According to some pundits, private clouds are on the rise. ComputerWorld recently heralded ‘Private clouds gain traction with early adopters’ and SearchCloudComputing predicted 2010 would be a big year for private cloud build-outs.

However, from our experience talking with companies every day, we see enterprises are hot on the idea of private clouds, but not necessarily the reality. Specifically, they love the idea of:

(1) Self-service access for users

(2) Automation of manual processes to reduce operations overhead

(3) Ability to scale resources as needed and balance load between different business priorities

(4) Security and maintaining existing IT policies.

Usually, when it comes to actually implementing a private cloud, IT organizations realize:

(1) Building a scalable, cloud-based infrastructure is a major undertaking

(2) Ensuring performance, especially around managing storage, is very hard

(3) There are dramatic up-front capital costs for both hardware and management software

(4) There is no way to easily scale a private cloud on demand, resulting in the need for scheduling software or idle excess capacity

So can you ‘have your cake and eat it too’ with a private cloud (that is get all the benefits, without the risks and administration headaches)? Well, actually you can, it’s called a ‘virtual private cloud’.

Most IT professionals understand that an external cloud offers most of the benefits of a private cloud, but have concerns around security and ensuring IT policies are maintained. Virtual private networking now enables an organization to create their own private cloud using an external cloud service and utilize a secure IPsec tunnel to make this available on their corporate network.

IT administrators can then control policies, such as the allowable subnets a machine in their ‘virtual private cloud’ can utilize and common security controls (such as single-sign on and password policies).

Most organizations want to use private clouds for dynamic workloads, such as application development and test, IT sandboxes, and prototyping, so concerns over data security are typically not an issue (especially as best practice dictates these workloads should not be using production data).

The benefits of the ‘virtual private cloud’ model can be significant:

(1) The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a virtual private cloud is typically 60% lower than an internal implementation

(2) An IT organization can deploy a virtual private cloud in days vs. months for an internal effort

(3) A virtual private cloud can be scaled up or down at will according to business demand – something not easily attainable with an internal private cloud.

We have many customers that have proven out the virtual private cloud model. One customer, a major enterprise company, deployed their Skytap virtual private cloud within a week and now uses it for SAP release testing. Another customer, Bakbone, has been using Skytap as a VPC solution since last year. They’ve seen substantial cost savings and have scaled their Skytap cloud as demand has increased.

We’re strong advocates of the virtual private cloud model and believe it’s a lower risk and more cost effective approach than building an internal private cloud. It’s usually far better to try adopting a virtual private cloud first before making a large investment (that may fail). So, if you’re planning a private cloud strategy, feel free to contact one of our cloud specialists and we’ll get you started with a Skytap virtual private cloud so you can evaluate the benefits yourself.

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