Monday, May 2, 2011

And to those just tuning in - Private Cloud is a bad thing

Private Cloud, in itself, is not bad. Rather what I find is that companies are willing to blindly follow the Private Cloud mantra while heaping their own expectations of an Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure solution on top. As a result the deliveries fall well short of the perceived goals leaving companies in a no win situation. The cause of this problem is the vendor push behind Private Cloud solutions which naturally want to make it sound like a pancea for taming the infrasructure beast. In reality Private Cloud is in its infancy and is about 5-7 years behind Public Cloud in maturity.

Private Cloud implementations often mask or ignore the following:
  • Enterprise Cloud Strategy development
  • Governance
  • Migration costs
  • Application development costs
  • Learning curve
  • Disaster recovery effectiveness
  • Success metrics
  • Accounting, Tax, and Finance change
  • Legal impacts
  • Data integration
I can understand the lure of a "private" cloud: COST SAVINGS! Who can shake a fist at that? IT is expensive, not as expensive as the manual labor it replaces, but more expensive than free. Executives would prefer an IT that costs nothing to maintain where more can be done with less until an infinite workload is accomplished with nothing.

A cost savings focus is a myopic view of the future which necessarily puts more important agendas like growth on the back burner. My father, a retired Fortune 10 executive, always says "You can't cut your way to growth". Yet today the vast majority of Private Cloud implementations are driven by expected cost savings. So what do I believe is the right view? Cloud as a revenue generator, a driver of new business opportunities by engendering models not realizable with current IT structures. But of course this view threatens the very safe, reliable foundation of today's IT.

So let me point out how Private Cloud falls short on cost savings:

First, private cloud increases risk by moving companies to adopt a single vendor's proprietary technology. No vendor today has a complete private cloud in a box or offering. Rather vendors have gathered together technologies from across their portfolio to provide a glimpse of cloud but what is really just virtualization. Virtualization is good, but it's not cloud. I have yet to see a private cloud vendor offering that addresses the 70% of cloud that virtualization does not: software services, SLA based management of applications, automated scaling of resources based on application use and need, automated recovery of services, etc. Some of these things you can do with those vendor solutions, but it's an afterthought and what is offered is such a weak solution few if any have implemented it. Ask the vendor for a list of installations and it looks impressive. As a vendor for the list of clients who use 100 or more instances and the sheet staring back at you will be blank. Vendors are following the analysts too; if they could see they'd be leading rather than following.

Second, Private Cloud pretends to be a holistic solution but it's not. Again nothing is provided for in migrating applications into the cloud, and without applications all private cloud does is create larger silos. Most often there is no consideration for future integration with public cloud locking out the opportunity to access the lowest cost resources available. In addition Private Cloud requires a company to grow an expertise base that cloud as easily be outsourced where the implementations from an availability, security, and performance point of view are generally accepted as better. Once the cloud is up and running it should take very little effort to operate it; otherwise it's not a cloud. The money should be spent in building up application layer expertise in cloud which is much more expensive.

Third and most important, Private Cloud failures, and there are plenty, give cloud a bad name creating conflict for future adoptions potentially alienating one of the most valuable technological movements since the development of the relational database or the Internet. Companies are already having to rationalize cloud solutions that are only five and sometimes only three years old. Nobody wants to present to the CIO that a new solution is already in jeopardy. When I ask people why they think this happens almost 100% say its because of undetected security issues which is incorrect. The real reason is the unrecognized need, complexity, and cost of integration.

So to those who are learning I say welcome! To those are surprised to learn that private clouds could be a bad thing please do your own analysis. Cloud computing is one area where you need to do your research not only on the topic but also on those to whom you rely for knowledge.

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