Digital transformation centers around a hybrid public and private cloud strategy. To make that work, IT organizations must implement proper private cloud infrastructure. As I wrote earlier this week in Public Cloud Giants Turn Their Attention To Private Clouds, the cloud giants are using their rapidly growing revenue to fund private cloud development. How do private cloud offerings by Alibaba, Amazon, Baidu, Google, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Tencent compare?
- Google and IBM private clouds are based on containers. Containers are forward-looking and have the best multi-cloud support. But they require customers to refactor (redesign and rewrite) legacy applications.
- Huawei and Tencent leverage OpenStack. OpenStack provides a bridge to scale applications in virtual machines (VMs) to generic public cloud VMs. OpenStack is being upgraded to work well with containers, which will preserve investments in operating and running applications on OpenStack.
- Alibaba, Baidu and Microsoft each opted to carve out part of its proprietary public cloud as a private cloud deployment. These are elegant—but proprietary single-vendor—private cloud solutions.
- AWS and Oracle solutions are based on VMware VMs. To stay competitive, both will need to upgrade to proper self-service, containerized private cloud architecture.
What is Private Cloud?
The US National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) published its often-overlooked definition of private cloud in 2011 here. NIST’s definition is still relevant today and is the foundation for our definition. Private cloud infrastructure must provide these essential characteristics of cloud infrastructure:
- Provide a secure single-tenant solution. Private cloud must be private to the organization paying for it.
- Enable IT customer self-service. This is the central tenant of cloud service provisioning.
- Transparently scale application resources using pools of both private and public cloud resources. The same application image must run in both private and public infrastructure. If it can’t, then it may be private, but it isn’t cloud. Bonus points if applications can scale from private cloud to multiple public clouds (multi-cloud).
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- Data must be able to follow an application as it migrates between private and public clouds Conversely, applications must be able to follow data as it moves between public and private clouds. Software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined storage (SDS) are key differentiators from legacy on prem IT architectures.
Hybrid cloud is a service, not an architecture. Private clouds must be designed to scale applications and data into public clouds. Hybrid services connect the two. For these reasons, simply lifting and shifting virtual machines (VMs) is not a proper hybrid cloud strategy. A virtualized datacenter is not a private cloud.
Grading Private Clouds
- Alibaba Cloud Apsara Stack Enterprise, Baidu Cloud ABC-STACK and Microsoft Azure Stack wedged a part of their public cloud software into a private cloud footprint capable of deploying on prem within one server rack. These were huge software development efforts on the part of each of these public cloud vendors. Each of these private clouds has a large and expensive hardware footprint. Also, each is tightly bound to its proprietary public cloud infrastructure, meaning that multi-cloud isn’t an option. But they are real private clouds that should scale well into their parent public clouds.
- Google GKE On-Prem and IBM Cloud Private target new cloud-native microservices-based applications with open source container frameworks. Google’s invention of container architecture was also a huge software development effort. Aiming for the future is not a bad idea, however. Few legacy IT customers will refactor legacy applications without a screaming pain point. Refactoring applications will have its rewards. Containers should enable the best multi-cloud support in the future.
- Huawei FusionCloud Private Cloud Solution and Tencent Cloud TStack Solution leverage OpenStack’s VM-centric open source cloud framework. Launched in July 2010, OpenStack has been a one of the largest open source software development efforts ever. Like tropical storms, each release has an alphabetically ordered name. OpenStack first released “Austin” and is now on “Queens”. OpenStack will get a container facelift at some point, with cross-community development efforts already underway. Containerization should enable multi-cloud flexibility.
- AWS and Oracle Cloud at Customer address legacy virtualization environments though VMware compatibility. But even with Oracle’s enterprise acumen, virtualization isn’t really a self-service, automatically scalable private cloud solution. The fact that VMware is part of the Dell Technologies portfolio might present some challenges in the future, especially for Oracle.
This week at VMworld, VMware announced its Project Dimension, designed to simplify private VMware deployments for scaling to VMs to public VMware Cloud on AWS resources (and in the future, other public clouds). Related VMworld announcements included hyperconverged VMware appliances from Dell EMC and Lenovo, VMware Cloud Automation Services and VMware PKS (for customers who want to deploy containers in their VMware management environment). The VMware plus AWS private cloud story is now much closer to Oracle’s story, intensifying competition in the VM-based private cloud market.
While VMware is trying to embrace and extend VM-based private cloud architecture, its challenge will be to attract cloud-native developers who will have better container-based private cloud design and deployment options available.
Public / Private Partnership
The reality is that even the largest enterprises can’t afford to self-build a private cloud. Building a bespoke private cloud means operating and supporting bespoke infrastructure. No one else will offer training or certification for IT staff. The only practical private cloud options today are to work with an OpenStack distribution or dive into containers. Even then, running a private cloud is best left to those who know how to run clouds best. Public cloud vendor management of private clouds is an excellent choice.
The differences between vendors’ private cloud offerings will be increasingly important. In the long term, containerized private cloud solutions supporting cloud-native application design and deployment will be the winners.