I recognize that the media has moved the term “cloud computing” into an over-hyped state. But, as a CIO, I also know that there is real value in utilizing the cloud. The “Public” Cloud. What has me concerned is that the media is now calling everything “the cloud”, breaking it into public cloud services and private cloud services and I think I am missing the point with “Private Clouds”.
The categories of “cloud services” are, in simple terms:
1. Infrastructure as a service(IAAS) – this is the “storage as a service” or “compute as a service” type offerings.
2. Platform as a service(PAAS) – this is the Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure type offerings.
3. Software as a service(SAAS) – this is the Salesforce.com type offerings.
One of the most appealing aspects of the cloud is that the cloud concept is based on a “pay by the drink” model. You only pay for what you use. When you’re not using it, you don’t pay – like a utility.
But this is where the benefit of the private cloud seems to break down. It breaks down on two levels: First, as a CIO do I have or want to invest in having the capability to provide my enterprise with a pay-by-the drink model and the associated billing functionality and; Two, even if I had the capability, do I really want to have that as the model for my enterprise IT service?
The above presumes that when one talks about a private cloud they are not just talking about virtualization. Virtualization is a great opportunity to more effectively and efficiently manage the data center. Westcon’s data center is 100% virtualized. We are a big proponent and find great value in virtualization. And, the underlying principle that accelerates cloud offerings really is virtualization. But, by definition a private cloud is more than just a virtualized data center. The CIO delivering a private cloud has to provide the abovementioned cloud services while doing so with a pay-by-the-drink billing capability, competitively priced.
There has to be more. For example, even if tomorrow the CIO made IAAS/PAAS/SAAS offerings available to his or her business units with a pay-by-the-drink usage tracking and billing capability, are the internal business units prepared to take on the responsibilities associated with consuming such services. I know it’s been very fashionable to question the value of IT, but the truth of the matter is that every well-managed firm utilizes IT to compete more effectively. Can the CIO compete with the public cloud offering on price, and still provide the competitive value inherent within a business-process savvy internal IT organization. Few CIO’s can compete with Google or Microsoft on price. Therefore the CIO is then left with monetizing the infrastructure sitting in the enterprise’s data center. And, the CIO must either monetize the business process services inherent within IT or dismantle those services. This will not create value for the enterprise. And I doubt the CFO wants to hear about all the capital infrastructure write-offs the CIO would need to incur to become price competitive.
There is no doubt that the public cloud can create value for the CIO and the enterprise. But it requires proper planning, and its value in the short term is incremental. But the concept of the private cloud is different. It requires a substantial upheaval within the IT organization as well as within any business unit that relies on the IT organization. It is unclear to me where the cost/benefit is within that internal upheaval.
Then again, if the private cloud is really just virtualization, then let’s just call it virtualization, and reinforce the value of virtualization’s benefits.