The shape of the cloud : Public or Private

Cloud over Kinner Kailash

” That wall has to be bigger if we have to use this pattern”, said my painter, “it will not be very effective on your wall”. This is something which happens to many of us all the time. With our painters, our carpenters, our architects and various other service providers. You want to do something but the person providing you the service has a comfort zone in which he / she wants to work. So rarely do you get exactly what you want. It will always be a compromise between your ideas and the ideas of the vendor. This is something which happens not only for individuals like us but also for large enterprises. You cannot execute everything on our own. You need to depend on the vendors. What vendors will say depends on their comfort zone, what products they have, what they want to seel and how much commission the sales guy is getting for selling a particular product. I guess anyone who has been in the industry long enough knows this. And these are exactly the factors which will influence the way the cloud would shape up eventually.

Last year there was a lot and lot of talk about the cloud, which is still continuing. Initially the talk seemed to be about one type of cloud, owned by a service providers like Amazon, Google etc, whose services all enterprises would avail of. Slowly it emerged that there two types of clouds. One, the public one. Which you see when you step out on the road. And the private one, which you see on your own ceiling. In other words, Public Cloud is the one which is run by a service provider and Private Cloud is the one which is run by your own IT department.

People may ask as to what Private Cloud means. After all has the IT department not been running the data center all along. How does the Private Cloud change things? I am not sure if the definition of Private Cloud has taken a concrete shape yet but here is my take. Private Cloud represents a huge change in thinking on the part of the IT department. You no longer need to buy things for each department separately or you don’t need to reserve resources for any one department / division or whatever is the unit of classification. The whole idea is to give resources when necessary, provision just the right amount of resources and give more resources when asked for. In essence the IT department owns all the resources as a huge pool, or cloud, and provisions as required internally. No more buying or provisioning resources for a particular division, which will be locked down for a long time. This would apply to all kinds of resources, the key among them being compute power and storage. Given the ‘give only as much needed’ philosophy and sharing of resources across the organization will definitely bring in optimal usage and definite cost savings.

Changing from one model to another one is not an easy task. So what are the likely challenges for such a movement? Since I haven’t handled big data centers, I cannot possibly give you all the scenarios, but these are most likely challenges that an organization would face when trying to build its Private Cloud:

– Change in the thinking pattern of the IT staff. They must forget how they procured and provisioned earlier. They need to think in terms of how to provision using the cloud paradigm

– Training the IT staff in newer technology areas like Virtualization and newer ways of provisioning which we will important in order to build a Private Cloud. They will need to design newer chargeback mechanisms as well

– The bigger challenge I see is how to move the current infrastructure into the Private Cloud. Big companies have tons of equipment and they are already provisioned and being used. How will you get all these into a common pool? No organization would want to build a Private Cloud by purely buying new equipment

– Another important aspect which will dictate on whether Private Cloud will be accepted within an organization or not will depend on the how the power structure would change is Private Cloud is implemented. We have seen more than once that many good ideas have been compromised due to this issue.

How will this Public / Private Cloud help the vendors. As I said earlier, what eventually will come up depends a lot on your vendor. As of now many vendors have started talking Private Clouds and this is understandable. Look at it this way. You spend a lot of time, energy and money building up relationships with your client. You are now in a position that the client trusts you and you know the client well enough even to influence their buying decisions. At this juncture, if you were to propose the Public Cloud idea, you are shooting yourself. The decision on which equipment to buy will then pass on to the service provider, with whom you may or may not have a great equation. If it is a Private Cloud, you can always show the benefit of the cloud to the customer without losing your influence or your orders!!

The way the Public / Private Cloud is being proposed is: Big Enterprises need a Private Cloud, Smaller Enterprises can use the Public Cloud. This again makes sense from the vendors point of view. Especially the big ones. Because running after small orders or small players is never something which big vendors want to do. In such cases, if the buying decision shifts away from the small players to a service provider, who will buy in large quantities, then it is easy for the big guys to target this service provider.

As I had said in the beginning of this post, what color I paint my walls depends a lot on my painters aesthetics as well. In the same way, the way cloud will evolve will depend on what the vendors feel would be beneficial to them in the long run. Based on this, we will be seeing a lot more talk on Private Clouds. When cloud becomes a reality, Public and Private Clouds will coexist.

You can read EMC’s Chuck Hollis take on private clouds here.  Here is a different take on the cloud and what it should or should not mean. As usual, Steve Duplessie does not mince words in this article on why the cloud will vapourise