IT shops rally around private clouds

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

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"Although there is a trend toward invisible infrastructure, people still want to touch it today," Burns says.

For good reason, too, Burns adds. He points to a common problem in most data centers: performance degradation of an application. Today's monitoring and management tools would not be able to diagnose a problem's source if the application was running in a hybrid cloud environment.

Beyond concerns about manageability, Boehme raises the specter of a move to cloud computing leading to vendor lock-in. For the most part, CIOs abhor vendor lock-in. Reliance on a single vendor can be costly and can keep a company from making necessary infrastructure changes. But Boehme worries that IT is risking "hypervisor lock-in" because of the lack of deep interoperability between the various virtual machine managers on the market.

For example, if one hypervisor leapfrogged others in terms of performance, security or features, a company that used a different hypervisor might not be able to switch and take advantage of the new functionality because the cost of switching might prove prohibitive. Also, in the event of a merger or acquisition, integrating the two companies' operations could prove difficult if each used a hypervisor that was incompatible with the other's hypervisor.

But the benefits of cloud computing far outweigh the limitations, many enterprise IT managers are finding. The biggest factor, of course, is money. Most CIOs must shrink their budgets. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that 30 years ago IT consumed 1% of a company's revenue, but by 2007 that figure had skyrocketed to 6% and was on track to reach 10% by 2010. Then the Great Recession hit and stopped that spending growth in its tracks.

Still, IT has to continue delivering services to the business -- but it has to do so while spending much less money. A private cloud lets IT get immediate dividends through self-service, automated provisioning and improved system utilization -- all of which will have a big impact on IT operations costs, which chew up as much as 70% of a CIO's budget, according to PwC.

A director of the center for technology and innovation at PwC, Vinod Baya observes, "IT has done great automating everyone but itself."

Now, he says, is the right time to start.

Mark Everett Hall is a writer living in Oregon. He can be reached at mark.everett.hall@me.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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