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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Transient Nature Of Private Clouds

An interesting thread is now on within the enterprise irregulars group on what constitutes private clouds –as again very enlightened discussion therein. The issue that I want to talk about is if private cloud do indeed exist, then what is their adoption path ? Lets start from the beginning : the issue is can we can use the term ”cloud” for describing the changes that happen inside IT architectures within enterprise? Thought there can be no definitive answer – a series of transition to a new order of things, will in my opinion, become imminent.

The pressures on IT & the engulfing sense of change in the IT landscape are hard to overlook. The pressures would mean more business begin to seriously look at SaaS, re-negotiating license terms, focusing on rapid adoption of virtualization etc. As part of this and beyond, internal IT would be forced more and more to show more bang for the buck and it is my view that organizations would begin to look more and more to question committed costs and begin to aggressively look at attacking them more systematically – earlier sporadic efforts marked their endeavors. This could also unlock additional resources that could potentially go towards funding new initiatives. There are enough number of enterprises going this route and their service partners are also in some cases prodding them to go this way.

The change in many senses may make IT inside enterprises to look , behave and perform like cloud computing providers – though there would be limitations( in most places serious) on scale, usage assessments , security and the like. There are strong incentives propelling enterprises to channel their efforts and investments over the next few years in mimicking a private cloud service architecture that gets managed by them internally. This could well become their approach of staging towards finally embracing the cloud(public) over a period of time . These baby steps to nearly full blown efforts are needed in preparing organizations to embrace clouds and it may not be feasible at all to make the shift from on-premise to cloud like flip switch. Serious licensing issues, maturity, lack of readiness, integration concerns, security all come in the way of enterprises looking at public cloud in a holistic way. These steps need not be looked down – they would very well become the foundation to move into public clouds in a big way.

Let’s for a moment assess this theme from a security perspective - a dominant concern business expresses when it comes to clouds. While assessing security requirements in public clouds,we see the recognition that a whole host of chnages need to be done at application architecture levels, the need to accomodate specific compliance requirements, privacy provisions in the public cloud etc.

Lets think through this : setting up private cloud is a motherhood statement at best( in many organizational surveys, one can find setting private clouds is not in the CIO’s top three priorities – if anything virtualization finds a place-) to make this happen in a credible way means re-examining most parts of IT functioning and business –IT relationship inside enterprises. IT teams while conceptualizing private clouds are happy to retain existing architectural designs, happily propose a clasical DMZ/Perimeterized model for providing security and enabling access, too often leveraging a highly virtualized infrastructure. More often than not, it’s enabling virtualization, automation and self service and color it as private cloud. Do recognize the implicit differences in constructing a private cloud and a public cloud. Comfort with the status quo with some adjustments versus an opportunity to rethink architecture, security, privacy,compliance needs in a way summarizes the nature of thought process and expected results between the private and public clouds. Speaking more directly, public clouds present the opportunity for enterprises to review and achieve specific requirements in the areas like agility, flexibility and efficiency at optimal effort Versus a skewed , boxed implementation of private cloud setup. Taking advantage of the public cloud benefits would far outweigh the advantages of getting boxed inside with private clouds.

Most elements of the bedrock gets affected – the processes, culture, metrics, performance, funding, service levels etc. Well thought out frameworks, roadmaps need to be put in place to make this transition successful. These frameworks need to cater not only to setting up internal cloud but eventually help in embracing the public cloud over the years- not an easy task as it appears. A few of those organizations that master this transition may also look at making business out of these – so it’s a journey – that needs to be travelled onto embracing public clouds. Some business may take a staged approach and call it by private cloud, internal cloud or whatever but eventually the road may lead into public clouds!

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