Here at TechEd Europe, it’s been impossible to escape discussions surrounding the private cloud. Sessions are jam packed of IT admins deciding what their next move will be to prepare their organization for the move from their current data center to the private cloud. Based on the conversations I’ve heard at TechEd so far, I’d like to share some words of wisdom on the ubiquitous private cloud ….

“Without automation you don’t Have a private cloud, you have a data center.” – RTE

I was sitting in an office in El Segundo California last week and heard one of my colleagues utter those very words, and it dawned on me, truer words about private cloud have never been spoken before. Think about it. What is the most true, most pure motivation for a private cloud in the first place? Elasticity. When demand rises, the backend needs to be “elastic” enough to respond, grow and shrink to accommodate the increase in demand on the workload.

But, think of it this way. If you didn’t have a way to automate this responsiveness, you are no better off than I was in 1996 standing up an individual Netware 3.12 server to handle an increase in user demand. But I didn’t have a fancy runbook to launch or any form of workflow automation to use. No, I had a CD with the installer bits on it. And I would spend all day and part of the night on Saturday laying these installers down on a server so that, come Monday, the customer could “react” to the increase in user demand.

In response to corporate mandates to do more with less, businesses are changing how they deliver and manage IT services and applications with secure, on-demand private cloud solutions. Take a look at this IDC survey (sponsored by Microsoft) of 679 U.S. IT decision makers. About one-third already have some type of private cloud implementation in production, although most are just supporting specific user groups or applications for now. Another 37% are in the early stages of implementation or planning for a private cloud. Why? It saves them money on hardware and it makes them more agile.

But if we approach private cloud with only new hardware and bundled pieces of software, we are only answering to the “buzz” of a hot term. I like to view it through this lens. Think of the buzz that VDI created a few years ago. Everyone had to have VDI, and in many cases they already did with RDS, XenApp and XenDesktop etc. When they started wide scale implementation of VDI / HVD they ran full force into the model of “host everything.” But what very few considered was the backend cost of supporting all of these individual or even pooled hosted desktops. And because no one factored that in, they got bit in the proverbial back end when it came time to address the storage needs.

Well, it could very well be a repeat scenario if enterprises start standing up private clouds with all their superfast storage arrays and stacks of management software and all the way up to the OS and app layer running in the private cloud. But if no one considers the very nature of private cloud being an elastic set of services that can grow, and yes, even shrink, based on the user demand, then this movement too is doomed to stall. (Note: I never said fail.) People are not considering the reactionary time and effort to stand up or turn down these services based on that elasticity. The only way to appropriately do this is with an automation management type tool. Enter the RES Automation Manager solution.

If the enterprise makes this workflow automation piece a staple of their private cloud architectures, they will have succeeded before deployment in the ongoing viscosity of a private cloud. They could create a runbook that with the simplest of actions could be fired off and stand up the necessary services to meet demand. This can be invoked remotely, from the comfort of the home of an IT professional. It could even be tied into a monitoring utility such as the offering from eGinnovations, so that when a threshold is met, the runbook fires off automatically. Imagine coming in on Monday morning and discovering that while you were sleeping, your private cloud automatically added services to meet the demands of your offshore workers. (All the while you were in your silk PJs dreaming of classic Farah Fawcett posters.)

Let’s look at another scenario. Instead they decide to implement every aspect of a private cloud except automation. They decide to manually install and configure back and front end components reactively.

This is not elastic. This is a data center. This is very static. Very manual. Very costly and very time consuming. This is not private cloud.

Users expect and demand immediacy. I want what I need, and I want it now!
My point? I hope that when and if you consider a private cloud implementation, you will take into account the very nature of private cloud; dynamic, elastic and versatile.