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Private cloud, public cloud or hybrid cloud, and the impact on the data center

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Private, public and hybrid are three well-known terms for sure in connection with clouds, or cloud computing. There’s an interesting but important difference, however. In speaking to many people I do wonder if the definitions are as clear and as well-known as the names. Not surprisingly, for many people the definitions that they see are those of the product companies and therefore created around how that vendor views its strategic positioning in the market and product development plan. Very seldom are the terms described in terms of how each might be used, and that in turn leads to the way standards are being developed by the Open Data Center Alliance.

If you are a regular reader of my blogs then you will know about the importance of differentiating between internally-focused enterprise IT as we know it today, defined by Capgemini as ‘inside-out’, meaning its prime focus is inside, and the connectivity to the outside is defined by the policies, practices and methods of enterprise IT as a secure environment inside the firewall. Conversely, much of mobility, the front office, Social CRM, and indeed the business focus are now on using technology to support externally-focused connectivity and interactions with a small amount of connectivity across the firewall to the existing enterprise IT, hence the term ‘outside-in’. A previous blog defined this in more detail.

Instead of using the terms private, public and hybrid cloud to describe the location/operation of a cloud it might be much better to consider the way a cloud is being used. Why? Because a manufacturing enterprise might be running a cloud in its own data center to host services from its suppliers as part of its supply chain logistics. Access to this cloud would be controlled by the manufacturer operating the cloud and physically it would be in their data center running on their servers. Is that a private cloud, based on location? Or is it a public cloud as other enterprises are using it? And for those other enterprises will it not seem like a public cloud because they use it? And lastly, for all the enterprises involved how will it coexist with their in-house services?

Interesting questions, eh? The obvious starting point is to identify and remove from this discussion the use of ‘cloud technology’ to improve the internal operational effectiveness of our current data centers running our current enterprise applications. Personally, I would call this ‘cloud computing' as the focus is on improving the utilization of the computing resources to do what we do today around traditional enterprise applications, not on delivering new forms of ‘services’. It’s a good move and produces excellent cost-saving results but it’s not as Salesforce.com say ‘true cloud’, though it’s definitely what comes to mind when the term ‘private cloud’ is mentioned.

We tend to call this private as a continuation of the practices of internal IT being defined in terms of policies, methods and even quite a lot of the technology products being proprietary because they must fit the enterprises’ unique requirements. And that means our own data centers are implemented according to these requirements, as it’s our ‘private’ data center. The key to the externally-focused ‘services’ model is standards because the ‘true cloud’ is built on the Internet-Web architecture model – see a previous blog that explains this and that works for everyone because it is standardized. (I.e. the Internet provided standardized connectivity, the first generation of the Web produced standardized content, then Web 2.0 standardized interactivity for people, and now clouds introduce standardization for process elements.)

The above example of a manufacturer’s cloud is about the creation of a ‘place’ meaning a specific cloud in which the suppliers can place their business process elements using technology standards to ensure comparability. The business services can be combined to create a process flow to be orchestrated from these elements in response to a particular supply chain event or requirement. So, while the terms of public, private etc may not be so easy to use to define this, the requirement and business value certainly is clear.

But how will the manufacturer’s data center host these? It will need to be a common standardized hosting environment in much the same way as a Web server hosts content from any source if it complies to the right standards. And that leads to where and how are these standards being defined as well as reminding that it works both ways, i.e. services should be correctly written to be hosted and the data center should be correctly implemented to host the services. This is a key point that is frequently missed – if you are going to develop ‘services’ then write them to standards as even if you think they will only be used internally today, that may not be true in future. Most important of all is the realization that you will need to create a true cloud-hosting environment in your data center for external use, and that’s where your internal services will also need to be hosted too so they better conform to the standards too.

Often referred to as a NextGenerationDataCenter, the definition of this new type of data center capability is the work of the Open Data Center Alliance with a membership of 300-plus companies. Most importantly, these are, with only a handful of exceptions, real companies using the clouds to change their industry sector in this way, though in the handful of technology companies present you will find Capgemini!

The alliance just brought their work up to date in September with the release of six proof of concept models underwritten by Intel, Dell, EMC, VMware, RedHat, Citrix and other vendors who are strongly associated with the breakthrough use of clouds. These are all laid out in a ‘showcase’ manner covering: Cloud On-Boarding; Carbon Footprint services; Secure Cloud Services On-Boarding; I/O Control for processes; Secure Monitoring and Service Catalogues; and True Cloud Interoperability. I really recommend taking a more detailed look at this work in planning your own adoption of clouds and services as being a more ‘realistic’ approach than some of the definitions used in connection with public, private and hybrid! Oh, and by the way check who from your industry sector is a member of theAlliance, they might be a useful collaborator, or they may turn into a strongly enabled competitor!!!


About the author

Andy Mulholland
Andy Mulholland
Capgemini Global Chief Technology Officer until his retirement in 2012, Andy was a member of the Capgemini Group management board and advised on all aspects of technology-driven market changes, together with being a member of the Policy Board for the British Computer Society. Andy is the author of many white papers, and the co-author three books that have charted the current changes in technology and its use by business starting in 2006 with ‘Mashup Corporations’ detailing how enterprises could make use of Web 2.0 to develop new go to market propositions. This was followed in May 2008 by Mesh Collaboration focussing on the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise front office and its working techniques, then in 2010 “Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Strategy Guide for Business and Technology leaders” co-authored with well-known academic Peter Fingar and one of the leading authorities on business process, John Pyke. The book describes the wider business implications of Cloud Computing with the promise of on-demand business innovation. It looks at how businesses trade differently on the web using mash-ups but also the challenges in managing more frequent change through social tools, and what happens when cloud comes into play in fully fledged operations. Andy was voted one of the top 25 most influential CTOs in the world in 2009 by InfoWorld and is grateful to readers of Computing Weekly who voted the Capgemini CTOblog the best Blog for Business Managers and CIOs each year for the last three years.

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