When it comes to building cloud-computing infrastructures these days, the majority of companies, along with their CIOs and IT departments, are opting for private clouds as way to run legacy critical applications and secure data behind the corporate firewall.
Still, when companies are ready to talk about cloud -- a recent study finds that nine out of 10 companies are talking about it a lot -- there’s the need for the right type of infrastructure to make sure the IT department, as well as the business, is getting the most out of the new technology. That’s where virtualization and networking gear come into play.
Kent Christensen, the practice manager for virtual datacenter and cloud at Datalink, a consulting firm that focuses on datacenters and datacenter designs for large and midsized enterprises, told Enterprise Conversation that many customers see a benefit in private cloud versus the public clouds provided by third-party specialists.
"What we find with customers is that you have a lot of third-party providers running apps for someone else and that is growing, but what is growing even faster is a private cloud," said Christensen. “What we see is a lot of customers who already have a datacenter, and they have key apps running internally today, and sometimes you can outsource in some cases, but with mission-critical, the thinking is 'it’s better to run this myself'. "
This is fairly consistent with other reports about how people treat the cloud. The more flexible applications -- think about email, HR, payroll -- are entrusted to a third-party provider, while the mission-critical ones remain on-premises and under the lock-and-key of the trusted IT department. This means that the infrastructure needs a revamp.
It’s not just Datalink that sees this growth. In fact, IDC reports that construction of so-called "mega-datacenters" are increasing, especially for companies that not only want to embrace the cloud, but also deliver cloud services to customers. By 2016, about 1,000 of these datacenters will account for about 23 percent of all US datacenter space. These are the Facebook and Apple datacenters of the world, but other companies may also embrace this model.
However, the first step toward any of this is virtualization.
Virtualization provides the critical underlying technology that makes the entire cloud infrastructure function. What started with basic, physical servers now involves all other parts of the datacenter, including storage and networking. The result is a more efficient datacenter that is prime for a private cloud. As Christensen explained in a follow-up email to Enterprise Conversation:
Virtualization across the datacenter facilitates more efficient use of resources facilitating both higher utilization and more efficient operations all while increasing uptime. Server virtualization is rampant, with nearly 60 percent of all application run virtually. Storage virtualization provides similar benefits and network consolidation and unification also plays an important role. Now we see that extended into unified architectures that leverage the combined benefits across server, storage and network.
When it comes to virtualization, Christensen cautioned that it's not so much the technology that is a challenge, but the change to the company's culture, since it alters the way IT services are delivered.
"The change in roles, culture, and existing, well-entrenched, processes is likely the largest barrier to widespread adoption," said Christensen.
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