There's no standard blueprint for building a private cloud. Which means it comes with risk. But a private cloud can save you money, give you better control over your data, and allow you to innovate. So when do these rewards outweigh the risk? Can you manage a private cloud's risk and keep its benefits? You can—by building a flexible, cloud-neutral architecture so that you can make changes as you need to, either to new private architecture or public cloud.
Placing a bet on private cloud technology opens up tremendous opportunity—but also risk. Still, businesses are moving forward. In fact, in a recent survey sponsored by F5, private cloud was the top area of cloud investment, with 39 percent of enterprises planning to invest in private cloud technology within the next 12 months.
As an organization, you face a daunting challenge. You know that private cloud doesn’t come in a box. You know that no standard blueprint exists for building a private cloud. You know there are numerous potential pitfalls. So where do you begin? How can you best reap all the rewards of private cloud while mitigating the risks?
Why choose private over public cloud?
Why would anyone choose to build a private cloud, when public cloud options abound? Private cloud entails more effort, significant CapEx, and the threat of both financial and career risk if you make the wrong choices.
There are three primary reasons why building a private cloud might be right for you.
Reason 1: To save money. If the workload you’ve earmarked for the cloud is static and predictable, it should be more cost-effective to run in a private cloud. That’s because with a static workload, you’ll never need to spin up servers for unpredictable bursts of data or activity, and you won’t need the ability to downsize during quiet periods—both of which are primary drivers for choosing public cloud. So, for highly predictable workloads, private cloud makes much more sense than public from a financial standpoint.
Reason 2: To maintain control over your data. If you have regulatory compliance requirements or your internal IT team has reasons to be reluctant to move data to public cloud, know that with a private cloud you keep all your data on premises. That means you’ll often retain better control over data security in a private cloud than in a public one.
Reason 3: To innovate. If your organization believes that it has an exciting new way to build cloud infrastructure—a way that will help you gain an advantage over competitors through infrastructure—that’s a reason to build your own private cloud. What if you can use an FPGA or some new hardware to boost performance for a specific task? What if specialized hardware makes sense for your workload? Then a private cloud offers opportunity.
Assess the real risks
We’re in that scary period when businesses will face dead ends and make bad decisions before they start to see their way forward. You can’t eliminate risk, but you can mitigate it.
The one thing you can be sure of is that things will change. That’s especially true for the early generations of private cloud products being sold today. Your number one rule for mitigating risk? Stay flexible and make sure that the infrastructure technologies that surround your applications are modular, API-driven, and cloud-neutral. That way, you’ll be able to pick them up and move them to a different cloud environment—private or public—at will, while guaranteeing that your app delivery systems will continue to work.
Ask before you invest
Here’s a list of essential questions to ask infrastructure vendors:
- How well do their products integrate with your stack? Do they play well with others? Look for something as close to plug and play as possible.
- Are they truly API-accessible? Everyone claims their products have APIs, but do those APIs actually control the products and provide you what you need?
- Are they adaptable? Will they flex and adapt? If you decide to move to a different cloud environment—public or private—will your application delivery mechanisms still work?
- What’s the time to value? Will you reap the value of the investment within the next two to three years?
- Do they have a history of actually working? Do your due diligence to ensure that their products have been successfully deployed at other organizations.
Stay agile and flexible: avoid technical debt
It’s early in the journey to private cloud. You’ll be a pioneer, and that’s often an uncomfortable position. That means that when you’re building a private cloud, you need to stay agile and avoid new technical debt. It will only slow you down. Base your infrastructure investments on products that have proven their value in the sense that they have already worked for other businesses in the past and will give you pathways to keep moving forward in the future. That will keep you ahead of the competition.
Daniel Tynan is an American journalist, television and radio commentator who specializes in technology, humor, and humorous takes on technology. A contributing editor for PC World, InfoWorld.com, and Family Circle magazine, and tends the Robert X. Cringely blog “Notes From the Field” for InfoWorld. His work has appeared in more than 50 publications, including Newsweek, Family Circle, Popular Science, Wired, and Playboy.com. He has appeared on CNN, CBS, NPR, Discovery, and Fox News, as well as dozens of regional television and radio programs.