Lauren Sell from the OpenStack Foundation talks CBR through the three biggest misconceptions about private clouds.
Many IT, development, and business professionals think they have it all figured out when it comes to private cloud. For example, that private cloud is best for static workloads, or that sensitive information should only be hosted on a private cloud. There may have been some truth to that in the past, but private cloud has come a long way in just the last two years, and organisations are changing the way private clouds are being put to use alongside hyperscale and public clouds. Smart organisations are intelligently placing workloads across their cloud portfolio based on capabilities, cost and compliance.
We define private cloud as self-service, elastic, API-driven infrastructure that’s dedicated to a single organisation. It’s remotely managed by a service provider in your datacentre or entirely managed and hosted in a service provider’s facility. In the past, private cloud tended to be favoured where security, control and privacy were top priorities, but perceived issues with performance, scalability, complexity and cost limited the use of private clouds at some organisations, particularly SMBs.
Of course, companies need to assess the viability of a private cloud based on their individual business needs, goals and resources. That said, there are a few things that organisations may need to rethink about the private or hybrid cloud model.
There are three misconceptions about private clouds:
Private cloud is more expensive than public cloud.
Public cloud provides tremendous value in terms of getting started quickly and being able to spin up and spin down resources, but it’s important to keep in mind that you are paying a premium for that flexibility. As a rule of thumb, if you are running an app that will live longer than 12 months or reach any kind of sustained scale, it makes sense to consider private cloud.
Organisations are starting to take note of growing public cloud bills and considering how they can utilize public cloud where it makes sense, while reducing costs on their more persistent and high-performant workloads. Indian ecommerce giant Snapdeal recently reported saving 75 percent when switching from hyperscale public to a predominantly private cloud strategy. Another Fortune 500 clothing retailer, who has been using OpenStack-based private cloud to run their webPoS, CRM and ecommerce platforms – including Black Friday sales the last four years – spends more on public cloud in a month than it costs to run their OpenStack infrastructure for a year.
While there are several reasons why an organisation may choose to move on from a public cloud only strategy, cost tends to be one of the biggest factors.
Private clouds are difficult to implement and you need a big team.
Some people still think private cloud means you need to hire a large team, run it in your own datacentre, and it will take months before you see the value. That may have been true of private clouds five years ago, but the technology and vendor ecosystem has matured substantially, and newer options like hosted or remotely managed private clouds require minimal staff and deliver “day 1” value. These new models have made private cloud accessible to a greater number of organisations, including SMBs.
If you are running at a large scale or with special requirements like network performance, it may still make sense to invest in a team and run your own cloud. A recent study by 451 Research found that at the ratio of 400 virtual machines per engineer, the cost of running your own private cloud using an OpenStack supported distribution is lower than that of a public cloud and managed private cloud options. Betfair, for example, efficiently runs a private cloud that supports its 1.7 million users, and said “everything we do is automated using OpenStack, so we don’t have a need for huge teams to support the platform.”
It really comes down to the value that the company will gain from a private cloud and the resources available to implement it. For companies that want the ultimate in cost savings, flexibility and customisation, and that have in-house expertise, running your own private cloud makes sense. Companies that want to implement a private cloud but can’t do it on their own should consider a hosted or remotely managed private cloud. While they will still need personnel to manage the relationship and support internal users, this is a much easier and quicker onramp.
Private cloud capabilities are limited and will be eclipsed by new technologies like containers.
In addition to becoming more cost-effective and easier to run, private clouds are becoming more capable. While the first generation of private clouds basically enabled virtualization with self-service and elastic provisioning capabilities, “gen 2” private clouds support features such as containers, network functions virtualization (NFV), edge computing and high performance computing. Some of these emerging use cases, especially with computing living at the edge for telecom or retail companies, are simply not possible with centralised, hyperscale computing.
Early 2016, we saw the rise of container orchestration systems like Kubernetes, Mesos and Swarm, which some viewed as a risk to existing private cloud technologies that were historically focused on virtual machines. In reality, these technologies helped ring in the next generation of private clouds by expanding the use cases for programmable infrastructure and making it much easier to deploy and upgrade private cloud infrastructure by containerizing the cloud services themselves. The majority of organisations are running a combination of technologies – including virtual machines, bare metal and now containers – and private cloud platforms allow them to tie these compute resources into their backend enterprise networking, storage and management systems. In fact, OpenStack private cloud users are adopting containers 3x faster than the rest of the market.
At the same time, much work has been done to make private clouds support high availability scenarios and allow more “legacy” workloads to take advantage of cloud infrastructure, even when it doesn’t make sense to re-architect them.
Prepare for the multi-cloud future
The cloud market is changing quickly, and any company will benefit from ensuring that old ideas don’t get in the way of innovation. The second generation of private clouds we are seeing today are easier to run and more capable than earlier incarnations. This makes them more cost effective and accessible to more people. They also do more, running workloads as varied as telecom NFV applications to cloud-native applications to enterprise systems like SAP and Oracle.
Ultimately, smart companies are finding the right mix of cloud technologies and optimizing placement of workloads amongst them.