We’ve all heard so much about the “cloud” and how it’s revolutionizing IT. It’s getting harder to ignore the buzz because execs are starting to get the message, and they’re asking about the company’s “cloud strategy.” So, we scramble around trying to figure out exactly what that means only to find out that cloud computing is defined differently by nearly everyone. One opinion that’s building a lot of steam is that cloud is more than just virtualization.

We’re all pretty familiar with virtualization. It’s been a great tool to help us get more productivity out of our data centers and our computing resources. When we first started hearing about the cloud, many of us thought it was just a new marketing spin on virtualization, but it’s really a lot more. Yes, virtualization is at the core of the cloud – in a majority of cases, cloud couldn’t even exist without a hypervisor to add a degree of separation of our applications from physical infrastructure – but the real difference between a “simple” virtualized environment and a private cloud is management. Private clouds should be resource pools that IT provides and maintains with a degree of controlled self-service for end users.

Private clouds are potentially a great way to track the consumption of IT resources across different areas of the company. However, private clouds only work when they are managed well. Without the right tools in place, they can actually add a ton of risk. As with any virtualization solution, you run the risk of over-provisioning or of hotspots suddenly appearing because of a change in usage patterns. Even a little hiccup that degrades end user experience could blow the credibility of the whole concept of the cloud. It must be managed well with proper capacity planning, VM sprawl control, and performance management to proactively detect and troubleshoot bottlenecks and failures.

As if this wasn’t enough pressure, IT now has competition! A survey we conducted of SolarWinds customers in December 2011 (more on this coming soon) showed that 64% of respondents planned to invest in the “competitive analysis” of IT services relative to external service providers. With a growing number of cloud outsourcing options like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace in the marketplace, organizations are beginning to forgo service from internal IT in favor of greater speed and flexibility offered by outsourcers. Private clouds can help internal IT compete by allowing IT to achieve new levels of speed and agility and make itself look more like a service provider to the organization.

Private clouds enable IT to provide a utility-based approach to computing services. For example, if a department needs computing services, they can provision resources from IT’s private cloud, and IT can report the cost of that department’s consumption back to the business. In some organizations, they’re going as far as actually charging departmental cost centers for IT resources. Creating this type of capability will enable transparency into IT costs and help keep internal IT competitive with outsourcers and external service providers.

 

To help you learn more about how to implement your own private cloud, SolarWinds is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, 1/18/2012, at 11AM CST entitled “The Journey to the Cloud: Practical Steps and Recommendations for Cloud Adoption” hosted by Jon Reeve and Robbie Wright from the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager Product Team. Please click this link to register to attend.

 

RobbieWright is the Director of Product Marketing for Storage & Virtualization at SolarWinds. He spent over eight years at Rackspace & Dell, where he helped create private, public, & hybrid cloud solutions for medium & large enterprises.