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C-Special: Private Clouds: What's the verdict?

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CIOL Bureau
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AND yet men are advised - Never be possessive.

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As Bruce Jay Friedman quotes — “If a female friend lets on that she is going out with another man, be kind and understanding. If she says she would like to go out with the Dallas Cowboys, including the coaching staff, the same rule applies.”

Are you kidding?

For a man, it’s not that easy. Specially if the female in question is your daughter.

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For a business man — exactly! It’s far tougher. How can one let one’s real assets - all the information, all processes, all functions, all that your people do — be scooped out and plated somewhere outside, on someone else’s table!

Or on a cloud!

It doesn’t come as a surprise then to hear the recent blitzkrieg about private clouds.

With so many backpacks —like security jitters and sweat about control — the hare called public cloud is strapped tight and heavy. But then it’s no more a world where tortoises overtake.

Or do they?

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No hobnobbing in Clouds

Indian companies surveyed in a study by IDC (A Key Strategy to Business Growth in Asia Pacific”, sponsored by information infrastructure solutions provider EMC Corp) tilt heavily towards the tortoise.

An almost bear hug for private cloud met the eyes, with extremely low responses for public cloud until 2013. If the figure-watch is anything to go by, currently, only four per cent of those surveyed in India adopted private cloud but 18 per cent were planning on implementing private cloud within next 12 months. Another 23 per cent of organizations indicated plans to implement private cloud within the next 24 months.

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At the face of it, the numbers are not jarring. The tide may be turning strongly.

Manoj Chugh, President of EMC India & SAARC and the Director of Global Accounts, Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ), for EMC Corporation is very confident about the surge.

“We see Cloud as the big wave for sure. It will be all pervasive. Our bets would be on hybrid clouds. That’s the way to go. Within India, it would first be private clouds, and then hybrids.”

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The ‘why’ interestingly does not need much explaining.

Forget the complexity and torrent of jargons that Cloud has pelted at the industry, but even for a layman it is not very hard to guess why private clouds could turn out to be the trailblazers in comparison to public and hybrid counterparts.

No body would want to throw away one’s stuff to a dockyard where everyone else (including your most formidable competitors) is juxtaposed. Where the regulatory cops (read compliance requirements) can walk in anytime and rip open any box even before you come to know of it.

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You wouldn’t want to take the risk of renting cars when you can own one.  Not at least if you can leverage the new technology safely, and put the magic carpet called Cloud in your private box, in your own premises.

That’s what Private cloud essentially is. Better defined as an internal cloud or corporate cloud, or a proprietary computing architecture that provides hosted services to a limited number of people behind a firewall.

It’s all about control, and more…

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Security is naturally tops the pecking order when it comes to ascending a Cloud. Constant anxiety over one’s critical information pieces lying somewhere else has sicced enterprises into fiddling with Cloud but without throwing caution to the winds.

Many organizations will move to private clouds for security reasons, as R “Ray” Wang is a Principal Analyst & CEO of research firm, Constellation Research told me in a discussion about Clouds.

He predicts commoditized business processes to shift to the BPO model. BPO — SaaS will become the norm as organizations shed lower level processes and focus on custom dev in PaaS and extending SaaS and Cloud suites.

But there’s more to the whole enchilada of going ‘private’. Most private clouds add real value in terms of virtualized data centers for more dynamic infrastructure optimization.

As Dennis Drogseth, Vice President, Enterprise Management Associates, Inc explains -  New capabilities for more dynamic service provisioning, including so-called “on-demand”–which really should be described as “dynamic service responsiveness as appropriate to customer requirements” is also a clear benefit. 

Now whether all the demands of cloud are met there, is less relevant than that it ‘is’ beneficial.

As an avid blogger on Cloud, Kent Langley writes-  the necessary trade-offs regarding security and privacy inherent in public cloud computing will likely cause private clouds will flourish. 

Companies will find this economically desirable, managerially pragmatic, cost effective, and very disruptive to their IT Departments.

As to all the noise around private clouds, David Shacochis, Vice President, Global Public Sector, Savvis, Inc. pegs it to two sources. It’s IT-intensive verticals and major IT vendors.

Verticals that consider IT infrastructure to be core to what they do (i.e., algorithmic financial trading, Web-scale services) are going to architect their own in-house IT in a highly-automated model because that’s the only way they can be successful.

This is a prognosis by someone who takes care of product life cycle at this cloud computing player. From where David stands, (he is responsible for revenue growth, product alignment and the adoption of cloud computing within this strategic vertical market), he sees major IT vendors have latched onto this trend through the introduction of cloud “in-a-box” offerings that patch together compute, storage, software, network and security resources into one investment — with the promise of equivalent efficiency.

But there’s a catch.

The challenge that many enterprises face is that they don’t have the budget flexibility to make large capital expenditures (capex) on a frequent basis, and many of these cloud “in-a-box” purchases require significant capex investment both in terms of hardware and software integration.

“Many of the enterprises we speak with are considering these private cloud investments, but want to do so with a vision of how they can seamlessly tie them to reliable public cloud options to handle rapid requirements or ephemeral workloads.” David spells out.

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Private is safe, but is it worth it?

Taking a chartered plane to the Cloud may sound glamorous but it ain’t that easy.

Provisioning, efficient modeling for the future, ensuring standardization, visible processes, managing unwieldy maintenance are some prerequisites that can not be just fobbed off.

When people talk about private or internal clouds, they are usually touching very expensive fixed cost, private installation of infrastructure which lacks all the key benefits of the cloud.

One often kvetches about the doubt whether quintessentially, a private cloud is a cloud at all or not?

In one of my interviews with Dr Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer of Amazon Web Services earlier, this is the very issue tossed around.

“Companies that build these types of internal clouds still own all the capital expense at the data centers and incur ongoing high maintenance costs.”

He, in fact, stressed that companies should consider the notion of what really is private cloud because it is a term with ‘cloud’ in it but lacks all the key benefits of the cloud.

Public over Private?

May be that explains another league of evangelists who espouse ‘public clouds’ over ‘private’ counterparts.

Voices like those of Jerome Lecat of Scality defenestrate the drumming up of ‘private clouds’ with other points to ponder.

At his Keynote WorldhOstingsDay 2011, he was seen confidently stating the ultimate victory of clouds and those too public clouds over private ones. And he references a Gartner poll that showed many users planning to invest more in the public cloud, while very few are planning to invest in the private cloud.

His arguments as spotted in a media report pick up the same drift: “The security concerns that have for some been a barrier to public cloud adoption, he says, are the same objections people once had to things like e-commerce and VoIP. All of those concerns were overcome.”

Ultimately, he says, the cloud is: for mission critical applications; outsourced infrastructure; outsourced IT; content distribution; distributed data; automatic operations; a new way to create wealth.

What really stirs one’s curiosity is his list of predictions for the cloud in 10 years where he says - Public clouds will outgrow private clouds in the enterprise. Also -  CIO and internal IT jobs will be about business processes, rather than infrastructure.

But then the scales between ‘private’ and ‘public’ poles keep shifting. Security worries are one magnetic field which tends to polarize the argument time and again.

If ‘public clouds’ were to indeed eventually evaporate ‘private’ ones, would the risk factor go up with Public Clouds?

Private Cloud is akin to outsourcing but Public Cloud is when you enter a new regime. Gregg Kreizman, a research director on Gartner's information security and privacy team, adumbrates the point well. “It is a little bit more risky. It would be fair to say there is a gray area here.”

Yes, the elasticity, scale, and economics are superior in public cloud offerings

Yet, Public cloud in Q1 2011 has a lot working against it in terms of visibility, compliance, clear role definition and even effective SLAs and cost assessments from an enterprise perspective. As Dennis believes, cloud service providers will emerge to address most if not all of these challenges over time.

‘Private’ or ‘public’, with the new tech-mutations called ‘Cloud’, other IT dinosaurs are already facing extinction issues. As to whether hybrid clouds will be the next step in evolution or not, well, that’s another story altogether. Vice president and Gartner fellow, Stephen Prentice from Gartner says it apt — That could need enormous levels of commitment. And it would be very challenging also. On or off, the answer is somewhere in between.

Somewhere in your elevator?