Destination: Private cloud…are we there yet?

The post titled the Cloud is Not Virtualization from almost couple years ago on this blog stated that for an IT solution to be called a “cloud” solution, it needed to enable the “essential characteristics” of cloud computing, as defined in The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing. For those unaware, those essential characteristics are:  on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service.   The post also stated that virtualization alone did not enable these characteristics, and I suspect everyone can agree on that point.  Here we are in 2013 though, and I continually see the word “virtualization” used “synonymously” with the word “cloud.”

“Why does the differentiator matter,” you ask?  It only matters if your organization wants the benefits that cloud solutions deliver over virtualization alone.  Virtualization provides great benefits such as increasing hardware utilization, decreasing the amount of hardware, power, and space required in a data center, and enabling “portability” of operating system environments across different physical servers. If your infrastructure doesn’t enable the essential characteristics above though, then provisioning a new server likely still takes days, rather than minutes or hours, and doesn’t allow you to truly measure service consumption to enable chargeback or show back to business units…a key enabler to running IT as a business, rather than a cost center.

Nothing comes for free though, right?  To implement, manage, and operate a private cloud, and more specifically, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), not just a virtualization infrastructure, requires (potentially) dramatic changes to the way IT operates.  What may have been heavily siloed departments in the past need to work much closer together than they ever have before.  People that may have historically had very deep skills in one or two technologies need to expand their breadth of skills, oftentimes utilizing pre-configured solutions (by the way, if you’re interested in this, the Private Cloud Fast Track solutions can help with that) or a contract specialist for depth.  Of course, there is great guidance available if you want to conceptually understand the private cloud (vendor-agnostic), learn about best practice principles, patterns, and concepts for a private cloud (vendor-agnostic), or read technical architecture, deployment, or operations guides for a private cloud utilizing Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft System Center 2012 products.  Change is hard though, and not possible without a diligently planned and executed strategy.

So…do you provide IaaS to consumers within your organization, or do you just provide a virtualized infrastructure?  Are there benefits for your organization to providing IaaS (over virtualization alone) to your internal consumers?  If there are benefits to providing IaaS to your internal consumers, but you don’t yet provide it, then why not?  We welcome your comments below.  Please let us know where your organization stands, and what further guidance you need to implement IaaS within your organization.


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