When cloud computing became a topic of discussion a few years ago, public clouds received the bulk of the attention, mostly due to the high profile nature of public cloud announcements from some of the industry's biggest names, including Google and Amazon. But now that the talk has turned into implementation, some IT shops have begun steering away from public clouds because of the security risks. Data is outside the corporate firewall and is basically out of their control.

Tom Bittman, vice president at Gartner, said in a blog post that based on his poll of IT managers, security and privacy are of more concern than the next three public cloud problems combined. He also wrote that 75% of those polled said that they would be pursuing a private cloud strategy by 2012, and 75% said that they would invest more in private clouds than in public clouds through 2012.

Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research, agrees that IT's emphasis is more on private clouds these days. He says that IT managers "are not interested in going outside" the firewall.

Hurdles involved

Building your own private cloud involves some challenges, including these:

  • Budget. Private clouds can be expensive, so you need to do your due diligence and figure out what the upper and lower bounds for your ROI will be.
  • Integrating with public clouds. Build your private cloud so that you can move to a hybrid model if public cloud services are required. This involves many factors, including security and making sure you can run your workloads in both places.
  • Scaling. Private cloud computing services usually don't have the economies of scale that large public cloud providers provide.
  • Reconfiguring on the fly. You may have to tear down servers and other infrastructure as it is working to move it into the private cloud. This could create huge problems.
  • Legacy hardware. Leave your oldest servers behind, you should not try to repurpose any servers that require manual configuration with a private cloud, since it would be impossible to apply automation/orchestration management to these older machines.
  • Technology obsolescence. The complexity and speed of technology change will be hard for any IT organisation to handle, especially the smaller ones. Once you make an investment in a private cloud technology stack, you need to protect that investment and make sure you stay up to date with new releases of software components.
  • Fear of change. Your IT team may not be familiar with private clouds, and there will be a learning curve. There may also be new operational processes and old processes that need to be reworked. Turn this into a growth opportunity for your people, the stress of doing and learning all this may be mitigated by helping your folks keep in mind that these are important new skills in today's business environment.

Still, as Bittman's blog post points out, private clouds have their share of challenges, too. In his poll, management issues and figuring out operational processes were identified as the biggest headaches. And, of course, an on premises private cloud need to be built internally by IT, so time frame and learning curve, as well as budget, need to be part of the equation.

Indeed, transitioning from a traditional data centre, even one with some servers virtualised, to a private cloud architecture is no easy task, particularly given that the entire data centre won't be cloud-enabled, at least not right away.

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