Platform Considerations Once You’ve Chosen a Private Cloud

By Steve Garone -

Platform Considerations Once You’ve Chosen a Private Cloud

Public clouds are the right choice for many organisations, and across a wide variety of use cases. Certain requirements, however — often some combination of regulation and compliance, security, data proximity, ease of migration, application suitability and cost — can make private cloud the right choice. Once that decision has been made, organizations are wise to consider a variety of best practices, from involving stakeholders in the design and implementation of a private cloud, to developing a plan for application migration and development team on-boarding. One of the first set of decisions an organization must make includes choice of platform, approach and vendor(s).

Choosing the right private cloud platform

Before we dive into the factors governing a private cloud platform decision, it’s important to define how “platform” applies to private clouds. After all, the word is used extensively in IT to describe everything from servers to applications (isn’t Facebook often described as a platform?). In the cloud world, “platform” is most often used to describe a set of resources that are combined into a unified and (typically) virtualized unit. If these resources are comprehensive, they will form a stack of technologies and resources that are described with the term “Platform as a Service,” or PaaS. A typical PaaS stack includes servers, storage, networking, operating system and middleware, and a virtualized and/or container-based runtime environment. In short, it will provide everything a business unit or user needs to host its data and applications. Such a stack can be provided by a public cloud vendor, but for the reasons cited earlier, the consideration of certain factors will lead some organizations to a private cloud. The question becomes, as one takes the next step of drilling down into the private cloud platform, which factors deserve the greatest consideration, and then, which vendors can best provide meet an organization’s specific requirements? Here are a few of the important factors to consider when choosing a private cloud platform: The degree of “platform convergence”: Virtualization is likely to be a must for private clouds as a means of achieving the flexibility and cost benefits of cloud deployment. Many organizations are looking to hyperconverged platforms as the foundation for their private clouds. These platforms integrate compute, storage, and virtualization capabilities into a single system, and are a good choice for companies that have a sizable virtualization investment but may be struggling with data protection and storage complexity and cost. For enterprises that have chosen a private cloud approach, hyper-converged platforms can help mitigate the complexity of managing a less integrated infrastructure, allowing them to focus more on the business aspects of their IT.   Vendor lock-in could become an issue, but reduced complexity, potentially better performance, and lower overall cost can often justify this choice. The power of automation: Businesses run on policies, processes, and, of course, transactions. Automation is about efficiently and accurately translating these operational elements into actions that support them. This is where automation come in — typically implemented as a framework that includes directed resource provisioning, cloud environment monitoring and management, and reporting on such factors as billing and resource lifecycle management. One of the most important automated functions in a private cloud is the identification of users who request services to ensure they are authorized to make the requests, and if they are, using a workflow engine to automatically obtain authorizations, locate and provisioning resources, and balance workloads to optimize performance. Automation can also ensure better adherence to both business policy and regulatory requirements by handling tasks in a uniform, predictable, and policy-based way. Data security via encryption: Encrypting data as a means to keep it secure is not a new concept, and while public cloud vendors offer encryption capabilities, the processor overhead involved sometimes limits the extent to which they will cover a customer’s database and everything in it. Then there are the issues of understanding the encryption policies of a public cloud provider, and whether they cover all of an organization’s needs.   Private clouds are increasingly part of a hybrid cloud scenario, making it even more important to handle encryption on the enterprise side of such a situation. Geographic dependencies: Regulatory issues, especially regarding data, can vary across geographies (does GDPR ring a bell?). Private cloud services may span geographies, requiring the platform on which it is built to deal with these variations. The policy-based automation discussed above can help mitigate the issues resulting from geographic dependencies if the right platform is chosen.

The choice of approach and vendors

With these and other considerations in mind, it is clear that the choice of private cloud platform vendor is critical to success. An initial choice of vendor should be considered just that — over time, requirements will change, and an organization’s private cloud will need to adapt. Perhaps that means making a private cloud part of a hybrid cloud; accommodating new application or workload requirements may mean working with another vendor whose offerings best meet those needs. Ultimately, there will be more systems, more platforms, and more complexity, all of which needs to be managed. Managed service providers, or MSPs, can add a lot of value in these situations. By providing a set of services that can range from configuration management to hardened security, MSPs effectively offload the administration of an organization’s IT infrastructure and assets, potentially lowering costs and freeing up resources to focus more on the business. But an MSP must deliver more than just technical competence and manpower. It must also work closely with companies to understand their business, and then be able to effectively map its services to businesses goals and practices, with a clear understanding of which functional areas can best benefit from their services. In the current world of transformation, this is more important than ever. This is exactly the niche Rackspace occupies. If you’re still trying to decide which cloud makes the most sense for your business's needs and goals, let us employ our “Process First. Technology Second” approach. Before we ever start talking about which cloud, we begin with you and your customers: what are their needs? How can we improve their experience and the value you offer them? If private cloud is indeed the right choice, we can build, maintain, and manage your private cloud with our customizable Rackspace Private Cloud as a Service, which is available across several private cloud platform vendors and options including VMware, Microsoft, and OpenStack (including Red Hat). Depending on your needs, that cloud can reside in your datacenter, a colocation facility or in a Rackspace datacenter. This not only reduces the resources you need to manage your private cloud, but it lowers the risk of being locked into a single vendor, offering greater flexibility as your needs change and grow. No matter where you are along your cloud journey, let Rackspace be your guide.