Is a Private Cloud Heaven-Sent for Your Business?
Back in 1965 when the Rolling Stones told us to get off their cloud, they may have been talking about teenage alienation. Today, however, getting off of someone else's cloud could very well be the theme of many midsize companies as they rush to develop their own private cloud.
Whether you're an IT professional or a business manager, if you work at a midsize company that hasn't already made the leap to the cloud, you're probably considering it. Maybe you're hesitating because of worries about the security of customer information in the public cloud. Perhaps you can't tolerate the idea of abandoning all the costly hardware investments in your own datacenter. Or possibly you want to follow a hybrid approach, using the public cloud for some of your computing needs but retaining key IT functions on premise. If one or more those concerns apply to your situation, then you may want to consider deploying a private cloud environment.
Worries about security are keeping some firms from embracing the public cloud. The idea that your customers' bank records or credit card numbers reside on a third-party server-a sever that you share with many other companies-is reason enough for some companies to eschew the public cloud. While experts offer reassurances that reputable third-party hosting services are security enhanced, many companies remain wary.
Investments in an existing proprietary datacenter are another concern. If your company has sunk considerable money into building up a robust IT installation, there's an understandable reluctance to simply write off the investment and turn to the public cloud. This is particularly true if you've built a datacenter to handle your current peak loads, which means you have excess capacity during normal operations. It's doubly painful to think about writing off such expenditures.
Enter the private cloud, which provides the advantages of cloud infrastructure-dynamically assigning resources as needed, thus offering elasticity, flexibility, and lowered IT overhead-along with the additional control and customization associated with using resources that are dedicated to your organization. And the private cloud obviates any or all of your concerns about the public cloud. Worried about helping protect your customer data and strategic business information? Fear not, with the private cloud your data remains on servers dedicated to your company and yours alone. This is true whether you obtain your private cloud from a third-party host or, if you build it up on the capacity within your datacenter. After all, if your current infrastructure is a static deployment for peak scale, you've got the extra capacity to virtualize and achieve a dynamic deployment that can easily handle today's loads and can scale to accommodate future growth. What's more, by creating a private cloud, you put your company on the path to adopting the public cloud down the road-or even to adopting a hybrid of private and public cloud solutions today.
The biggest advantages of the private cloud lie mainly in the shift in IT duties. Switch to a private cloud, and suddenly you're running one big pool of infrastructure resources, managing your IT resources in a holistic "cloud way." A private cloud pools and dynamically allocates your IT resources across business units, so that services can be deployed quickly, scaled out and scaled back just as fast, to meet business needs. By so doing, it helps match costs to the needs of the business owner. What's more, usage of these resources can be tracked and billed back to each business unit.
With a private cloud, the primary role of your IT staff changes for the better. Instead of having IT pros spend hours and hours maintaining individual apps, you can turn them loose on developing tools that advance your business strategy. Still on the fence? Let's look at what a private cloud solution did for one midsized business.
Lionbridge is a Massachusetts-based company that helps businesses meet the needs of global audiences, translating web content so that it is linguistically and culturally attuned to audiences around the world. The company also helps search engines return results that are appropriate for different global markets. In addition, Lionbridge provides testing services to ensure the functionality and usability of software applications.
Given its range of services and global customer base, Lionbridge employs experts around the world. At one time, the company maintained datacenters in many different countries, a costly proposition and an administrative headache. To relieve these problems, Lionbridge consolidated its IT resources to a single location, using server virtualization to cut the costs of physical hardware, real estate and power consumption.
This virtualization, built on the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V, has served as the foundation for a private cloud IT infrastructure that delivers applications and localization resources to the company's far-flung internal users via a web interface. Lionbridge uses Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to manage the virtualized infrastructure, with project managers taking advantage of software's self-service portal to work with the virtual machines.
While virtualization alone brought immense benefits in terms of cost savings and scalability, it also has opened the door to numerous enhancements through the private cloud environment. Of particular interest is the creation of a customizable portal that allows users to specify project IT requirements. Following discussions with Microsoft, Lionbridge joined the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program for the self-service portal in System Center Virtual Machine Manager and began end-to-end testing of its features in March 2010. During the initial deployment, the IT staff determined that the portal's onboarding capabilities would be a good match for the company's needs. Says Damian Flynn, Applications Architect for the Corporate IT Core Team at Lionbridge, "The portal onboarding system will enable us to send all of our resource allocation and management spreadsheets to the Recycle Bin and replace them with a simple web portal for project managers."
The automated provisioning portal will also help Lionbridge's IT staff better track how IT resources are being used and how IT efficiencies benefit the company. "Now that we have a more complete and consistent set of data to work with, we easily see where our IT dollars are going, and we can present each business unit with a report explaining their infrastructure costs, which can then be trended against the old physical models," says Flynn.
By taking advantage of the management tools offered through its private cloud, Lionbridge has simplified internal IT processes, reduced administrative overhead, made work easier for end users and improved services to customers. It did so by taking advantage of the existing IT investments through Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center.
By choosing a Microsoft solution, Lionbridge assured itself of a familiar and consistent platform that put the cloud within immediate reach. The Microsoft solution is built on existing datacenter investments and skill sets and, thanks to System Center, can be optimized for end-to-end management. Could your company use these kinds of benefits? There's no better time than now to explore how a private cloud can help you save money, improve customer service and free up your IT professionals to spend more time developing strategic business solutions and less time on the mundane chores of system administration and application maintenance.
Microsoft provides the most comprehensive approach to cloud computing, so you can harness the full power of the cloud on your terms. Whether in your datacenter, with a service provider, or from Microsoft datacenters-and whether in a private cloud, public cloud, or software as a service environment-Microsoft provides the flexibility and control to consume IT as a service in a way that meets your unique business needs. Want to learn more? Then check out Microsoft's private cloud solutions here. There's never been a better time to rest your head on a private cloud.