I’ve been doing a lot of work on private (internal) clouds lately – it’s a result of my new job with Unisys. Part of that work has been spending time with customers on their plans for cloud computing — internal and external. There’s some very interesting work going on in the private cloud space, and the solutions available to enterprises to build their clouds are many.
Note – I make the (internal) distinction for a reason. The term “private cloud” is now starting to morph from purely internal, to internal and external clouds controlled closely by IT. Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud is an example of a private cloud in an external provider setting.
I have seen charts from Gartner that show how private (internal) clouds will get more money from IT over the next few years than public clouds. I’ve also seen the benefits of a private cloud in the development/test workload scenario here at Unisys. The numbers are pretty staggering (we are publishing a paper on this).
I can imagine that IT folks are just a wee bit confused by all the cloud noise lately, especially when it comes to private clouds. You can choose from a wide range of approaches. These start with open source cloud projects from Eucalyptus or OpenNebula providing a good base level cloud framework. Then there’s the guys who have been out there a bit but are not really all that big — like Enomaly or 3tera (both of whom seem to see greener fields selling cloud solutions to hosting and telco providers than to entperprises).
In the 800-lb gorilla category you have VMware with their vCloud initiative. Not that most VMware customers aren’t already locked in until Armageddon, but vCloud is just one more way to remove any possibility in the future of getting out from under VMware’s thumb. vCloud=vLock! (note – as always on these pages, this is me talking, not my employer)
There’s also the big iron guys like IBM with CloudBurst and HP CloudAssure (is that even a product?). In this collection you can go from free (open source) to over $200,000 (HP, IBM) just to open the box. Oh, and it normally comes in a box, as in appliance (or appliance with cloud capacity in a rack).
So, what does a private internal cloud solution look like from an IT perspective anyway?
Well, it looks a bit like how Amazon’s EC2 and S3 look to Amazon’s internal tech crew. It starts with a bunch of hardware that can run the workloads. To this you add a level of virtualization and/or grid control to enable multiple workloads to run on the same box. This can be Xen (as in Amazon), or it can be VMware ESXi or Hyper-V, etc. Then you add layers of automation that allow you to manage tens, hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of boxes with relatively few people. My friend John Willis (e.g. @botchagalupe) calls this “zero touch” infrastructure (note, John is working with the Canonical folks on the Ubuntu Cloud bundle with Eucalyptus). “Zero touch” covers server repurposing, virtualization, image remediation (patch and release level management), provisioning, metering (for chargebacks) and more. Then you add self-service interfaces (portal, API, etc.) and voila! Private cloud. Note – I’m pretty sure that Eucalyptus and OpenNebula fall far short of this level of automation out of the box.
As you might imagine, this is bloody difficult to pull off. Amazon, Google and others worked their keisters off to get to where they are, and they are still building. Basically, the primary activity of the data center folks at Amazon is swapping servers (and that’s a big job). One fails, another is swapped in, and the system grabs the new box and joins it to the cloud. In most IT organizations, a lot of people get involved in installing the image on the machine, virtualizing it, and joining it to the network. For obvious reasons, that wouldn’t scale at Amazon.
One of the first things IT needs to let go of, to get a cloud running to its full potential, is the concept of manually approving anything. All of the rules for approvals need to exist in advance and the system just needs to follow them. Having a person “OK” the creation of a VM is just crazy, yet that’s what happens in many IT organizations. Someone requests a virtual machine instance for a project and it goes into a queue for manual approval, and then manual implementation. Yikes!! This isn’t to say that nothing is approved – as I said, you have to set up the rules in advance. How many instances of X can a department get? What do we charge them (IT is now really a business, no?)? Are there time limits on the VMs or servers we provide (e.g. maximum lease terms)? All of this needs to be there and ready to go.
Then you need to give people the portal. That’s the magic pixie dust that makes it all come together. Rather than “requesting” a server, you provision one. It might take a few minutes for the automati0n to do its work, but that’s a lot better than the hours, days, or even weeks (yes weeks for a single VM!!) it used to take.
So, to net it out — a private (internal) cloud = hardware + virtualization + automation + chargeback + self-service portal. It also = the promised land for enterprise IT modernization.
Sounds easy? As if!
I think you hit private clouds right on the head…the amount of effort for any IT organization to get this done correctly out of the box is probably pretty high. So the question is how much are they going to “invest” in creating their private cloud and how much better will it really be than using a public cloud? My guess is they will have to invest a lot and it will never be better than using a public cloud as the technological forces affecting public clouds will outstrip the capacity of any private cloud to keep up with them. My conclusion is that for the short to mid term private clouds will be very expensive to build and operate and will constantly lag behind the services and features that public clouds will offer.
[Disclaimer: I work for VMware.]I'm curious to hear more about why you think using vCloud leads to any more lock-in versus something else? You also have a throw-away comment about how anyone who chooses VMware is already more “locked in”, I'd like to hear a bit more about why you feel that way.
Tim – There may be deficits in some functionality, and IT is not afraid of making investments when needed. There are just many cases where a private cloud will be preferred over a public cloud for the near future. John
Ramesh – thanks for the comment. I have been a SW vendor guy on and off since 1991. Lock-in is how you create value for your shareholders, so don't be surprised that this would be the case for VMware. If people just used ESX there would be little lock-in. A VM is a VM (almost). But by wrapping a lot of technology around this that only works with your virtualization layer, you are becoming more and more embedded in the IT process. With each new function you deliver, and customers adopt, the price for switching to Hyper-V, KVM, Xen etc. gets higher. That's lock-in. When you're the 800lb gorilla like VMware, lock-in is bad for the overall market and drives up the cost of ownership for users.
Hi John,Saw you at CloudCamp Boston this past July. Enjoyed the event. You andDave did a great job.2009 is turning out to be one of the worst ever years for IT investment. Maybe large corporations will actually have access to capital and credit tobuild their private clouds, but small and medium sized businesses won't. Idoubt that they will be able to borrow or obtain credit for the next roundof server upgrades and licenses for proprietary software upgrades.Many small businesses I work with rely on credit and credit cards to operatetheir businesses. The credit card companies have already reduced the numberof accounts by 15% and they are decreasing credit lines for everyone elsebased on their exposure to defaults, which are now running at roughly 10%. The more unemployment increases the worse it will get for small and mediumsized businesses. IT in small and medium sized businesses is not immune tothese changes.The economy has entered a deflationary cycle that could last for a decade. There is way too much private and public debt and not enough income toservice it. I suspect most small and medium sized businesses will financetheir IT operations out of accounts receivable or barter. Cloud-based ITservices are what they will turn to because they are all opex and no capex.The economy is in much worse shape than most people are willing to admit. Public cloud computing is one thing that will help many small and mediumsized businesses slash IT costs and hopefully survive.tim
Hi John,Great post. What about service definition and service level agreement? Doesn't the internal cloud need a way to define what the services available through the portal are and what is the SLA on them?Ciao Vittorio
Vittorio – sorry for the delayed response. You are quite right on that front. Private clouds – running internally or in someone else's data center – need not only SLAs, but service governance built in (my app is getting slow, automatically scale it… etc.). I have not seen a good instance of this yet – have you?
I don't have a direct example for you but we recently did a survey of around 100 customers that are planning or building building an internal cloud and 71% of them claim to have a standard service definition in place and 48% said they have standard SLAs as well.
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