article

Challenges and Opportunities in Private Cloud Services


Tim Burke**Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the Digital Issue, “
Profiting From Private Cloud Services,” which is available for download from Channel Partners Cloud Insights .**

By Tim Burke

By now you’ve probably noticed this year’s scrabble of “private cloud-in-a-box” offerings, and you may be tempted to resell one of them in response to your customers’ intensifying interest in cloud computing.

After all, customers like the idea of a private cloud, which provides many of the advantages of a public cloud, such as pay-as-you-go opex and on-demand provisioning and scaling, but with key improvements that address concerns about security, privacy, uptime and control of data.

Building a private cloud from scratch, however, can be daunting from technical and cost perspectives. Hence the rise of pre-built cloud-in-a-box products that seem to remove at least some of the risk and hassle of launching a private cloud. Just buy one, deploy it as a local cloud behind your customer’s firewall, and collect your fee and wave goodbye.

For the vendor of your private cloud-in-a-box, desperate to stave off the bottom-line implications of customers’ shift from using technology products to using technology services, this is where the story ends. But the tale continues for your customer and, too often, it isn’t a fairy tale.

That’s because more security, more privacy, more uptime and more control of data requires more hands-on planning and management. Ironically, this is the same hands-on planning and management that customers happily pass off to their public cloud services providers. After all, when it comes to the public cloud, the deal for the customer is “we make it all work.” This is simply not the case when a customer chooses to build a private cloud or deploy a private cloud-in-a-box. All the behind-the-scenes responsibilities of a public cloud service provider remain unresolved in these private clouds.

Leaving them unresolved will doom a private cloud deployment. Who, then, figures out what these responsibilities are and who will take them on as your customers’ private clouds are implemented? In the answer(s) to this question lie(s) both the challenge and, for channel partners, significant new opportunity.

Challenges

So let’s take a quick look at private cloud challenges. They fall into two groups implementation and management with a host of issues concerning each one that are best expressed as questions.

Challenge: Setting up a private cloud. This begins with a plan that includes conceiving, designing, constructing and monitoring what is, in effect, a software-defined data center. Here are the questions that should be considered:

  • Will this new environment be an island with an existing infrastructure or will it interact/integrate with legacy systems and data?
  • Should it be open source to avoid vendor lock-in?
  • Should it be externally hosted or can a sufficient number of servers, either on-premises or in a colocation facility, be virtualized and scaled to do the job now and in the future?
  • What network upgrades might be required for optimal performance and uptime?
  • How many vendors will be involved? Who will oversee them and ensure the different products will work together effectively? What processes are needed to troubleshoot and escalate issues between them? What should be included in vendor and provider service level agreements?
  • How should implementation be handled? Should staff access be tiered? Should there be a help desk?

Challenge: Managing a private cloud. As noted, private clouds require day-to-day management. Here are the questions that should be considered:

  • Who responds to security alerts?
  • How should apps be managed? Who handles updates and patch management?
  • Who makes sure, with both monitoring and testing, that data and apps are sufficiently backed up and recoverable in a timely fashion?
  • What metrics indicate the deployment is successful? What metrics reveal problems? Who’s in charge of monitoring what?

Opportunities

Each of these questions and many more represent an opportunity for channel partners to claim a place in a customer’s quickly expanding plans to implement cloud computing. These opportunities fall into four general categories:

Assessment and planning. Cloud computing hides significant complexity from end users, yet any organization deploying a private cloud must cope with that complexity. And management for both private and public cloud systems begins with a cloud assessment your opportunity to help your customers understand what’s possible given their current technology as well as their requirements for security, availability and compliance.

Design and implementation. As noted, private clouds must be planned and built with consideration for server location, systems integration, network capacity and more. Even if you’re short on all the technical skills needed for cloud design and implementation, the right cloud service provider can help you deliver a private cloud service that will satisfy your customer so that you will be who they call to fulfill future needs.

Management. Despite its unprecedented levels of automation, like any IT environment, a private cloud demands a great deal of hands-on management that often overwhelms an unprepared customer. Each time a customer offloads these management burdens whether it involves externally hosted private cloud services or associated managed services you have an opportunity to generate recurring cloud revenue.

Follow-on business. Cloud computing involves an entirely new data infrastructure design and its ripple effects will be felt for years to come in the form of follow-on business namely, more storage, better security services, additional cloud applications, etc.

Now more than ever, your customers seek technology solutions to business problems and they are realizing that they may not get what they need from a boxed product acquired via a one-off transaction. For those of us who understand this, a spectacular new world, rich with cloud opportunities, awaits.

Tim Burke brings more than 30 years of industry experience to his role as president and CEO of

Quest

, a global technology management firm. He is responsible for Quest’s overall strategic direction. His goals for success are simple: anticipate change within the technology industry and ensure outstanding customer satisfaction.


Twitter:


@questechusa



LinkedIn:


linkedin.com/in/timburkequest


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