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Is Building a Private Cloud Worth the Effort?

Is an internal private cloud more trouble to build than it’s worth?

Modern Infrastructure E-zineVendors bill private cloud software as a way for IT to achieve the dynamism of cloud on existing infrastructure, without sacrificing control or subverting security. But others say that building a private cloud is misguided: it’s expensive and complex, and when you’re done, you’re still stuck maintaining your own infrastructure. 

What do you think, is an internal private cloud more trouble than it’s worth?

See what your peers have to say and share your thoughts below. We'll be publishing this conversation in next month's issue of the Modern Infrastructure E-zine, so be sure to weigh in and have your voice heard!

This was last published in February 2013

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Let's take a look at the opening statement. 1. Dynamism of cloud on existing infrastructure
If existing infrastructure is a constant choke point for demand, then virtualizing it and adding a cloud control plane won't really help. An effective elastic cloud infrastructure needs enough headroom to exceed peak demand and accomodate growth.
2. Without sacrificing control or subverting security
That assumes that public cloud offerings do sacrifice control or subvert security. We have found that one notable public cloud vendor actually vastly exceeds typical owned security standards. As for control, I would like to see the case where a private cloud implementation rivals the 100% API level control offered by at least one leading public cloud provider.
Clouds, whether private, public, or hybrid, aren't really about technology. They're more of an excuse for organizations to centralize and revisit policies and procedures. As time passes the public cloud gets better security options, more control, and cheaper. But as time passes private cloud options get better and cheaper, too. It comes down to what you want out of a system, how your applications are designed, regulatory or other constraints on your organization, and how comfortable you are with putting workloads somewhere else.
One of the challenges that I see with private clouds is that they generally start with a significant investment. That investment is both in the hardware and software required to deliver a private cloud, and in the retooling of applications to leverage the new capability. If the true value of cloud comes from flexibility, and scalability, why would you tie it to an infrastructure that is -- by its very nature -- fixed (because it's based on what you've purchased)?

I understand the security discussion, but agree with the previous post. Just because it's in your data center does not mean it is inherently more secure than a cloud provider. Our experience is that we can more effectively implement complex security controls in the cloud than within our own data center.
As always "it depends". The biggest difference between a private cloud and a virtualized data center is the flexibility of the resource pool to support dynamic applications. You need that if you're writing dynamic apps or doing elastic load balancing with the public cloud (hybrid). If you aren't moving VMs around a lot or being dynamic in assignment, stay with virtualization.
The value that private clouds have for your enterprise comes down to a few core questions, including:

Will the use of public cloud computing put the business at risk?
What is the value that you place on business agility?
Will you be able to repurpose existing hardware?
How much will the organization have to change?

The use of private clouds typically means that public clouds are not an option due to some kind of security or regulatory concern. However, in many instances, it comes down to the comfort level of those in IT who are charged with maintaining core enterprise systems. They just cannot fathom the concept of trusting a third party with their core business processes and data.

If the use of public clouds will truly put the business at risk, or if the cost of risk is too high, then the use of private clouds maybe indicated. However, this comes at the cost of diminished value for the use of cloud computing technology, perhaps even to a point where no cloud computing technology, public or private, should be employed.

The value of agility varies from company to company. It’s difficult to say that the use of private cloud technology that may provide additional business agility is always the right choice. Those charged with selecting a path to private cloud technology should balance the cost of the technology with the ability to quickly align the business to new market opportunities. Both the cost and the value will vary greatly

Private clouds are internal systems. Thus, unlike public clouds, you have to purchase, configure, and maintain the hardware and software. In many instances, there has already been money spent on new hardware, and the more that this hardware can be repurposed for private clouds, the more value that private clouds will bring.

Finally, you need to determine organizational readiness for the use of private cloud technology. In many instances, the use of a private cloud may be the exact right path to follow, but there is little talent to be found internally around the design, installation, and maintenance of this technology. Upgrading the expertise with new personnel or consultants is expensive, and seems to be getting more expensive as we progress with cloud-based technology and the demand for talent rises.
Private cloud is worth effort – if you know what you’re getting into. For example, if your organization has a sane expectation of what private cloud means, has certain applications it just can’t hand off to a public cloud provider for security or compliance issues and has the technologies in place to transition from a virtual data center to a fully automated private cloud – then yes, totally worth the effort.
As others have said, security is not necessarily better or worse in a public cloud but we can make the argument that economies of scale favor the public cloud. Governance is a different matter. Public cloud providers aren't going to let you do some things you can do with your own infrastructure (e.g. vulnerability scans and penetration testing). You probably won't be able to audit them either so you are left with their assertions and reports like their SAS 70 audit report. If you can't live with these governance limitations then public clouds may not be an option for you.