Is My Data Center Consolidation Really a Private Cloud?

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Historically the primary goal of many IT departments was to run applications. Now the cloud model appears to be a new and attractive way to do that. “My data center is a cloud” – is touted more by people these days as a way to show they have embraced and are leveraging the latest technology for the greater good of their company and to build-up their own reputation. However, running applications is old school; the IT department is now calling it something else – “Providing a cloud service”.

Cloud began by delivering public cloud services and the presumption that all IT would be outsourced. In fact, John Chambers (Cisco) actually predicted a worldwide consolidation into one single massive cloud data center. Well, clearly, this has not happened yet. Why? Enterprises involved in real cloud viability assessments quickly realized that most of their IT could not be put in the public cloud due to potential security issues and a desire to control and manage their own IT environment. Does that mean they cannot benefit from the cloud at all? Since there is overwhelming pressure coming from all sides to “move to the cloud”, many IT managers have focused on private clouds. In a private cloud the infrastructure is operated solely for an organization and the private cloud usually provides a single service – email, ERP, CRM, etc… In the cloud vernacular we are talking about SaaS (Software as a service).

Private clouds are supposed to leverage virtualization technology to be considered a “qualifying cloud”, but do they really? Sure, public clouds with pooled resources that are reallocating and repartitioning resources need to leverage virtualization, but why does a private cloud that is providing a single service?

Remember my proposed working definition of a cloud –
“Cloud Computing is a business model based on a computer platform delivering an on-demand self service user experience”

The key to this definition is “delivering on demand self service user experience”. It’s very possible to do a massive server consolidation project that delivers many benefits – lower cost, higher reliability, etc… But in order to be a cloud, it must deliver an on-demand experience. On-demand implies really unlimited capacity in the cloud world. The way to deliver this in the real world is in 2 key ways – the ability to add capacity, and the ability to provision the resource pool of assets, typically servers.

To add capacity or “fast scale” in a cloud is achieved by implementing standardized, modular blocks of IT hardware, software, and physical infrastructure to form your integrated cloud foundation (IaaS – Infrastructure as a service).

On-demand self service provisioning in a cloud can only be done if the environment has large scale virtualization or pervasive virtualization. This is very hard to do with most of today’s mission-critical applications because they run on multitasking computer systems, often based on principles of service-oriented architecture (SOA) on a Platform as a Service (PaaS) vision of the cloud. Virtualization isn’t used or even valuable for these applications.

So if that’s the case, and virtualization is not possible or valuable for your consolidation, does this mean you do not meet the requirements for a private cloud? I say that if you have the ability to add capacity or “fast scale” by implementing standardized, modular blocks of IT hardware, software, and physical infrastructure, and you are delivering applications as a service – you have yourself a private cloud!

As I move forward with the proposed working definition of cloud and considering the feedback that is pouring in, I have decided to tweak it for better clarity by ensuring its clear the cloud data center structure delivers the cloud promise –

“Cloud Computing is a business model based on a modular, efficient computer platform delivering an on-demand self service user experience”

Seems like this makes sense and is narrowing in on a simple yet workable definition??

Check out my first post on this topic, “Why is Cloud computing so hard to define anyways?

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