Selling your customers on a private cloud computing environment

The challenges of public clouds and the appeal of business continuity during Internet outages make the idea of private cloud computing compelling to your customers eyeing the cloud.

For customers currently using public cloud computing, a private cloud may be more appropriate. This tip offers some instances in which a private cloud would make sense for your customers.

Determining the right cloud solution can be tricky for those who are new to cloud computing. Public cloud solutions are easy to use, and the virtual machines in a public cloud can be accessible to anyone in an organization, anywhere. Public clouds are appealing because customers can use them without help from others, but they do have drawbacks. No one knows where their data is and who can access it because the cloud provider determines where the data is hosted.

If the cloud provider finds the cheapest storage solution in China, the data will be stored there. The problem is that when data is stored in a foreign country, it is subject to that country’s local legislation. Another compelling reason for your customers not to go for public cloud computing is that it makes a company dependent on the availability of the cloud. If the cloud provider goes down or if the Internet connection fails, data in the cloud can no longer be accessed.

Why some customers need private cloud computing
Depending on the specific customer environment, these issues of reliability and data location may provide a good reason to move customers to a private cloud in which they can take advantage of the elasticity and flexibility the technology provides. But, mounting a private cloud may not be necessary in all cases in which a customer has expressed interest in cloud computing, and it’s your job to guide customers through that decision process.

Where private cloud computing does make sense is in a customer’s environment that requires automatic and on-demand VM deployment for specific needs, such as data analysis, payroll, development testing, etc.

Really, a private cloud should mainly consist of a flexible data center where VMs can be created easily, not only by system administrators, but also by end users. While putting all of a customer’s data in the public cloud has some challenges, mounting a private cloud may not be necessary in all cases either. If your customer's company just needs to deploy a new server occasionally, they may be better off hosting it on an Amazon cloud, which doesn't require them to set up their own expensive infrastructure.

Deploying private cloud computing is an interesting option for large companies that often need the flexibility to offer new servers to their end user. By using a private cloud solution, you ensure that your customer doesn't depend on external resources and they can continue doing business even if the entire Internet goes down. Using a private cloud offers other benefits as well, such as the ability to make internal calculation for cloud resource usage.

To help your customers set up a private cloud along these lines, the cloud management interface plays an important role. After adding such an interface to an existing virtualization environment, you can start building your customer’s private cloud solution.

There are several private cloud computing management solutions on the market. Every serious virtualization solutions provider has a cloud extension to his or her environment. This is often a combination of software and consultant services that helps an organization build its own solution. These cloud extensions, however, are vendor specific and the VMware Cloud is designed for VMware environments, which means it may be more difficult to handle virtualization hosts that run something other than the virtualization provider’s operating system.

Another good alternative is a cloud provider’s solution that is agnostic to the lower layers of your platform as a service (PaaS) cloud. Puppet is an often-used solution in this category, as is Eucalyptus. By deploying one of these offerings, you can help customers enhance their IT infrastructure and build a useful private cloud.

Solution providers need to be able to illustrate the benefits and detractions of both private and public clouds to their customers, based on their individual needs. Customers who rarely need new servers may opt for public clouds while those who need automatic VM deployment would be a better fit for a private cloud computing environment.

About the expert
Sander van Vugt is an independent trainer and consultant living in the Netherlands. Van Vugt is an expert in Linux high availability, virtualization and performance and has completed several projects that implement all three. He is also the writer of various Linux-related books, such as Beginning the Linux Command Line, Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration and Pro Ubuntu Server Administration.

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