Private cloud: Key steps for migrating your organisation

All the issues, from lock-in to chargebacks and organisational and governance challenges...

Moving to private cloud services need not be as traumatic as moving house. Putting in the right foundations now eases the transition and helps when it comes to the shift to public cloud services. Cath Everett reports.

For the next couple of years, organisations will invest more in private cloud services than they will in public cloud offerings, but ultimately will use the private cloud as a stepping stone to the pubic cloud, according to Gartner.

Even so, the analyst firm believes that many organisations will operate a hybrid model that comprises a mix of private, public and non-cloud services for a number of years to come. This approach means that a primary responsibility for IT departments in future will be to source the most appropriate IT service for the job.

However, despite such predictions, it appears the wholesale adoption of private cloud is still some way off. Joe Tobolski, senior director of cloud assets and architectures at Accenture, explains: "The notion of private cloud is aspirational at best today and is in the very early days. There are two reasons for this - the hype is at an all-time high right now and there are very real commercial and architectural challenges involved."

Datacentre image

Sectors showing most interest in private cloud are those where workload volumes peak and trough and tend to be cyclical
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

To add to the situation, many organisations have also delayed much of the necessary internal application and infrastructure renewal work as a result of the still difficult economic climate.

But while some are claiming to run private clouds after having introduced a rack of virtualised servers, "99.99 per cent of datacentres are working in traditional ways. So rather than being private clouds, they're really islands of automation", Tobolski says.

The sectors that are showing most interest in the concept are those where workload volumes peak and trough and tend to be cyclical, such as retail, distribution, some global manufacturers and the public sector.

1. What is private cloud?
A starting point when defining private cloud is stating what it is not. And what it is not is simply the virtualisation and automation of existing IT. As Derek Kay, director of cloud services at Deloitte, points out, while genuine private cloud implementations do exist, some have simply been "sprayed with the private cloud spray" when they are in reality just big automated server farms.

"That will get you part of the way there, but really it's about a complete transformation programme. If you think of it as just a technical programme, you'll only get a fraction of the benefit, but for a small amount of additional focus and a willingness to adopt more widespread change, you can derive much more value at little extra cost," he says.

So one definition of private cloud is that it comprises IT services that are delivered to consumers via a browser, using internet protocols and technology. Underlying platforms are shared, scalability is unlimited and users can obtain either more or less capacity depending on their requirements. Finally, pricing is based on consumption and usage and is likely to include some form of chargeback mechanism.

One organisation that has gone a good way down the private cloud route, for example, is Reed Specialist Recruitment. It has centralised, standardised and virtualised its back-end infrastructure using EMC's VMware and rewritten most of its applications so that they can be accessed via a browser.

The firm, which employs 3,500 staff globally, 3,300 of which are based in the UK, has also adopted Itil to provide a service-management approach to IT delivery and introduce more rigour into its change-management processes, while likewise introducing a chargeback mechanism for payment.

But rather than use internet-based technology as its key means of...