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Top five virtualization problems: Building a private cloud

Blogger Josh Stephens lists building a private cloud as one of his top five virtualization problems. Why? For one, it's hard to even know what makes a private cloud.

This is the final part of a special Fast Packet series called “Top 5 virtualization problems.” In the first parts of this series, Blogger Josh Stephens discusses virtualization backup and recovery, VM sprawl, virtualization capacity planning and VM stall. In this final part, he discusses the challenges involved in building a private cloud.

Now that you’re comfortably driving down the virtualization road and you’ve put some miles behind you, most likely you’re starting to get concerned about the cloud. Of course, it doesn't help that your managers and executives keep asking you about it, and every time you open an IT magazine every other word is “cloud.” But what does building a private cloud actually mean?

In the past, every time I heard or read about the cloud I got a little more aggravated. I mean, it was a marketing term and it didn’t really mean anything; yet I couldn’t seem to get away from it. Luckily, cloud is no longer just fluff, and I’ve grown to love this nebulous little bit of marketing-turned-technology.

Let's start by defining the difference between a public and private cloud. Public cloud simply means that you’re paying someone else, such as Amazon, Rackspace or Microsoft, to provide computing resources for you. They absorb all of the headaches of provisioning and managing the machines, and you just pay for what you need. Elasticity is a big selling point as you can easily scale up or down as your requirements change.

Ultimately, the private cloud is nothing more than an evolution of your own data center and the way that you think about compute resources. There really isn’t a finite line you cross in order to become a private cloud -- except maybe the ability to provide the following features:

  • Elasticity of resources
  • Ease of provisioning
  • Accounting of use

In cloud nirvana, departments within your organization would be able to automatically provision their own computing resources, getting more or less as their requirements demanded. Their usage would be tracked and automatically billed back to their department. Your infrastructure would self-optimize based upon available capacity and requested computing needs. That, at least, is what most people think of when they think of private cloud. However, most of us will never see that sort of environment and many of us never want to.

Building a private cloud is really more of an attitude adjustment than a technology investment. It means that when you deploy technology, you’re going to do so with the three tenants listed above in mind. It means that you won’t sacrifice ease of provisioning for cost or performance. It means that you’ll work towards being able to show each department its share of the computing expense. It also means that you’ll continue to optimize capacity and enforce elasticity.

Best of all, the next time your boss asks you when you’re going to start doing cloud computing, you can say that you already did.

About the author: Josh Stephens is head geek and VP of technology at SolarWinds.

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