Building a private cloud? Don't overlook orchestration

Using virtualization does not automatically mean you have a private cloud, contrary to popular belief

I was in Phoenix last week speaking about the need to keep an open mind about retaining some (or all) of your servers on-premises as opposed to rolling with the marketing hype over the cloud. Don't get me wrong: I'm fully confident that the cloud is the future. In fact, for my own company, ClipTraining, the cloud is the present. We have our entire infrastructure in the cloud, and we use Office 365 for our communications and collaboration.

I'm not anti-cloud. But I am against making decisions based on hype. Some organizations simply cannot go to the cloud, and they shouldn't feel like they're missing out on the best thing since sliced bread. Much of what they're looking for in the cloud can be had on-premises through convergence technologies. Such private cloud solutions require some effort, but you'll be able to maintain control over your data and your security (which public cloud offerings may not provide).

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At a session at that Phoenix conference, Lee Frazier, senior manager for virtualized infrastructure at Insight Technology Solutions, noted that he often speaks to folks who believe they have a private cloud simply because they have virtualized their servers. They don't, and in fact are likely missing out on so aspects of data center modernization:

  • Have they truly standardized on a platform, or are they using disparate network, storage, and virtualization pieces in a mixed bag of infrastructure?
  • Have they begun consolidating their environment?
  • What virtualization administration are they using?
  • Are they offering a self-service portal where the compute, storage, and network are provisioned as a truly automated process?
  • Do they have orchestration in place to allow for self-service portals, chargeback, or showback? (Showback is used to raise awareness of the costs for consumption usage without actual bills sent to the departments. Chargeback passes the actual costs to the departments using the resources. Some folks need a tourniquet put on their excessive requests for resources and the resulting overconsumption, and nothing instills cost awareness quite like a bill.)

Some people in the audience knew exactly what Frazier was talking about, but others had no idea. The terminology itself was new to them. That had me thinking the same must be true for some of my readers.

Having the ability to provide orchestration is where the private cloud needs to be. In fact, that's one of the more appealing aspects about public cloud offerings like Microsoft's Azure. It's awesome that I can use a browser interface to rapidly provision servers and resources by simply choosing what I need from a catalog of standard offerings. The same can be done on-premises in a private cloud if you're using the right orchestration software.

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