At some point in every IT manager’s career, someone somewhere above them in the organization is going to make a cloud decision based on a misconception. And these managers are going to blow it (and probably millions of dollars)—big time.
My advice for anyone who ends up in that position? Heed the learning experience because it will happen to you again. Meantime, it may be possible to head off some awkward moments by understanding some of the issues. For example, look at public vs. private clouds.
The notion of private or “on-premises” cloud has sparked heated debates in the technology community. Well-respected experts contend there is no such thing as a private cloud. They argue that on-premises datacenters lack infinite elasticity, which is an essential element of a cloud service. Some critics also object to the absence of flexible billing or the fact that services do not necessarily transit the public Internet. If we take some of the prevalent definitions of cloud computing literally, it’s not hard to understand their argument. Yet both have advantages. The biggest difference between deployments in the datacenter and deployments in the cloud is designated hardware.
On-premises clouds operate essentially the same way as public clouds; we just use different terminology to describe them. Enterprise business units obtain their services from the IT organization in much the same way as public or “off-premises” cloud customers subscribe to their services from external suppliers. What’s the difference? In one case, the consumer and provider belong to the same legal entity, while in the other they do not. On-premises clouds achieve economies of scale by pooling internal resources. They may use the same technologies for virtualization and automation that are found in off-premises or public clouds.
Private and public clouds, both on and off premises, also face many of the same administrative and infrastructure challenges. Just as public clouds need to manage their accounts, private clouds need to be able to allocate costs. Private clouds also need to logically separate co-located tenants and applications, even though they are internal. And frequently, changing workloads and projects are only feasible if the infrastructure is dynamic and highly automated.
The bottom line: good cloud architecture needs to be agnostic with respect to delivery point and should work equally well for private as well as public, on-premises and off. The question isn’t so much whether to refer to a private cloud as cloud, but whether it is meaningful to make the distinction. Corporate datacenters can be turned into on-premises clouds with all the advantages of performance and scalability. My take? A cloud is a cloud, and clouds used in many different ways benefit from common approaches to infrastructure management. And there are sound infrastructural reasons why companies put some IT resources into on-premises clouds and others off-premises.
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