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Cracking the public vs. private cloud conundrum

Building a private cloud lets IT run the show and springboard off existing investments -- an enticing point in the public vs. private cloud debate.

The growth of public cloud computing services continues to make enterprise IT uneasy. So what's a nervous IT department to do? One obvious answer is for IT to implement a private cloud and regain favor among developers and business owners.

Diplomatically put, implementing a private cloud "allows IT organizations to deliver higher service levels of the new cloud business model and provide faster time to market," said Brett Adam, chief technology officer at rPath, whose image management software is often coupled with private cloud suites in support of self-service portals.

"IT runs on its own slow clock speed, and the business runs at hyper speed," said Scott Hammond, vice president of strategy and business development for intelligent automation products at Cisco. Private cloud can be a way to bring those groups in sync.

With private cloud, you can extend [virtualization] investments if you don't have the appetite for looking at new solutions.

Lydia Leong, an analyst in Gartner's technology and service provider group

The Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (CIAC) private cloud offering consists of the Cisco Unified Computing System server platform plus a self-service storefront, a service catalog, governance, provisioning and lifecycle-tracking software. The company has used CIAC internally to build out a private cloud called Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services (CITEIS).

Hammond said that since the first CITEIS services went live last year, the range of "cycle time" needed to stand up a new environment has dropped from eight to 12 weeks down to anywhere from 15 minutes to two days, depending on workflow and governance processes.

The private cloud approach also dovetails with existing investments in virtualization software, said Lydia Leong, an analyst in Gartner's technology and service provider group.

"The enterprise has big investments in virtualization," Leong said. "With private cloud, you can extend those investments if you don't have the appetite for looking at new solutions."

Setting up a private cloud, however, isn't exactly something you can do overnight.

EPAM Systems, a software development outsourcer, has a 6,000-core private cloud used by thousands of developers and quality assurance engineers in the U.S. and Europe. The company chose cloud computing software from Nimbula in late 2010 and spent at least six months integrating it with its various development, continuous integration, change management, staging and QA systems, said Eli Feldman, vice president of cloud solutions and services at the Newton, Pa.-based firm.

Beyond implementation, cloud integration work is never really done.

More on public vs. private cloud

Understanding cloud options: Private vs. public cloud

Finding the best of public and private cloud in hybrid cloud

Private vs. public: Advantages of implementing a private cloud

The CITEIS initiative has taken several years, Hammond said. An early phase was to "re-platform" the data center with UCS and virtualization. Then, an initial CITEIS Express offering debuted in June of last year that provided employees with up to two virtual machines. A more expansive CITEIS Virtual Data Center offering was released in January. The next step was to expand the offering to include rPath and Puppet image management. The company is currently looking into how to integrate CITEIS with external public clouds.

Despite those challenges, developing a private cloud can be worth the effort, practitioners say. EPAM's private cloud, for example, helped it develop a new line of business: hosting the software it builds for customers in its own Software as a Service (SaaS).

Prior to building out the private cloud, "delivery of solutions into the customer premise was taking an enormous amount of time," Feldman said. Now, rather than having to send engineers to the customer site to install software, EPAM can simply promote the stack to production and run it there.

About the author:
Alex Barrett is senior executive editor for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization media group, with editorial oversight of SearchDataCenter.com, SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchVMware.com.

This was first published in November 2012

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