by Kent Christensen
As 2012 unfolds, cloud computing’s popularity in the enterprise will continue to build. Many companies already use some form of public cloud services such as software as a service (SaaS), business process services or public cloud infrastructure services. Typically, you’ll see their use in areas such as CRM, sales or the ongoing support of key business functions such as payroll.
Beyond this usage, 2012 promises to bring even more elements
of the cloud in-house. In fact, this year will likely see between 20 to 30
percent of enterprises making early moves to develop their own private cloud
architectures behind the firewall. My colleagues and I talk to a lot of
enterprise clients about this issue. By my informal tally, roughly one in three
of them have begun to realize they can’t keep doing what they’ve been doing in
their data centers.
Motives Leading to
Private Cloud Adoption
For forward-thinking enterprises, the motivation for building a private cloud often falls in one of two categories:
or die. The impetus for nearly half of those interested in moving to
private cloud is usually a defensive one. Suddenly, they find the need to
defend and measure the efficiencies of their own IT organization against those
of public cloud service providers. Make no mistake: Public cloud providers have
spent much time and money to convince enterprise CEOs of the savings to be
gained through outsourcing IT functions and services to an external cloud
provider. In many cases, this leads to a cloud mandate without the business
validation which links the mandate to the relative benefits it should bring to
the organization. Cloud and cost savings are not automatic assumptions. Yet, IT
organizations now have to prove their mettle under this type of onslaught.
- Natural evolution. Others looking to build a private cloud architecture may have environments that already incorporate advanced virtualization technologies. These organizations are now looking to bridge the gaps between advanced virtualization and such infrastructures as unified or fabric-based architectures, private cloud environments or IT as a service (ITaaS) frameworks. The unified approach looks at data center infrastructure as a holistic solution versus buying separate parts (i.e., servers, networking and storage) and assembling them on-site. Private cloud extends that vision to IT, allowing it to operate like a service provider to the business units. By adopting several common private cloud attributes in their emerging environments, they hope to reap further benefits.
I sat down with one very large organization to determine what they hoped to achieve with their emerging private cloud architecture. Based on their level of internal readiness and the reorganization they’d already accomplished, we concluded they’d be able to run their applications 30 to 40 percent more efficiently on their own internal cloud than they could if they were to use a public cloud service provider.
This is not uncommon. When progressive, mature IT organizations embrace private cloud computing, they’re likely to find themselves more efficient than outside service providers. After all, they know more about their company’s compliance requirements, its security needs and the application dependencies for some of their most mission-critical applications. They may use the same cloud infrastructure building blocks, but there’s no profit overhead they need to build in and chargeback to the customer being serviced. For these reasons, they should be able to service the company’s needs more efficiently.
Private, Public or
In the end, you’re likely to see enterprises move toward a hybrid cloud environment rather than an “all private” or “all public” cloud. A hybrid environment is one which uses a combination of private and public cloud infrastructures as the need dictates. For example, some aspects of the same application might run internally while other components are outsourced to a public cloud environment.
Here’s one major takeaway from a move to a hybrid cloud environment: For most organizations, how they adopt a cloud paradigm is (and should be) dependent first on their unique business model.
Regardless of whether you talk about private or public clouds, however, many common attributes exist and are able to be selected for use in a particular enterprise’s private cloud deployment. Here are several cloud attributes that enterprises find compelling:
- Metered usage
In cafeteria style, many enterprises will pick and choose the two or three most desirable cloud attributes they want to incorporate and focus on those, at least initially. Early adopters will customize cloud to their business needs.
Key Markers on the
Road to Private or Hybrid Cloud Computing
This year will see companies making inroads toward private cloud architectures and the ultimate adoption of a hybrid cloud paradigm. But, for most, there’s still much legwork, assessment and technology restructuring to be done before they’ll get there.
So, what can most expect to accomplish this year? Based on where many are in their own evolution, it’s realistic to expect many to:
- Develop a cloud roadmap;
- Sponsor a private cloud (or ITaaS) initiative;
- Complete a private cloud pilot or use case showcasing potential benefits to key business units.
Findings from any pilot or use case should help in later planning with business units on how best to expand the private cloud infrastructure for more high-priority uses.
Many organizations may choose a pilot or use case associated first with the company’s development or testing environment before broadening the reach of their emerging private cloud.
Being Explored for Private Cloud Computing
While many organizations have already embraced server virtualization, the next natural progression for many are technologies that seek to unify or integrate networking, server, storage and management layers as a pre-tested, pre-configured building block. These can be thought of as unified architectures or infrastructure “blocks,” “pods” or “bundles”. Some of the names these technologies go by include Vblock, FlexPod and others.
As organizations progress past 2012 and into later stages of cloud maturity, they will also need to incorporate higher level management technologies that allow for the oversight and “brokering” of cloud services for key functions.
Ultimately, the end goal of a hybrid environment is the use of some form of federated management function that allows the enterprise IT organization to maintain control, oversight and “orchestration” of the cloud environment.
In this way, the enterprise IT organization controls how and where public or private cloud components are utilized. The organization thus makes informed decisions on cloud effectiveness and the varying costs to use internal or external services. The enterprise also ultimately controls the provisioning of internal or external cloud resources for key business functions.
Evolving Through the
Various Stages of Cloud Maturity
One way to track your progress on the road to private or hybrid cloud computing is to first identify where your organization stands in its level of cloud readiness or cloud maturity. In our various Tech Summits on the subject of cloud computing, we accomplish this using a helpful five-stage “Cloud Maturity Chart” (shown below).
In our estimation, most enterprises are currently at Stage 2 or the early start of Stage 3. They are in the midst of a move from a reactive environment to a more proactive one that focuses on automation and the automated provisioning of pooled resources. The ultimate goal (at Stage 5) evolves into a highly value-centric approach regarding the delivery of IT services. It also evolves toward the flexible use of a hybrid cloud.
Each stage of cloud maturity brings with it unique challenges, business drivers, technologies and key investments.
While most enterprises have some way to go before achieving the advanced stages of cloud maturity, they can take heart in where they are and in the inherent benefits they’ll gain at each stage of the process. These benefits include greater efficiency, cost savings and the ease derived from an ever-closer alignment and responsiveness of IT to today’s (and tomorrow’s) business goals.
If pursuit of a cloud utopia gets you there, then more power to the cloud.
Kent Christensen is the virtualization practice manager for Datalink (Eden Prairie, MN). www.datalink.com