Are private clouds just too complicated?

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Having previously looked at whether private clouds are cost prohibitive or not (hint: they generally aren’t, above a certain size), let’s have a look at whether setting up a private cloud is a complicated matter, and too much like hard work.

Firstly, a definition of private cloud. In this instance, I’m referring specifically to an infrastructure within an organisation’s data centre that is accessed only by that organisation. This infrastructure will use software to abstract server hardware to enable provisioning of virtual compute, storage and other resources as opposed to using “regular” virtualisation for VMs or even non-virtualised hardware.

Why private cloud?

Next, let’s look at why you might want a private cloud at all. Many businesses survive quite happily with legacy, non-virtualised servers for years and perhaps a smattering of public cloud. Equally, many deploy commercial virtualisation software and use that without any problems. However, private clouds give organisations the ability to become more agile in their own data centres, and also to make much better use of their existing resources. Many can utilise existing infrastructure hardware or commodity hardware, and if you happen to choose an open source private cloud software solution, then that can result in considerable cost savings on license fees and support contracts. Private clouds can also help an organisation to become more agile – being able to react to changing market conditions and customer or business requirements without having to create lots of public cloud resources that can soon become very expensive, means that companies can remain competitive without breaking the bank.

The IT skills gap

Much has been said and written about the IT skills gap over the years. It’s fair to say that there are never enough people with the right skill sets in any business, so moving to private cloud can be rather a scary proposition. Your existing IT teams all focus on keeping your existing infrastructure up and running, or “keeping the lights on” as it’s commonly referred to. They have an excellent set of skills for the job they do, but they just don’t have the time to learn a new technology and implement it all while trying to keep the lights on.

The software

Software is pretty complicated stuff, that’s why software engineers and skilled support staff are in such high demand and get to take home a decent wage. Commercial virtualisation and private cloud software is complex, and the certifications available don’t come cheaply, nor do the staff with those certifications.

Open source private cloud isn’t that different in terms of complexity – the leading open source private cloud software, OpenStack, consists of 39 different projects. These range from web frontend, to workload provisioning, application lifecycle, optimisation, container, compute, networking, storage and more. The software is available to download free of charge, but how do you know which projects you’ll need, and how to best combine them all?

The case for distributions

Few people are willing to download the Linux kernel and start to set up their own Linux operating system, which is why distributions, or distros as they are more commonly called, were created.

SUSE produced the very first enterprise-ready Linux distribution in 2000, and in 2011 we did the same for OpenStack. Commonly known for its complexity, SUSE recognised that for OpenStack to achieve its goal of becoming a ubiquitous open source cloud computing platform, a distro would need to be created. We pulled together the most commonly used projects from OpenStack, and combined them into a single package that was much easier to install, manage and maintain. We’re now on our eighth release of SUSE OpenStack Cloud, and customers love how much easier we’ve made it to create OpenStack private clouds.

You’ve got a friend

As in all things, sometimes you need a friend to help you out. If you don’t have the staff in house, then you could obviously work with a consultancy firm or systems integrator to scope out, build and install your private cloud. However, here at SUSE, we do things a little differently. In 2018, we released SUSE Select Services, which combines consultancy, knowledge transfer and ongoing support to help businesses to jumpstart their implementation and integration of SUSE OpenStack Cloud. These are a set of fixed-price services offerings that help companies to get the right private cloud for their business built, and helps them to keep it running smoothly, while assisting their in-house IT teams with building up valuable skills through knowledge transfer.

Private cloud – you know it makes sense

In summary, if you are looking for a way to remain competitive, be agile, make the most of your existing IT investments but don’t have the right skills in house, private cloud really isn’t too complicated to bother with at all. Finding a trusted partner, like SUSE, means that you can get the right private cloud to meet your business requirements, while ensuring that your staff are able to learn valuable new skills and transition from keeping the lights on to adding value to your organisation.

Have you tried to implement private cloud and struggled in-house? Have you experimented with a DIY OpenStack implementation, but found it wasn’t for you? Get in contact with SUSE, and let us help you climb that previously insurmountable mountain that private cloud can appear to be.

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Matthew Johns
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Matthew Johns

I have over 20 years’ experience in the IT, cloud and hosting industry gained in a variety of roles spanning project management to product release and product marketing. I’m responsible for product marketing for SUSE OpenStack Cloud, and have been working with OpenStack since it was released in 2010. Outside of work, I enjoy running, cycling, great beer (craft, cask, keg – call it what you like as long as it tastes good), spending time with my family, playing the piano and charity fundraising – I’ve been supporting the Movember Foundation since 2006, and have run multiple races, climbed mountains and cycled around the UK for many charities over the years.