IT shops rally around private clouds

Going forward, a hybrid public-private approach will likely win

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Such a "transformation," as Ramleth calls it, takes years. CIOs need to move carefully, he says, "because you don't want to move the sins of the past into new data centers."

Before 2005, Bechtel had an IT-centric attitude about delivering services to users, Ramleth says. It had no set standards and provisioned resources manually. Now the company embraces a collaborative model of computing, one built on strict standards and guidelines that permit policy-driven access to provisioned resources.

For example, Bechtel standardized on Hewlett-Packard Co. dual- and quadcore BladeSystem servers. And because the services are separated from servers and other infrastructure elements that could change as hardware evolves, existing or future applications and services could easily run on new servers, storage systems and networks.

Ramleth also shifted IT's security standards from topology-specific to policy-oriented ones. And he has standardized the way IT prices its services to users. Where pricing used to vary based on application and user location, he says, it's now a flat per-user fee worldwide.

Adopting a collaborative model is the philosophical shift CIOs need to make in order for their cloud initiatives to be successful, says Ramleth.

Ultimately, evolving to a hybrid public-private cloud scenario will even allow him to eliminate capacity planning from his IT responsibilities, he says. CIOs should build private clouds for normal workloads and then buy into the public cloud for peaks, he argues.

   cloud computing

ING's Boehme agrees. He predicts that a policy-based, hybrid cloud approach is IT's future. "It doesn't matter where the assets and applications are running," he contends.

The private cloud at SAS

On the face of it, a private cloud appears much like other in-house data centers, where applications run on machines that get plugged into outlets. As Cheryl Doninger, research and development director of enterprise computing infrastructure at the SAS Institute Inc. in Cary, N.C., says, "We license the software, and we own the hardware."

But that's where the similarity to old-line computing ends, she adds. At SAS, users access a self-service portal to reserve resources on the company's private cloud, much like customers of Amazon's EC2 do with that public cloud service. For automatic provisioning, SAS uses a tool called the Infrastructure Sharing Facility (ISF) from Platform Computing Corp. in Markham, Ontario.

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