May 10, 2010, 11:13 AM — If you're nervous about running your business applications on a public cloud, many experts recommend that you take a spin around a private cloud first.
But building and managing a cloud within your data center is not just another infrastructure project, says Joe Tobolski, director of cloud computing at Accenture.
"A number of technology companies are portraying this as something you can go out and buy – sprinkle a little cloud-ulator powder on your data center and you have an internal cloud," he says. "That couldn't be further from the truth."
An internal, on-premise private cloud is what leading IT organizations have been working toward for years. It begins with data center consolidation, rationalization of OS, hardware and software platforms, and virtualization up and down the stack – servers, storage and network, Tobolski says.
Elasticity and pay-as-you-go pricing are guiding principles, which imply standardization, automation and commoditization of IT, he adds.
And it goes way beyond about infrastructure and provisioning resources, Tobolski adds. "It's about the application build and the user's experience with IT, too."
Despite all the hype, we're at a very early stage when it comes to internal clouds. According to Forrester Research, only 5% of large enterprises globally are even capable of running an internal cloud, with maybe half of those actually having one, says James Staten, principal analyst with the firm.
But if you're interested in exploring private cloud computing, here's what you need to know.
First steps: Standardization, automation, shared resources
Forrester's three tenets for building an internal cloud are similar to Accenture's precepts for next-generation IT.
To build an on-premises cloud, you must have standardized – and documented -- procedures for operating, deploying and maintaining that cloud environment, Staten says.
Most enterprises are not nearly standardized enough, although companies moving down the IT Information Library (ITIL) path for IT service management are closer to this objective than others, he adds.
Standardized operating procedures that allow efficiency and consistency are critical for the next foundational layer, which is automation. "You have to be trusting of and a big-time user of automation technology," Staten says. "That's usually a big hurdle for most companies."
Automating deployment is probably the best place to start because that enables self-service capabilities. And for a private cloud, this isn't Amazon-style in which any developer can deploy virtual machines (VM) at will. "That's chaos in a corporation and completely unrealistic," Staten says.