Posts Tagged private cloud

The Data Center’s Hybrid Cloud Future

Nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017. Hybrid cloud computing is at the same place today that private cloud was three years ago; actual deployments are low, but aspirations are high, says Gartner in a published news note from Oct. 2013.

Almost every organization today utilizes some form of cloud computing, usually public clouds.  In its State of the Cloud survey RightScale found 94% of organizations are running applications or experimenting with infrastructure-as-a-service, 87% of organizations are using public cloud, and 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy and more than half of those are already using both public and private cloud. RightScale estimates may be a bit more generous than Gartner but both come to the same conclusion in the end: Hybrid cloud is the approach of choice.

Executive management, however, prefers private clouds for the control and security they promise. That the actual control and security may not be much better than what the organization could achieve in the public cloud if it were rolled out properly, but executives don’t understand that. So private clouds are management’s darling for now.

Private clouds, however, fail to deliver the key benefits of cloud computing—cost efficiency and business agility. The organization still has to invest in all the IT resources, capacity, and capabilities of the private cloud. Unlike the public cloud, these are not shared resources. They may repurpose some of their existing IT investment for the private cloud but they invariably will again have to acquire additional IT resources and capacity as before. And, the demand for resources may increase as business units come to like IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS), the rationale for private clouds in the first place.

As for business agility with private clouds—forget it. If new capabilities are required to meet some new business requirement, the organization will have to build or acquire that capability as it did before. The backlogs for developing new capabilities do not magically go away with ITaaS and private clouds. If business agility requires the business to pivot on a moment’s notice to meet new challenges and opportunities there is only one way the private cloud can do it–develop it in-house, the old fashioned way.

Hybrid clouds provide the answer. Gartner, Inc. defines a hybrid cloud as a cloud computing service that is composed of some combination of private, public and community cloud services from different service providers. In the hybrid cloud scenario, the company can rely on its private cloud and happily cruise along until it needs a capability or resource it can’t deliver. Then the company reaches out through the hybrid cloud to the public cloud for the required capability. Rather than build it, the organization basically rents the capability, paying only for what it uses when it uses it. This is ideal when the organization needs to temporarily augment resources, capacity, or capabilities to meet an unanticipated need.

Hybrid clouds, unfortunately, don’t just pop up overnight. First you need to lay the groundwork for your hybrid cloud. That entails identifying the specific cloud resources and services in advance, making the necessary financial arrangements with appropriate public cloud vendors, and establishing and testing the connections. Also, check with your auditors who will want to be assured about security and governance and similar details.

While you are at it, make sure your networking and security teams are on board. Ports will need to be opened; the firewall gods will need to be appeased. You also will need to think about how these new capabilities and services will integrate with the capabilities and services you already have. This isn’t necessarily a major undertaking as IT projects go but will take some time—days or, more likely, a few weeks—to get the approvals, assemble all the pieces, and get them configured and tested and ready to deploy.

As RightScale notes: although the use of cloud is a given, enterprises often have different strategies that involve varying combinations of public, private, and hybrid cloud infrastructure. For most, however, the hybrid cloud provides the best of all cloud worlds, especially in terms of cost and agility. You can run ITaaS from your private cloud and pass through your hybrid cloud whenever you need public cloud resources you don’t have in house.  Just make sure you set it up in advance so it is ready to go whenyou need it.

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Achieving the Private Cloud Business Payoff Fast

Nationwide Insurance eliminated both capital and operational expenditures through a private cloud and expects to save about $15 million over three years. In addition, it expects the more compact and efficient private cloud landscape to mean lower costs in the future.

The City of Honolulu turned to a private cloud and reduced application deployment time from one week to only hours. It also reduced the licensing cost of one database by 68%. Better still; a new property tax appraisal system resulted in $1.4 million of increased tax revenue in just three months.

The private cloud market, especially among larger enterprises, is strong and is expected to show a CAGR of 21.5% through 2015, according to research distributed by ReportLinker.com. Another report from Renub Research quotes analysts saving security is a big concern for enterprises that may be considering the use of public cloud. For such organizations, the private cloud represents an alternative with a tighter security model that would enable their IT managers to control the building, deployment and management of those privately owned, internal clouds.

Nationwide and Honolulu each built their private clouds on the IBM mainframe. From its introduction last August, IBM has aimed the zEC12 at cloud use cases, especially private clouds. The zEC12’s massive virtualization capabilities make it possible to handle private cloud environments consisting of thousands of distributed systems running Linux on zEC12.

One zEC12, notes IBM, can encompass the capacity of an entire multi-platform data center in a single system. The newest z also enables organizations to run conventional IT workloads and private cloud applications on one system.  Furthermore, if you are looking at a zEC12 coupled with the zBX (extension cabinet) you can have a multi-platform private cloud running Linux, Windows, and AIX workloads.  On a somewhat smaller scale, you can build a multi-platform private cloud using the IBM PureSystems machines.

Organizations everywhere are adopting private clouds.  The Open Data Center Alliance reports faster private cloud adoption than originally predicted. Over half its survey respondents will be running more than 40% of their IT operations in private clouds by 2015.

Mainframes make a particularly good private clouds choice.  Nationwide, the insurance company, initially planned to consolidate 3000 distributed servers to Linux virtual servers running on several z mainframes, creating a multi-platform private mainframe cloud optimized for its different workloads. The goal was to improve efficiency.

The key benefit: higher utilization and better economies of scale, effectively making the mainframes into a unified private cloud—a single set of resources, managed with the same tools but optimized for a variety of workloads. This eliminated both capital and operational expenditures and is expected to save about $15 million over three years. The more compact and efficient zEnterprise landscape also means low costs in the future too. Specifically, Nationwide is realizing an 80% reduction in power, cooling and floor space despite an application workload that is growing 30% annually, and practically all of it handled through the provisioning of new virtual servers on the existing mainframe footprint.

The City and County of Honolulu needed to increase government transparency by providing useful, timely data to its citizens. The goal was to boost citizen involvement, improve delivery of services, and increase the efficiency of city operations.

Honolulu built its cloud using an IFL engine running Linux on the city’s z10 EC machine. Between Linux and IBM z/VM the city created a customized cloud environment. This provided a scalable self-service platform on which city employees could develop open source applications, and it empowered the general public to create and deploy citizen-centric applications.

The results: reduction in application deployment time from one week to only hours and 68% lower licensing costs for one database. The resulting new property tax appraisal system increased tax revenue by $1.4 million in just three months.

You can do a similar multi-platform private cloud with IBM PureSystems. In either case the machines arrive ready for private cloud computing. Or else you can piece together x86 servers and components and do it yourself, which entails a lot more work, time, and risk.

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Low-Cost Fast Path to Private Cloud

The private cloud market—built around a set of virtualized IT resources behind the organization’s firewall—is growing rapidly. Private cloud vendors have been citing the latest Forrester prediction of the private cloud market to growth to more than $15 billion in 2020. Looking at a closer horizon, IDC estimates the private cloud market will grow to $5.8 billion by 2015.

 The appeal of the private cloud comes from its residing on-premise and its ability to leverage existing IT resources wherever possible. Most importantly, the private cloud addresses the concerns of business executives about cloud security and control.

The promise of private clouds is straightforward:  more flexibility and agility from their systems, lower total costs, higher utilization of the hardware, and better utilization of the IT staff. In short organizations want all the benefits of the public cloud computing along with the security of keeping it private behind enterprise firewall.

Private clouds can do this by delivering IT as a service and freeing up IT manpower through self-service automation. The private cloud sounds simple. They don’t, however, come that easily. They require sophisticated virtualization and automation.  “Up-front costs are real, and choosing the right vendor to manage or deploy an environment is equally important,” says senior IDC analyst Katie Broderick.

IBM, however, may change the private cloud financial equation with its newest SmartCloud Entry offering based on IBM System x (x86 servers) and VMware.  The starting price is surprisingly low, under $60,000.

The IBM SmartCloud Entry starts with a flexible, modular design that can be installed quickly. It also can handle integrated management; automated provisioning through a service request catalog, approvals, metering, and billing; and do it all through a consolidated management console, a single pane of glass. The result: the delivery of standardized IT services on the fly and at a lower cost through automation. A business person, according to IBM, can self-provision services through SmartCloud Entry in four mouse clicks,.  something even a VP can handle.

The prerequisite for any private cloud is virtualized systems.  Start by consolidating and virtualizing servers, storage, and networking to reduce operating and capital expenses and streamline systems management. Virtualization is essential to achieve the flexibility and efficiency organizations want from their private cloud. They must virtualize as the first step in IBM’s SmartCloud Entry or any other private cloud.

From there you improve speed and business agility through SmartCloud Entry capabilities like automated service deployment, portal-based self-service provisioning, and simplified administration.  In short you create master images of the desired software, convert the images for use with inexpensive tools like the open source KVM hypervisor, and track the images to ensure compliance and minimize security risks. Finally you can gain efficiency by reducing both the number of images and the storage required for them. From there just deploy the software images on request through end user self-service combined with virtual machine isolation capabilities and project-level user access controls for security.

By doing this—deploying and maintaining the application images, delegating and automating the provisioning, standardizing deployment, and simplifying administration—the organization can cut the time to deliver IT capabilities through a private cloud from months to 2-3 days, actually to just hours in some cases. This is what enables business agility—the ability to respond to changes fast—with reduced costs through a more efficient operation.

At $60k the IBM x86 SmartCloud Entry offering is a good place to start although IBM has private cloud offerings for Linux and Power Systems as well. But all major IT vendors are targeting private clouds though few can deliver as much of the stack as IBM. Microsoft offers a number of private cloud solutions here. HP provides a private cloud solution for Oracle, here, while Oracle has an advanced cluster file system for private cloud storage here.  NetApp, primarily a storage vendor, has partnered with others to deliver a variety of NetApp private cloud solutions for VMware, Hyper-V, SAP, and more.

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The ROI from Private Cloud Computing

In surveys executives repeatedly express their preference for private clouds due to the perceived greater control and better security. Still, a private cloud needs to generate a ROI justify the investment. Private clouds don’t come free.

Assessing the ROI of private cloud is possible but not straightforward. Additionally the recent economic recession has pressured corporate profits, leading organizations to cut technology spending and limit further investment in cloud, which makes an ROI analysis even more important, according to Cloudtweaks.

Leading researcher IDC notes that many of today’s private cloud business cases are being anchored by savings from application rationalization and IT staff productivity improvements in addition to expected optimization of hardware assets. And unlike the public cloud, which promises to shift IT spending from CAPEX to OPEX, private clouds can actually drive increases in CAPEX since sooner or later the organization is likely to invest in new servers and storage optimized for virtualized cloud service delivery and in management automation.

A private cloud is a virtualized pool of IT resources sitting behind the corporate firewall. Since these are your resources and reside within your security umbrella they offer the promise of greater control and security. The security and control, of course, is only as good as your IT security and control has been all along. Actually, it could get worse since the private cloud typically delivers IT capabilities as services to more of your workers who may use them more widely and more frequently and in new and different ways due to increased accessibility.

The private cloud changes the IT delivery model. IT truly becomes a services delivery operation deploying and delivering IT capabilities as services through the private cloud. Users will access these capabilities on demand as services, often through a browser or even a virtualized desktop.

The great value of the private cloud comes from the business agility it enables. The virtualized pool of IT resources that makes up the private cloud can be allocated and reallocated quickly and easily to meet changing business needs. Instead of requiring weeks if not months to develop and assemble the IT hardware and software resources necessary to support a new business initiative, those resources can be allocated from the pooled virtual resources, possibly with some configuration changes, in minutes or hours (provided, of course, sufficient resources are available). With a private cloud, in effect, you can change the business almost on-the-fly and with no additional investment other than a few clicks of the mouse.

As CIO, how are you going to put a value on this sudden agility? If it lets the organization effectively counter competitive challenges, seize new business opportunities, or satisfy new customer demands fast and easily it could deliver astounding value. It all depends on the business leadership. If top managers aren’t terribly agile thinkers, however, the value might be minimal.

Other benefits from a private cloud include increased IT productivity and efficiency, the ability of business users to self-provision the desired IT resources (with appropriate policy-based automation controlling the provisioning behind the scenes), and an increased ability to monitor and measure IT consumption for purposes of chargeback or, as is more likely, show back. For top management, show back may have big appeal, notes Jason Cowie, vice president, Embotics, a private cloud management software provider.

The private cloud, however, will likely entail additional investments. Although you can repurpose existing IT resources, soon you will want to invest in new resources with more capacity that has been optimized for the demands of what amounts to a new kind of delivery of IT capabilities. You also will want to invest in management automation to ensure efficient service delivery, monitoring, measurement, chargeback, and self-provisioning.

In the end, the value of private cloud agility when matched with agile thinking business leadership should more than offset the additional investments required.

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Mitigate Cloud Risk Through Open Source

The drumbeat of cloud computing has become so loud that no business manager can avoid its siren song of lower cost, greater business agility, and the perfect alignment of business and IT. Although much of cloud computing is based on open source technologies, namely Linux, it hasn’t been viewed as an open source phenomenon.

Cloud computing has proven easier said than done. Even before the recent Amazon cloud disaster when hundreds of Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) customers lost access to their applications and data for most of a day or longer, technology vendors had been scrambling to make cloud computing easier to deploy and use.

Red Hat, the large open source Linux provider, is the latest to launch a series of cloud technologies that promise to mitigate the risk of deploying applications to the cloud.   IBM, HP, Microsoft, EMC, Dell and others have their own initiatives aimed at doing the same thing. The Red Hat initiatives, as you’d expect, make extensive use of open source tools and frameworks to simplify the development and deployment of cloud systems and reduce the risk involved.

In some ways cloud computing appears remarkably simple. Just take a SaaS application like Salesforce.com, which is delivered via the cloud. All you need is a browser, deployment can be fast and easy, and the costs are reasonable and predictable.

Things get more complicated, however, when you want to start mixing and matching various cloud services and SaaS applications. Or you want to combine private and public cloud capabilities in a private cloud, creating what amounts to a hybrid cloud, and then build and deploy some of your own applications along with the cloud components. Of course, you’ll want to integrate and manage it all as a single system for efficiency.

Well, that’s not so easy. It can be done but you have to overcome the understandable tendency of vendors to lock you into their particular way of doing things. You end up with a lot of piece parts that don’t necessarily work together, at least not without a lot of cobbling on your part. This is where open source can help.

Earlier this week, Red Hat took a major step in enabling organizations to simplify cloud development and deployment and reduce risk. It introduced a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering called OpenShift. It is aimed at open source developers and provides them with a flexible platform for developing cloud applications using a choice of development frameworks for Java, Python, PHP and Ruby, including Spring, Seam, Weld, CDI, Rails, Rack, Symfony, Zend Framework, Twisted, Django and Java EE. It is based on a cloud interoperability standard, Deltacloud, and it promises to end PaaS lock-in, allowing developers to choose not only the languages and frameworks they use but the cloud provider upon which their application will run.

By building on the Deltacloud cloud interoperability standard, OpenShift allows developers to run their applications on any supported Red Hat Certified Public Cloud Provider, eliminating the lock-in associated with first-generation PaaS vendors. In addition it brings the JBoss middleware services to the PaaS experience, such as the MongoDB services and other RHEL services.

At the same conference, Red Hat introduced CloudForms, a product for creating and managing IaaS for private and hybrid clouds. It allows users to create integrated clouds consisting of a variety of computing resources and still be portable across physical, virtual and cloud computing resources.  CloudForms addresses key problems encountered in first-generation cloud products: the cost and complexity of virtual server sprawl, compliance nightmares and security concerns.

One key benefit of CloudForms is the ability to create hybrid clouds using existing computing resources: virtual servers from different vendors, such as Red Hat and VMware; different cloud vendors, such as IBM and Amazon; and conventional in-house or hosted physical server, both racks and blades. This level of choice helps to eliminate lock-in and the need to undergo migration from physical to virtual servers in order to obtain the benefits of cloud.

Other vendors also have introduced new cloud initiatives recently. IBM, for example, demonstrated an enterprise cloud service delivery platform that it is piloting with key clients.  It promises to allow enterprise clients to select key characteristics of a public, private, and hybrid cloud to match to their workload requirements from simple Web infrastructure to complex business processes. These characteristics fall along five risk dimensions: security, performance/availability, technology platform, management/deployment, and payment/billing.

HP has joined with Red Hat in what is being called the Red Hat Cloud-HP Edition.  This is a private cloud design and reference architecture for IAAS and combines Red Hat Cloud solutions with HP’s CloudSystem, Cloud Maps and associated services.

Add to the above what Dell, Microsoft, EMC, and others are doing with initiatives to simplify and streamline business use of the cloud and it becomes clear that the vendors have gotten the message: Businesses want cloud computing that delivers what it promised—open, flexible, reliable, and efficient computing. It will take a few years to build it out, but it just got a big boost.

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