I’ve spent a lot of time talking with my clients and partners lately about what makes a Private Cloud a cloud. There are many schools of thought on this, no end to the opinions really, but I think it comes down to a few differentiators between “just” virtualized infrastructure and a cloud. For me those differentiators are less about technology and more about how you manage and provision things. A virtual infrastructure is still managed and provisioned on a resource or asset basis, where a cloud is managed and provisioned as a service or by policy. A service being some aggregation of resources to deliver something meaningful to your customer. An integrated approach to Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) is required to accomplish management as a service or by policy. It’s not enough to have a Dashboard that shows you the status of your environment, you need a console that reports and allows you to interact.
The virtual infrastructure is a key enabler of the cloud, but it’s not the cloud. At EMC we’ve developed a product and services portfolio that enables the Private Cloud vision of any device, anywhere accessing your information and your applications regardless of the infrastructure it happens to live on. Our Virtual Computing Environment coalition extends that enablement by including the components of unified internetworking and compute with the cloud operating system. Private Cloud is more expansive than VCE and the first technology solution offered by it in the form of the VBlock. The real differentiator between the virtual infrastructure and the Private Cloud is any device, anywhere is able to access your applications and information with your governance controlling it regardless of the underlying infrastructure, be it internal assets or those provided through the public clouds.
It’s the integration of GRC into the environment that delivers on the Private Cloud promise of all the agility, flexibility, scalability, multi-tenancy and automation associated with cloud computing tempered with the security, availability, resiliency, and control of the data center. This means that getting to a Private Cloud has to be about a lot more than deploying new technologies, it’s a wholesale transformation of IT and a new way of interfacing with the Business and your customers. A lot of what has been promised and demanded by frameworks like ITIL, SOA, MOF, COBIT, etc. is now able to be delivered through the infrastructure and toolsets supporting it. It’s possible to implement the Service Catalog and things like automatically approved changes into the resource management infrastructure to begin to provide real self service of IT where appropriate. The appeal of many existing public cloud solutions are the ease with which users can consume them: a credit card; a few clicks; and bam you have storage, or a server, or a CRM system. An integrated approach for GRC can provide this same user experience, plus the enterprise necessities like Service Levels, Business Continuity, Data Protection and the like for enterprise IT. This is the stuff that gets traction with the people I talk with about cloud and to me is the real promise of Private Cloud, a promise that is actually deliverable today.