What's the right kind of private cloud for my business?

Finding a private cloud solution with the right features for your organisation should be a priority

A private cloud is one where cloud computing resources are ring-fenced for the exclusive use of a particular organisation and is used by businesses with specific workloads and security concerns. A company's private cloud infrastructure may sit within its own data centre(s) or on a segregated part of a third party's data centres.

There are a range of private cloud environments, from pure open source all the way to proprietary systems. Which one is the right choice for your organisation depends on several factors, including budget, internal expertise in managing a private cloud environment, integration concerns, maintenance issues and comfort level with change.

Pure open source offerings, as the name suggests, can be deployed with literally no upfront acquisition license costs, other than other than those associated with hardware and labour. OpenStack is one example of a leading open source private cloud environment that can be downloaded and installed for free. The challenge, of course, is that the group installing and maintaining it must acquire and maintain expertise in OpenStack, which has matured rapidly but is still complex to deploy. This will be true for any pure open source offering: your organisation must become experts in the technology to use it effectively.

To reduce the burden of maintaining in-house expertise (and the risks of not having those skills), some firms offer support for open source projects. These commercial offerings have a financial cost, which may be offset by the vendor ensuring integration, testing and validation issues have been addressed and that there is someone to contact in case of a problem.

Alternatively, several firms offer proprietary private cloud platforms. These deliver fully integrated and tested stacks with dedicated support, but they typically cost more than OpenStack-supported solutions. However, if your organisation is already familiar with the vendor's technology and interface, using one of these proprietary offerings can lessen the learning curve.

As well as this, some vendors offer hosted services, allowing an organisation to take advantage of the open source private cloud without needing hardware or data centre space. These options usually have the highest price tag, but require the fewest in-house resources.

In addition to finding a private cloud solution that has the right features, organisations should look for a solution with the appropriate level of support. Where your business lies on the continuum of cost and internal expertise can guide you in choosing the offering that best meets your needs (see diagram above).

Whatever cloud you deploy, equipping it with the appropriate services and finding the right balance of cost and expertise should be one of your top priorities.

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