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Do you need a private cloud?

Do you know what it means to have a private cloud? It isn't simply a virtual infrastructure. And, it isn't a plethora of virtual machines either.

Asking most IT managers or techies whether they think they need a private cloud, reminds me of that scene in The Three Amigos where El Guapo asks Jefe if he knows what it means to have a plethora. Jefe, in fact, did not know what it means to have a plethora. And, most managers and techies neither know if they need a private cloud nor what it means to have a private cloud at all. Do you know what it means to have a private cloud or are you like Jefe who agrees with anything that El Guapo says? Here's your chance to give your answer honestly and accurately.

The following is a short hit list of facts about cloud computing that will help you to place yourself on a level playing field with buzzword fanciers. Cloud computing is...

  • Not synonymous with virtualization but built on virtualization.
  • Built on the concepts of resource abstraction and resource pooling.
  • Built and operated by you, the private cloud owner.
  • A service delivery model: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.
  • A cost-effective technology due in part to operational efficiency and increased service levels.
  • A natural, evolutionary step above simple virtualized infrastructures.
  • Network-centric as services are provided 'over the network.'
  • An elastic computing environment.

A lot of people, including techies, think that cloud computing is simply virtualization on a very large scale but this isn't exactly true. The difference in virtualization and cloud computing is that virtualization is simply placing workloads on individual virtual systems. The individual systems are virtual instead of physical but they have analogous functionality and purpose: A web server, a file server, a database server. You can have thousands of virtual machines where each performs its own functions. This is not cloud computing.

A cloud computing environment is a virtual infrastructure whose pooled resources service a particular function: A search engine (Google), a file storage and retrieval system (Dropbox), a web application service with individualization (QuickBooks Online). Thousands of virtual machines with a single purpose: Providing a single non-stop service.

Do you understand the difference?

Maybe the square/rectangle idea will help you:

Every square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square. Every cloud is composed of virtual infrastructure but not every virtual infrastructure is part of a cloud.

A private cloud provides a service or services to its users on a grand scale.

Another example:

VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) can be a cloud service (Desktop as a Service (DaaS)) or you can setup your own VDI environment for 5,000 users that has nothing to do with cloud computing. The difference in VDI and DaaS is that when one of the 5,000 users connects to a desktop, it is in a one-to-one ratio. Every time I connect to my virtual desktop, it is my personal virtual desktop. Every time you connect to your virtual desktop, it is your personal virtual desktop.

When using DaaS, a cloud service, you connect randomly to a desktop service, not a specific virtual machine that is yours alone. You can customize your desktop but the profile is what's customized, not the desktop system itself. If DaaS providers provided your desktop on a one-to-one basis, they would have a very limited number of customer possibilities indeed. Similarly, if you signed up for Zoho's services and received your very own dedicated application server, Zoho would have to charge hundreds of dollars per month instead of the five dollars per month that they do charge for premium services.

Is the concept clearer now?

Cloud computing also leverages service optimization, which is a fancy way of saying that cloud services are doled out in a "low touch" or "no touch" scenario. Some call this a self-service environment and indeed it can be that. But, most often, it means that services are provisioned in an automated fashion.

For example, you need to setup a new web service. Using cloud computing and some clever front-end programming, you'd never have to speak to another person to do so. You could run through a wizard and in a few clicks, you'd have your new cloud-based service up and running. If you need a new virtual machine setup for a particular workload, a new virtual private server could be yours within minutes with no human intervention (except you) in the process.

So, again the question arises. Do you need a private cloud?

Your answer should come with a somewhat education 'Yes' or 'No.'

If your answer is 'Yes,' you also need to know that a private cloud doesn't have to be hosted in your own data center. That's right, you can use a shared data center and still have a private cloud of your very own. Shared data center doesn't mean public cloud. Think of it like this: You have a business in a large multi-tenant office building. You don't own the building but your business is there. You are sharing certain resources but your business is separate and distinct from all others in that same multi-tenant office building.

In fact, a shared data center is an excellent and cost-effective way to construct your private cloud. Start-up costs are a fraction of the DIY alternative. See? You've already saved money.

Do you need a private cloud?

"Jefe, would you say that I have a plethora of pinatas?"

"Si, El Guapo, you have a plethora."

"Jefe, do you know what it means to have a plethora?"

"Yes, El Guapo, it means that you actually have too many pinatas from a practical standpoint."