Do I Need a Private Cloud?

With this post I am going to stay technology agnostic.  I’m also going to stay clear of marketing terms.

Before we answer the central question of the blog post, let’s get something clear.  A private cloud does not equal server virtualisation.  A private cloud is an extension of server virtualisation.  It provides a complex self-service mechanism where non infrastructure administrators can deploy services.  In this context and using the ITIL view of things, a service is a business application comprised of things like IIS/Apache, SQL/MySQL, virtual machines with operating systems, application components (Perl/.NET, database schemas, and web content), and additional fabric configurations like load balancers and storage.  In other words, a person from the department that manages business applications can deploy the virtual infrastructure that they need to meet a business need without any effort/time required from the IT department that manages the infrastructure.

This accomplishes a bunch of things that the business will care about.  But the key piece here is that non infrastructure people are doing the deployment.

Server virtualisation is a subset of the private cloud.  You can do server virtualisation without deploying a private cloud.  My bet is that you already have – years ago.  But you cannot do private cloud without server virtualisation.

Taking all into account (up to now, and this might change) I have one rule to answer the central question of this blog post.

Question: Do I need a private cloud

Consultants Answer: Who deploys and manages your applications?

I know, I know.  I’ve answered a question with a question.  Go read how I briefly described a private cloud.  The think you noticed was that the infrastructure administrators were delegating deployment tasks to people who manage applications.  That’s the crux.  Do those people exist in your organisation?

In a small and some medium organisations, there are a few IT infrastructure administrators who do everything.  They manage the firewalls, the run the domain, they do server virtualisation, they run the CRM application (I’m picking on CRM today!), they manage the SQL databases, and so on.  There is no one to delegate service deployment tasks to.  So what is the point in deploying all the additional infrastructure of a private cloud?  There is no valid business reason that I can envision (at the moment).  All that small team really needs is their virtualisation management tools, preferably joined by a set of systems management tools (no brands – I said I’d be agnostic).

On the other hand some medium and large organisations do have various different departments that manage various aspects of the business application portfolio.  There will also be branch offices where servers have been centralised in a virtual farm.  Here there absolutely is a reason to deploy a private cloud.  The central IT infrastructure department could employ people to deploy VMs and install things like IIS/Apache or SQL/MySQL all day long.  And that still wouldn’t meet the deadlines of their internal customers.  Deploying a private cloud would allow those internal customers, who are IT savvy, to deploy their own services in a timely and controlled manner, using policies and quotas that are defined centrally by the business. 

My rule of thumb here (at the moment) is that:

  • If the IT infrastructure team is doing all application deployment/management then there should not be a private cloud.
  • If there are other departments or teams that are doing application deployment/management then there should be a private cloud.

That’s my view on the “Should I deploy a private cloud?” question.  I’ll be interested in other opinions.  This is early days for this stuff and I figure many of the questions and answers for the private cloud will evolve over the coming years.

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