Developing a private cloud

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Is it the right direction for you?

Cloud computing continues to transform the enterprises it touches. Moving business processes, data storage, and embracing more virtualisation are all key components of today's cloud environments.

The outsourced foundation of the cloud is driving this sector, but businesses are increasingly looking at how they can take more control of the platforms they already own. Enter the private cloud.

A whitepaper from Cisco defines the private cloud as follows: "With a private cloud, enterprises can run processes internally and externally, having established the private cloud as the control point for workloads.

"With control through a unified management tool and a user-centric view, the private cloud thus enables IT to make the best decisions about whether to use internal or external resources, or both. And it allows that decision to be made on a real time basis to meet user service needs."

Taking control

It can also give an IT department more control in obtaining the benefits of cloud computing, including: availability on demand; the faster provisioning of business services; a economies of scale; the flexibility to run workload and applications in the most efficient and effective places; a pay-as-you-go model; standardised, auditable service levels; the capability to work with every application without the need to rewrite them; and the control of security.

Despite a growing appreciation of the benefits, there is a level of confusion when companies look at developing a private cloud. The first step is clearly to embrace more virtualisation, but this is only one layer. A control layer and a self-service portal also have to be created to form what is now being defined as a private cloud.

The need for this is reflected in a further section of the Cisco whitepaper, which says: "The private cloud is a new style of computing in which corporate IT infrastructure is available as a ubiquitous, easily accessible, and reliable utility service. Business owners and application owners requesting a new business service can use the infrastructure as a standard service, without the need to understand the complexities of servers, storage, and networks."

There is also a debate as to whether businesses should be building private clouds at all. The public cloud has freed businesses from the management of the hardware infrastructure, but these responsibilities move back to the company with private cloud deployments.

Business case

Businesses tend to begin the development of their private cloud once they realise the benefits of cloud computing in general.

For instance, they will move their CRM systems to to reap the commercial benefits it can bring. They will then begin to look at their own internal IT infrastructures and ask how cloud principles can be applied there.

The first step towards is the virtualisation of existing servers. In a typical installation, only about 10% of a server is being used at any one time. With virtualisation, this jumps to 80%, with a corresponding improvement in a business' overall efficiency.

Taking onboard how virtualisation can benefit your enterprise is a major step towards developing a private cloud, but only the first step. After virtualisation is complete it becomes vital to control these virtual environments, and this forms a major component of a private cloud.

For companies evaluating whether a private cloud could benefit them, it's critical to understand how it is constructed, and whether the firm has the assets in place to make it a reality. It is necessary to clearly define the rules that govern how the private cloud is accessed, by whom and how development takes place within the private cloud environment.

It is a mistake to think of a private cloud as a completely separate entity that is behind your business's firewall and does not have any connections with the public cloud services your organisation may be using. In reality the opposite is true, as most businesses will take a hybrid approach in their use of cloud (private and public).