A new whitepaper was released in January comparing private cloud solutions from Microsoft and VMware, taking a look at the functionality, benefits and economics of each solution. This series of blog posts breaks down the components of the whitepaper into consumable chunks and I’ve added my own commentary.

Starting with the basics, what is a private cloud?

From the whitepaper:

Private cloud is a computing model that uses resources which are dedicated to your organization. A private cloud shares many of the characteristics of public cloud computing including resource pooling, self-service, elasticity and pay-by-use delivered in a standardized manner with the additional control and customization available from dedicated resources.     

Fig. 1: Private Cloud Attributesimage

[UPDATED: I missed this paragraph from the whitepaper when I first published this post.] While virtualization is an important technological component of private cloud, the key differentiator is the continued abstraction of computing resources from infrastructure and the machines (virtual or otherwise) used to deliver those resources. Only by delivering this abstraction can customers achieve the benefits of private cloud – including improved agility and responsiveness, reduced TCO, and increased business alignment and focus. Most importantly, a private cloud promises to exceed the cost effectiveness of a virtualized infrastructure through higher workload density and greater resource utilization.

So what does that mean? Basically, you’re building a more dynamic IT infrastructure that needs less of the network admin’s day to day attention for mundane tasks. The infrastructure has many of the characteristics and benefits of a public cloud but stays in your control.

Say, for example, you are an organization that has a team of developers working on internal applications. These applications may run parts of your financial operations, human resources or inventory control among other things. The developers routinely request computers for testing their applications which requires IT staff to take in the requirements, get a quote (sometimes several), and make the purchase. Once the hardware arrives on site, it needs to be configured and then deployed out to the floor. It could take weeks to months from the time the request is submitted to the time the hardware is ready to be used.

By building out a private cloud infrastructure, you could have an environment where the development team goes to a web portal to put in their request, specifying the number of CPUs, memory and storage needed. A virtual machine is then provisioned and the test environment is available to the development team in a matter of hours (if not sooner) rather than weeks or months.

Behind the covers, virtual machines can be allocated as needed and shifted to make the best use of the hardware resources available. The environment is managed to be scaled up and down as necessary depending on the needs and requirements of the business. Inter-company payments can be made based on which business units are using what resources. The infrastructure is managed, secured and customized by the internal IT team.

So now that we have the basics, the next post will detail what Microsoft’s private cloud solution looks like. Read the entire series here >>

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[This article also appears in the IT Manager Connection blog]