Building our own cloud

Building our own cloud

I have been thinking a lot about IT service architecture. After all, my theme this year is “Security is Design”. How can we maximize the benefits of new technologies while minimizing the security risks?

Take cloud computing. The buzz is that cloud computing reduces costs and increases scalability. Cloud computing, specifically with cloud hosting, does this by putting our servers in a multi-tenant environment and then charging based on utilization. So organizations get pay-as-you-go pricing that is shared across scores of customers (tenants). Add self-service and rapid provisioning, and you get a fast and flexible solution.

That makes the IT operations side of my brain happy. But then my IT security side chirps up.

Multi-tenant increases security risks as we no longer have end-to-end visibility and control coverage. Think of the property security of an apartment versus a private home.  Multi-tenant decreases responsiveness, too, as the service provider must balance the needs of his organization against the needs of yours. Think the customer service you get from your telephone utility versus your in-house telecommunications specialist. Above and beyond that, simply by being a new architecture, cloud computing will bring an entirely new set of risks that can only be identified with time.

So how can we balance the benefits and risks of cloud computing? One way is to bring the cloud computing technologies in-house. The basics are readily available: virtualization, rapid provisioning, self-service, resource pooling, charge back. A data center built on the cloud computing model, but leveraging the best of an internal IT team: responsiveness, responsibility, and business domain knowledge.

My team has been using the terms “in-house cloud” or “private cloud” to describe our efforts to achieve this balance. This week, vendors led by EMC launched as a resource building such beasts. Check out their definition of private cloud. While the blog is VMware and EMC based, I wager it is only a matter of time before Microsoft and Compellent come out with comparable information.

Done right, private clouds or cloud computing built in-house will provide a smooth transition for organizations to get the benefits of this new architecture.

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