I recently had the privilege of moderating an executive forum regarding private clouds that attracted CIOs and other key decision-makers from a cross-section of major corporations and public sector agencies.
The attendees were attracted to the event because they are being pressured by internal and external forces to develop a cloud strategy, and they believe private clouds must play a critical part in their plans.
The vast majority of the attendees were trying to regain control over clandestine adoption of public cloud services by renegade business units and disgruntled employees. Although the best way to combat the growth of ‘shadow IT’ in their organizations seemed to be clear, they were uncertain how to design and implement private cloud alternatives to meet their internal needs and keep pace with external demands.
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the ‘private cloud’ concept has multiple deployment interpretations. The most popular private cloud approach among many large-scale enterprises today is the idea of transforming their legacy data centers into cloud-like operating environments. This approach could also entail leaving the legacy operations alone and deploying a separate private cloud to augment the existing computing capabilities.
Defining the key ingredients that make up a private cloud can also be debated. While everyone at the forum I moderated agreed that a private cloud entailed more than virtualization, there were varying opinions regarding how much automation, self-provisioning and metering private clouds require.
While gaining greater agility and encouraging more innovation were generally viewed as the ultimate objectives of deploying private cloud environments, reducing costs and improving operating efficiencies were also important goals.
Yet, many of the attendees at the event admitted they were hesitant to build their own private clouds because they lacked the inhouse expertise to sort through the various options, select the right platforms and tools, and administer the new environment on an ongoing basis. They were also apprehensive about whether they could afford the significant upfront financial investment or uncertain operating costs.
The attendees were also uncertain about the private cloud capabilities they could obtain from cloud service providers, the cost of these services and how secure they were. Security was certainly the primary driver for moving to a private cloud approach, and the recent NSA Prism Project scandal has intensified the security concerns.
The event made it clear that many enterprises still have to take the following steps to establish reasonable private cloud deployment goals and properly evaluate their private cloud alternatives.
First, they need to clearly define what a private cloud means to their organization. What are the primary business needs they are trying to satisfy and the key private cloud attributes which the organization is seeking to attain?
Second, they must identify the gaps in their current computing environment that need to be filled by a private cloud and ask which of these gaps are best addressed with on-premise resources vs. external cloud services?
Third, firms need to determine the best approach to test the viability of each private cloud component incrementally to mitigate the risk of failure and easily adjust the deployment plans.
Finally, be sure to implement methodologies and tools to measure the impact of the private cloud deployment from a technical, operational and business perspective to demonstrate the ROI and develop a new set of objectives for the next round of private cloud plans.
Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies (www.thinkstrategies.com), an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement. He is also the founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace (www.cloudshowplace.com), and the host of the Cloud Innovators Summit series (www.cloudsummits.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.