Four private cloud costs IT pros often overlook

While they offer many advantages to an enterprise, private clouds can also introduce new costs -- and they extend far beyond servers, storage and software.

Business and IT leaders are often startled by private cloud costs, so understanding and mitigating those costs...

is vital. And while public cloud providers can present a strong cost advantage -- allowing users to only pay for the compute resources they use -- private clouds are different.

For a private cloud deployment, a business must still buy, manage and maintain its own data center -- so, while private cloud has benefits, it isn't a cost-savings play. And even the most experienced data center architects can be blindsided by some cloud costs.

Here are four private cloud costs, in particular, that fly under the radar.

Application redesign

Almost all enterprise applications are designed to run well on particular infrastructures, and most won't easily migrate from one infrastructure to another. This occurred in the shift from physical to virtual servers, where some legacy applications did not run well, if at all, on virtual machines (VMs). The same potential for disruption occurs in the cloud, as not all applications will easily migrate from a VM to a private cloud instance.

When this occurs, businesses must decide to either leave that application on-premises, or re-design it to accommodate the cloud. The first option is undesirable because it slows cloud adoption within the enterprise. But the alternative option -- redesigning or re-architecting the application -- can be costly and require months of software development.

Know which applications need to run in the private cloud, and make sure they can run in the cloud before you build it. Reduce application redesign costs through early planning, and thoroughly vet applications in a cloud evaluation environment.

Architectural changes

In addition to benefits such as self-service, private clouds offer high availability and resilience. Users expect to access workloads and data stores without disruption. This means private cloud data centers rely heavily on clustering, workload balancing, backups, redundant network connectivity and other technologies to create a more resilient infrastructure.

Resilience and high availability technologies are commonplace in traditional data centers, but they're table stakes for cloud. If the cloud isn't reliable, users won't adopt it. Consequently, organizations that choose private cloud often face additional costs from architectural design changes, along with more equipment and software to improve resilience.

Implementing automation

Cloud provides a computing environment that doesn't require continuous IT oversight. Cloud users should have the power to provision, deploy and use business workloads without having to wait for budget approvals, work scheduling and other internal processes. This makes automation and orchestration critical in the private cloud to support user provisioning, follow proper business workflows and perform other tasks.

The problem is that automation isn't automatic. Default rule sets won't take you very far. Effective automation requires comprehensive rule sets based on knowledge of the business. IT and business leaders must develop and implement the rules that drive cloud automation. For example, automation will define which users have the rights to provision certain resources, which managers must be notified, how long the instance will exist and how the user's department is charged.

But creating these rule sets is only the beginning of a continuous process of reviews and updates. Automation rules must be dynamic and change to meet shifting business conditions. For example, if a department manager leaves or changes jobs, IT will need to tweak the notification or approval rules to reflect the new manager. IT must review and update rules frequently, which leads to additional private cloud costs and effort.

Business process changes

Private cloud decouples computing from management control and empowers users; employees no longer need to wait for IT staff, managers and CIOs to facilitate computing needs.

But this revolution can be disruptive to businesses that are unprepared. In many cases, the cloud starts as a test environment and the company cedes control without ever really understanding the benefits or risks involved. For example, issues like cloud sprawl and a lack of accountability can lead to chaos, as well as unnecessary private cloud costs.

Businesses spend money to create a private cloud, but must also face the ongoing obligation of reining in private cloud use. This may involve establishing new cloud use policies or implementing cloud workload lifecycle protocols – and such efforts can pose unforeseen private cloud costs.

Next Steps

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This was last published in December 2015

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Which private cloud costs were especially surprising to you?
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While these are all real costs, they are not unique to private cloud. Because migrating from public to private may involve re-coding, the same could be said of going the other way. This is a migration statement, not a private cloud cost. The clustering/resiliency built into the private cloud is also paid for in the public cloud ... so I'm not clear how this is a big hidden cost. Maybe I've been around clouds too long, but I really don't see any of these costs as unique to the private cloud. That said, public cloud costs continue to drop. Does that mean it is always cheaper ... NO. Does that mean it is often cheaper ... yes. As with everything else, YMMV
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