think reporting of virtual resource usage makes it a private cloud. Some think providing more resources than the business can possibly consume counts as a private cloud. Some think sharing physical resources across multiple groups makes it a private cloud. All of them would be wrong and this can lead to IT departments incorrectly telling their users that they have a Private Cloud.

OK, so then what do I need to actually have a real Private Cloud?

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a Private Cloud will have five basic characteristics:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Shared (multi-tenant) resource pools
  • Elasticity of scale resources
  • Service Measurement

In order to be a Private Cloud, the environment must have ALL FIVE of these characteristics. It is not enough to possess only some of the characteristics. The advertising of a private cloud, when one does not exist, leads to disappointed users who then pursue their needs to be met in the public cloud, such as Windows Azure or Amazon Web Services (where IT has even less control over resources).

With a nod and a wink to David Letterman, here is my Top Ten Questions to determine if you have a Private Cloud:

10. Do users have a web site or portal to request virtual machine resources?

9. When requesting resources, is the request processed automatically without requiring human interaction?

8. Can the cloud resources be accessed by a broad range of devices (desktop, laptops, tablets, smartphone, etc.)?

7. Can the cloud resources be accessed using standard networking protocols that are supported by a wide range of devices?

6. Does the private cloud serve multiple tenants without the use of dedicated hardware per tenant?

5. Are resources like computing, network access and storage virtualized in a way that multiple tenants can use it, without risk of accessing others’ data?

4. Does the user have the perception of infinite resources governed by quota rather than physical resource limitations?

3. Can capacity be added to or removed from the private cloud with some degree of automation and at no service interruption to the user?

2. Is the level of service that the cloud provides measured, monitored and reported?

1. Is resource usage by a tenant measured such that it can be charged back in a subscription model?

“Thank you and Good Night!”

Michael Lubanski
Americas Private Cloud Center of Excellence Lead
Microsoft Services

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