Although many organizations are considering reaping the benefits of a cloud computing platform, they have concerns with the handling of sensitive information on a public cloud platform. An alternate option is available, and it means having our own private cloud.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to write an article on cloud computing titled A Tour of the Clouds, where I provided general descriptions of the basic concepts in this area. Since its publication, I’ve noticed rising debate in the use of private clouds versus public clouds, with a growing number of organizations adopting a so-called “private cloud” model to meet their computing needs. So, it seems these organizations want to live in their own private cloud. Here I discuss some aspects of private cloud computing and its advantages and drawbacks for organizations considering the adoption of a private cloud strategy.
Two major concerns with the adoption of a cloud computing platform are security and privacy. In this system, organizations upload their data to a public cloud and share computing services with other organizations. However, many companies are hesitant to put their sensitive data within the infrastructure of public cloud providers and ultimately decide not to adopt this strategy. Some software providers have come up with an alternate option for those who decide not to take this “risk”―and this is known as a “private cloud platform.”
So, What Is a Private Cloud Anyway?
A private cloud provides the same type of computing services as a public cloud, but differs in that the services are supported by resources hosted within the organization. The means that these resources are contained within an organization’s network and firewall.
A variant of a private cloud regards having an independent environment within a public cloud using a technology called virtualization—this is called a “virtual private cloud.” Such technology makes it possible to have an independent infrastructure that resides in a bigger space. This subset of the cloud computing infrastructure enables organizations to have an independent platform via an IPsec private connection. Some software providers, such as VMware, are working hard on this type of solution.
Both public and private clouds essentially provide the same computing features: network access, elasticity, resource pooling, and, of course, multitenancy. But the same does not apply to operations and consumption. Having a private cloud may lead to increased costs, maintenance, and operational issues.
With a public cloud, organizations exercise minimal efforts in installing, configuring, and monitoring software and hardware, as these are the responsibility of the cloud providers. On the hand, with a private cloud, software and hardware deployment as well as configuration become the organization’s responsibility. This means that such organizations need to have software and hardware resources as well as human resources availability to support the cloud infrastructure. A private cloud will enable organizations to gain total control of every aspect of the private cloud infrastructure—i.e., the company does not lend the infrastructure; the infrastructure belongs to the company.
The major benefits of having a private cloud infrastructure are as follows:
- Control—A private cloud infrastructure provides an organization with total control of the cloud services. An in-house information technology (IT) department will be able to handle every aspect of the administration.
- Location—A private cloud is located in a nearby facility, making it practical for the IT team to go on-site and resolve problems and issues as they arise.
- Security—The organization with a private cloud has the flexibility and freedom to establish its own security policies—i.e., the organization decides on the level of security for each area of the cloud platform.
A major disadvantage to having a private cloud infrastructure is the need for an IT team to administer and monitor the cloud platform. Expertise is therefore needed to deploy, maintain, and support the entire private cloud infrastructure. This can be a costly and timely burden, particularly for companies with a limited budget and/or resources to engage in this type of project.
Software providers have already emerged to help organizations gain access to their own private cloud infrastructure. Here’s a short list:
HP offers its HP CloudStart fast-track solution for organizations looking for private cloud services. The solution can be deployed in under 30 days by the organization’s IT department. HP CloudStart is built under HP’s Converged Infrastructure, which enables HP to transform private cloud solutions into scalable and potentially integrated services under one enterprise solution. HP CloudStart relies on a virtualized private cloud schema to deliver its cloud computing services.
Eucalyptus is a software platform that enables cloud services to be run on Linux systems. Based on an open source strategy, Eucalyptus can be deployed on most of the currently available Linux distributions, such as Red Hat, Ubuntu, SUSE, and Debian. Some features of Eucalyptus include support and compatibility with Amazon products, a web-based cloud configuration, and tools for easy deployment. Eucalyptus has gained momentum due to the need for private cloud strategy options.
VMWare vSphere enables VMware to deliver private cloud solutions using a virtualization platform. vSphere platform delivers high standardization capabilities and rapid deployment features. With vSphere, VMWare ensures that all layers of an organization’s private infrastructure deployment are safe and well protected from people outside of the organization.
Based on its Windows Server 2008 architecture, Microsoft offers a full product for a private cloud infrastructure called Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud. The product comprises a set of applications and initiatives to deploy a private cloud infrastructure. Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud uses a pre-validated cloud configuration to help organizations find a service provider that will host their cloud. Microsoft also offers guidance and consulting to organizations deploying a private cloud infrastructure.
Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud is a cloud machine designed to provide organizations with the necessary hardware and software to deploy, configure, and exploit cloud services at accessible costs and with high performance and reliability—i.e., it is “a cloud in a box.” Its cloud solution, based on the SPARC and Sun architecture, aims to provide high design standards and performance.
Red Hat, a company that provides one of the most popular Linux distributions, also provides a technology framework to deploy private clouds. The Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization platform enables organizations to deploy private cloud platforms by taking advantage of its Red Hat Linux infrastructures. One advantage of Red Hat’s Enterprise Virtualization is its cost due to the open source–based nature of the solution. Red Hat is therefore able to provide a robust private cloud solution with strong security, scalability, and enterprise features at reduced cost compared with other commercial solutions.
A variety of available options and emerging technologies are quickly filling up the cloud computing space. While some experts view private cloud computing as inherently flawed, others think that advantages outweigh drawbacks, warranting the adoption of private clouds by every organization. I think that many large companies will start using some type of hybrid solution, combining a public cloud infrastructure for processes that might not be too sensitive with a private cloud infrastructure for tasks that require a high level of security—e.g., handling of private data—or for heavily monitored or controlled processes. In my experience, organizations do not necessarily have to follow the road paved by the software industry in the implementation of new technology. Many organizations have a combination of technologies that work best when employed together.