Enterprises are embracing private, not public, clouds

Eighty-three per cent of organizations gearing up for cloud computing are planning to start with private clouds, according to a recent survey from Platform Computing Corp. Forty-five per cent are already committed to the idea and in the process of deploying private cloud initiatives.

The survey, conducted by Platform Computing at the 2009 Supercomputing Conference (SC09) in Portland, Ore., is based on responses from 95 IT executives from the research, manufacturing, government and education industries.

While enterprises are experimenting with private cloud computing, the majority are not yet ready for hybrid solutions that tap into public clouds. According to the survey, 82 per cent of organizations “do not foresee any cloud-bursting initiatives” in the next year.

“A large segment of the market are looking at private first,” said Nick Werstiuk, strategic planning director at Toronto-based Platform Computing. Werstiuk defines a private cloud as one kept within an organization’s firewall, and cloud-bursting as reaching out for a temporal period to an external provider for extra capacity.

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The survey also looked at the pros and cons of cloud computing as a whole. The top concerns about cloud computing, according to the IT executives surveyed, include security (49 per cent), complexity of management (31 per cent) and upfront costs (15 per cent).

Security is “primarily a public issue” and the complexity of managing the cloud “potentially a private issue,” according to Werstiuk. Security issues do come into play in private cloud environments, but not to the same extent as moving data outside an enterprise firewall to a third party that may or may not exist a year from now, he said.

Platform Computing is targeting Platform ISF (its latest product set) towards solving the problems enterprises face with the complexity of managing their private cloud environment, he said. “The idea is to have a core cloud management product that gives customers the flexibility to build the cloud that meets their needs in a private environment,” he said.

Survey respondents cited experimenting with cloud computing (40 per cent) and improving efficiency (33 per cent) as the top reasons for investing in a cloud solution. The top benefits IT executives hope to receive back include a larger resource pool (28 per cent) and a more flexible, agile infrastructure (26 per cent).

The majority of enterprises in Canada are also “first and foremost” interested in implementing private clouds over public clouds, according to Sebastien Ruest, vice-president of services and technology research at IDC Canada.

“Canada is extremely conservative when it comes to the public cloud” and “probably one of the most conservative countries in the world when it comes to the distinction between private and public,” said Ruest.

But this hesitation isn’t limited to the cloud computing space, he pointed out. “Canadian companies are not early adopters of any technology. When it comes to cloud computing, it’s even more nebulous to them,” he said.

Canadian enterprises are “willing to part with certain workloads in a public format, but not many,” said Ruest. They are very concerned when it comes to sensitive data and unsure about the true economics of public cloud computing, he pointed out.

According to recent research from IDC Canada, roughly 70 per cent of Canadian organizations are looking to adopt private clouds before public clouds, noted Ruest.

Within the cloud computing space, the highest level of adoption is software-as-a-service (SaaS), he said. Roughly 30 per cent of Canadian organizations are using SaaS, 10 per cent plan to invest more and 15 per cent are not using SaaS but plan to invest in this area within the next 12 months, he said.  

The adoption of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) follows second. About 10 per cent of Canadian organizations are current users and five per cent are planning to invest even more, he said. Of the 90 per cent that are not using IaaS, eight per cent plan to invest within the next 12 months, he said.

The lowest level of cloud adoption in Canada is platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Approximately six per cent of organizations are using PaaS and four per cent plan to invest more, said Ruest. Of the remaining 95 per cent of non-users, ten per cent are planning to invest, he said.  

There is a lot of interest right now in external clouds and the possibility of using cloud resources to host applications and storage and reduce the cost of internal infrastructure, said John Sloan, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group Ltd. But these are still “very early days,” he said.

Sloan’s short-term advice for enterprises is to focus on getting their internal infrastructure working as if it is an internal cloud. “Get it working as sort of a service-oriented architecture, because you are lot further along with that with virtualization,” he said.

While the external cloud is viewed as “not quite ready” for serious enterprise applications, it is something “certainly worth exploring,” said Sloan. He suggested enterprises test the external cloud with pilot projects. 

Over time, “the external cloud will get more secure and then we can treat everything as a resource pool,” said Sloan. As external clouds grow more mature in terms of security and reliability, some of the concerns that larger enterprises have about the cloud will be addressed, he said. 

“The internal cloud is more mature right now than the external cloud services in a sense,” said Sloan. Internal cloud computing has been a development “going on for a while now, enabled by server virtualization,” he said.

“The internal cloud is a term being applied to a virtualized internal infrastructure and we know that most enterprises are well into server consolidation. They are using server virtualization and they are working towards managing their internal infrastructure more like a cloud,” said Sloan.

“But how many would actually say we have an internal cloud or are willing to use that label right now? I don’t know,” he said.