Tech Thoughts: Is Private Cloud a Technology Refresh or Transformation?

by Metsi | January 11, 2023

January 11, 2023

In today’s edition of Tech Thoughts, EMEA Chief Technology Officer Gary Harrison shares essential insights and considerations for building a private cloud that drives true value and business outcomes.

The answer to the title question is of course a transformation.  Unfortunately, however, the term “private cloud” has too often been used to create organisational hype around new infrastructure investments, inadvertently misleading the business about the true value of outcomes.  In reality, what has been called “building a private cloud” has actually been a disguised technology refresh program. With my roots in networking and comms, I am sad to say that the networking layer has been the biggest culprit of this in the data center.

So what’s the difference?

"Cloud" should be seen as an operating model and a service relationship between the applications of a business and the infrastructure that supports them.  A private cloud should embody the values and benefits that have driven the growth of the cloud hyperscalers and major public cloud providers - a catalogue of easily consumable (by people and other systems) orchestrated infrastructure services, in a tight ecosystem of supporting capabilities, to manage the entire service lifecycle (create, provision, monitor, manage, optimise, enhance and secure).  A technology refresh, in itself, does little to move a legacy private data center towards this vision.

Why should we transform our legacy data center infrastructure into a private cloud?  We cannot fully recognise the automation potential, and thus full business value, of new programmable infrastructures (software-defined-X) with legacy design and implementation models.  We need to leave behind (transform) these organisational processes and service models and move towards a catalogue of consumable infrastructure services and an associated product development model.  If an organisation is to embrace the benefits of a hybrid or multi-cloud architecture, then a true private cloud will support a common operating model across the entire cloud landscape.

The relationship between applications and infrastructure resources

However, we can't make this transformation journey in the private data center if we don't also change the relationship between the applications and the way they consume the underlying infrastructure resources.  A 'lift and shift' of existing applications (with their design and supporting processes) to new infrastructure and networks brings with it operational debt.  We have all seen the pitfalls of a straight 'lift and shift' to public cloud - the touted cost and operating efficiencies just can't be realised without application transformation as well.

In order to build a true private cloud, we not only need to transform the infrastructure but transform our data center applications.  The process for public cloud is well documented (for example, Gartner's "6 R's", and all the hyperscalers have a similarly documented process) and we need to apply this approach in turn for private cloud.

One additional consideration for private cloud is service encapsulation for those applications that are to "remain" in a legacy design - we need to leverage and extend the application features by encapsulating its data and functions, making them available as services via an API.  This allows us to overlay these legacy applications with a common cloud operating model.

If you are looking to build a true private cloud, or embrace a hybrid cloud architecture, then integrate this with an application transformation program - don't just 'refresh' your current data center infrastructure technologies.

Tech Thoughts is a bi-monthly (if all the stars are aligned, no promises) blog series in which seasoned CTO Gary Harrison pulls from over 25 years of tech industry experience to share his thoughts, insights and speculations on various topics in information technology.

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