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Private cloud requires lots of virtualization, automation

Speakers at Cloud Computing Expo say private clouds are hot, but need to be highly scalable.

In recent weeks, I've been coming across debates about whether there really is such a thing as a "private cloud." (Check out a recent raucous debate at ebizQ on the topic.)

Speakers at Cloud Computing Expo say private clouds are hot, but need to be highly scalable

Whether you believe they're real or not, many in the industry see advantages with the private cloud model, which brings the flexibility and ubiquity of cloud computing together with the security of on-premise computing. We frequently discuss private clouds here at this blogsite, as the logical next step in SOA evolution.

Private clouds were the hot topic at the Cloud Computing Expo going on this week in New York. I had the chance to check out a few of the sessions at the well-attended event, which brought corporate accountability and governance thinking to cloud adoption. Here are some snapshots:

Brian Wilson, VP of Surgient, described the essential ingredients needed to make a private cloud successful. The best scenarios for developing private clouds arise out of data centers that already have a virtualization layer (such as VMWare or Microsoft Hyper-V), as well as management software such as IBM Tivoli or BMC).  These assemblage needs to be topped off by a cloud automation platform that enables integration and automation to make it all work. This is key for many IT shops, which typically service end-user requests in a manual way. This won't scale in a private cloud environment, Wilson said.

In a CTO panel led by the effervescent and entertaining Jeremy Geelan, cloud vendor executives agreed that the past 12 months have been a watershed year for cloud. "In the past 12 months, who would have 'thunk' mail was being commoditized?" remarked Brian Borruff, VP of cloud computing and software services for CSC. "Who would have 'thunk' cloud would be getting so much attention from executives, especially in regulated markets?"  Jason Lochhead, VP of Terremark Worldwide, observed that cloud is "requiring that people have a different philosophy of how they develop and deploy applications." Jeremy also engaged the speakers and audience in a great discussion about the unintended consequences of cloud -- including the impact on the perceptions of Gen-Yers about on-demand, anytime computing.

To effectively build an infrastructure that makes the most out of both private and public cloud, Tony Bishop, founder and CEO of Adaptivity, recommends looking at the way buildings are built -- that is, with sound planning and architecture. That's not the way information technology systems have developed over the past few decades, he pointed out. He recommends a "blueprint" approach, since "IT has become the new supply chain of the business." Echoing Surgient's Wilson, he points out that enterprises need to get rid of their hard-wired approach to systems and virtualize: "If you're not virtualizing your systems at the application tier, you're not going to be able to move to cloud," he said. Just as important as business intelligence at this stage is "IT intelligence," to help the enterprise learn what's happening in their infrastructure. IT process automation is another missing link needed to move to cloud -- "you can't wait a week to approve a process that took three minutes to build," he said.

Marty Gauvin, CEO of Virtual Ark, observed that cloud is changing the way we approach outsourcing. He called cloud "third-generation outsourcing." Outsourcing arrangements and services, he said, typically involved paying for unused capacity. With current cloud formations, companies truly only pay for what they use.

Financial services organizations also appear to be moving to the cloud in a big way. Jasmine Young, VP of Chordys, says banks are adopting cloud services, particularly for business collaboration and customer relationship management. "all banks are experimenting in cloud computing, but the public perception is not ready," she said. "Consumers only need to know the end result." Young said she's been seeing a shift in the way organizations view cloud computing -- from a cost-cutting tactic to a collaboration and resource-sharing strategy. Interestingly, when I asked her if banks were engaging SOA to better position themselves for the cloud, she observed that SOA was now common in all banking environments.

While many Europeans could not make the conference because of flights being grounded due to Iceland's volcanic ash, there were some folks from Iceland in attendance (the airways between Iceland and North America are clear). One of the Icelanders observed that they had delivered their first instance of cloud architecture to Europe. Good one!