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Private Clouds | @CloudExpo @RamchandaniRaj #DigitalTransformation

Enterprises must carefully choose the best technology stack to deliver their new dynamic cloud infrastructure and services

Private Clouds - What Enterprises Should Know Before Implementation

Enterprises are rapidly implementing private clouds for sound business reasons. Private clouds offer greater agility, enabling companies to quickly adapt to constantly changing business needs and innovate faster than competition. Digital and cloud services can be provided to developers at a pace of innovation that equals any public cloud. Companies can maintain security and compliance, along with the reliability, availability and stability of IT systems of large enterprises. Private clouds also provide better SLAs for new services than most public clouds offer.

While there is a sense of urgency surrounding implementation, enterprises must still carefully choose the best technology stack to deliver their new dynamic cloud infrastructure and services. They must carefully develop a transition plan, understand and set goals for availability, ease of use, developer experiences, and identify any potential holes that could jeopardize their transition and investment in newer cloud-native architectures.

In this article, we discuss some key considerations for choosing the right technology stack to deploy private and hybrid clouds.

The Foundation of a Private Cloud
The cloud journey for any enterprise begins with defining goals, creating a strategy and detailed implementation plan, followed by identifying key milestones and metrics to track. A well-thought implementation plan that follows the latest trends in cloud computing is critical to success. Enterprises typically benefit from a hybrid cloud strategy and most use public clouds for certain workloads, either enterprise-wide or a workgroup-level application.

Let's look at some of the key criteria for a private enterprise cloud strategy and implementation plan.

Business Case for Private Clouds
Implementing private clouds tends to be capital and operationally expensive, requiring additional levels of technologies, infrastructure and resources. From a business point of view, key considerations for using private clouds include:

  • Infrastructure agility to enhance developer productivity and speed release of new services
  • Migration to the DevOps process, improving services and applications delivery
  • Control over infrastructure, with the ability to define SLAs
  • Security and compliance maintained internally, rather than depending on third-parties
  • Need to leverage existing infrastructure and data centers, optimizing capital investments. For example, leverage VMware licenses that enterprises have already invested billions of dollars
  • Avoid 100 percent dependencies on public cloud or external infrastructure providers, limiting exposure
  • Manage capex and opex, with the ability to switch to private cloud vs. public cloud options as needed.

Private Cloud Technology Stack
From discussions with several enterprises that have embarked on their journey to hybrid clouds, it's quite obvious that the right technology stack to build a private cloud may well decide success or failure of the implementation project. Private cloud stack means primarily choosing technology for compute, storage and networking, as well as making sure there are easier integrations for other cloud services, platform-as-a-service or CI/CD and DevOps toolset.

The key criteria to select the technology stack for private clouds include:

Open source vs. closed source technology
Technology for private and hybrid clouds is evolving rapidly, with an unprecedented pace of innovation in next generation data center technologies and new application architectures. It's imperative to bet on a technology that is open source and has a vibrant developer community supported by a large vendor(s).

Driven by a single vendor, closed source (proprietary) technology tends to evolve much slower, which could hamper the speed of innovation. However, the evolution of the technology must focus on solving a key requirement of enterprises. Some open source projects, especially those with a very large presence of several vendors, tend to become multi-focused and driven by respective agendas of the vendors themselves. Over-engineered open source technology is often broad and could cause unnecessary complexity in the implementation phase.

Technology providers
Key vendors that are core leaders of the open source project must be engaged to help implement hybrid clouds. Private cloud technologies tend to be complex and constantly evolving. Core technology developers can help navigate the intricacies of complex features and integration points, providing guidance for migrating and developing new applications on hybrid clouds.

Support for existing workloads
It's likely some or most of existing workloads should move to a private cloud to improve efficiency and agility of applications. Identifying the technology stack's capabilities and potential gaps helps make the best decisions on managing existing applications and services. Enterprises should implement several proof of concepts to understand how the migration will work and any changes that may be necessary during the migration. Not all workloads are easy to migrate because of how compute, storage and networking are implemented on private clouds, compared to legacy data center architectures.

Standardize on IaaS or PaaS
Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provides flexibility to deploy various types of workloads and architectures, but requires enterprises to manually integrate several point solutions such as monitoring, auto scaling, disaster recovery or failure recovery.

On the other hand, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provides an integrated application platform so applications and architectures can be standardized and developers can focus on developing code, not deploying infrastructure. While PaaS improves developer productivity, it does limit architecture flexibility. Applications must be written to the platform, which may provide a platform and/or vendor lock-in.

Enterprises should consider all the pros and cons of each platform. It's common to use both IaaS and PaaS, identifying the workload to be deployed on each platform. In such cases, enterprises must choose well-integrated platforms that do not create additional operational complexity and cost.

Operational efficiency and Intelligence
Cost and complexity of operating private clouds must be the prime consideration, since the stability and reliability of the cloud determines the value from the private cloud initiative. Operational intelligence built into the platform provides a common framework for log files analysis, event and alert pipeline management, risk and compliance assessment, and capacity planning. Embedded deep analytics provides visibility into the operations and utilization of the platform, which may impact the overall usability and ROI of the platform.

Metering, billing and charge-back
For enterprise-wide deployment, enterprise cost structure requires IT to meter and charge-back the utilization of cloud resources. While this feature may not be part of an integrated open source project, commercial distributions provide fully integrated or a certified third-party solution.

Technology roadmap
Ongoing development, a strong technology roadmap, and the foundational of an open source project assures investment protection. Enterprises must invest time to understand the technology roadmap, aligning it with their own planned roll out of cloud and cloud services. Enterprises can invest resources and join the open source foundations or project communities to assert influence over the roadmap. Open source projects welcome investment from larger enterprises and this must be considered a top priority before committing to an open source technology. Failure to invest and influence the open source project risks that the project direction will be hijacked by other larger enterprises. The risk is not only to the successful deployment and migration to hybrid clouds, but also leaves doors open for competition to cause financial damage.

Federation with public clouds
Many enterprises need a hybrid cloud strategy, where most of their resources and some cloud services are consumed from public clouds and most sensitive workloads remain on premise, on private clouds. But to ensure a seamless transition for developers and IT ops, it may be mandatory to federate the private and public clouds. Federation eliminates the complexity of managing multiple cloud environments, enabling single sign-on and consolidated metering, billing, and allowing easy migration or workloads on-demand.

Third-party ecosystem
The foundation private cloud solution can be extended to additional services and integrations to existing assets through third-party plugins, service brokers or validated and certified integrations. Pre-tested integrations of third-party solutions help eliminate the cost of custom implementations and professional services. It's highly desirable to ensure enough relevant integrations are available, and not limited to networking, storage, load balancers, messaging systems, active directories, login systems, monitoring and other assets that enterprises already have deployed.

The benefits of private clouds are well documented and while enterprises may be eager to begin implementing a private cloud, it's important to take the time to consider open source vs. closed source technology, existing workloads, IaaS or PaaS, technology roadmaps and other critical points. It's the time spent at the beginning that may well determine if the journey to the cloud is a smooth one.

More Stories By Rajesh Ramchandani

Rajesh Ramchandani is General Manager of Accelerite’s Cloud Services and Platforms. He leads Accelerite’s cloud infrastructure services and platforms, enabling companies to quickly and easily build private and public enterprise clouds. Previously, he was co-founder and VP of Products at startup CumuLogic, an innovator in private database-as-a-service (DBaaS) software. He has also held senior executive roles overseeing cloud technologies at global companies such as Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems, and Wipro Infotech.

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