What are the main reasons for a company to contemplate moving over to a virtual private data centre? Greater flexibility, cutting costs, offloading maintenance worries, better mobile working options for staff and simpler disaster recovery are all in the frame. But as a list of benefits it doesn’t tell us much, because the same is ostensibly true of plenty of other Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offers in today’s marketplace. So let’s take a considered look, to give a proper sense of why companies make the choice.
A virtual private data centre describes a service model where a private cloud provider runs a data centre and all its infrastructure over the cloud. This means it offers the flexibility of the cloud, but with added security and performance; it is generally hosted privately on high-performance hardware.
If that sounds like a deliberately high-end and robust proposition, it is. Some companies – those that hold large amounts of sensitive data or operate in a highly regulated space or else host demanding applications – simply won’t be able to use public cloud for some (or even any) of their infrastructure. It would be a compliance breach, in some cases, and likely not meet the required data security standards for a raft of reasons, as well as being strategically unwise.
The choice for companies in this situation generally then comes down to whether to maintain their own physical server racks and data centre or to opt for a virtual private data centre. For some, it’s an easy choice; for others, the advantages are less clear-cut. But the direction of travel is clear: the flexibility of private cloud is gaining ground.
Many virtual private data centres are delivered within huge cloud offerings, bundling together a long list of enterprise-level IT resources that’s delivered via private cloud. The complete offer usually takes in processing, storage, infrastructure, applications and data centre management software.
It’s a fit for a great many companies looking to avoid the large capital operational costs incurred for an in-house data centre, while maintaining privacy and control over the cloud data centre through service level agreements that cover uptime commitments, data segregation and more.
It should be said, though, that there is more than one approach taken to private cloud.
Depending on a company’s current set-up and needs, sometimes a transition to a virtual private data centre can be smooth and need relatively little support, and that could be part of the appeal. But other times there is serious work to be done, even with powerful enabling software and dashboards to ease things.
What kind of work? Scoping and bespoke design is often needed to get out of the starting blocks, followed up by migration support and ongoing management.
Every private cloud is built to run resource-intensive applications, but it’s still never the case that one size fits all. What companies that choose private cloud need to know, therefore, is the particular specialism of a provider – and the extent of any support they will get before, during and after a migration.
If we assume that the underlying use case for private cloud is understood, let’s shine a light briefly on the drivers for companies to make the switch.
Our CTO James Leavers notes: “What’s changed in the past few years is how enterprises operate. Not so long ago, many primarily used a stack of Windows virtual machines and ran some common applications. Now, the profile of activities by enterprises is much more varied, and for many there is more need for a flexible private cloud to deliver what’s needed.”
Container-driven DevOps projects are one example of something that’s becoming widespread in enterprises, often placing massive demands on computing infrastructure, which makes flexible server expansion appealing. Plus there are today many resource-intensive applications that increase server workloads just because they are doing so much.
“One example I can think of,” adds Leavers, “is an e-discovery platform like Relativity, which is a powerful and resource-hungry tool that drills into complex datasets and presents back insights and visualisations. It’s generally used by those working in professional or financial services.
“A client of ours was using Relativity but found it needed some extra cloud infrastructure to make it viable as it opened an office in Dubai. In the short term, we delivered it by putting in place a dedicated mobile VMware-based cluster, using what we call a converged cloud stack. There are other specifics that make the story interesting, but the need for support and for a virtual private data centre came from that simple-sounding requirement to run a particular application from an office in a new location.”
The pressure on companies that comes with global expansion is a common story that attaches to private cloud – and that’s been true for many years. Remember, this is a mature infrastructure model, even if it’s now getting extra interest for good reasons.
Five years ago, in fact, the CIO of the offshore drilling company Seadrill was already story-telling about the company’s decision to adopt a virtual private data centre as part of moving the company’s HQ from Norway to London.
In this particular instance, the company’s existing data centre was being switched off as part of the move and it faced a choice: build another one from the ground up or opt to oursource.
“We realised we did not have much time to build our own data centre, and we decided to outsource it,” said CIO Richard Du Plessis at the time.
If that makes it sound like the company was pushed, a cloud-based infrastructure also increased Seadrill’s IT and financial flexibility, as Du Plessis soon realised. “In an in-house data centre, we cannot downsize and have to pay for the full capacity. But in the case of a cloud infrastructure, we don’t have to pay for capacity that we will not use.”
A few years further on, many of the arguments for private cloud and for tapping the true potential of virtual private data centres are growing stronger still.
In the next 12 months, in particular, those essential reasons for taking the plunge that we started out with – cost savings, flexibility, mobile working and more – should transform into some stories that really showcase the technology’s true potential in this era of digital transformation.
Talk to us today, tell what you’re up to and we’ll happily provide you with advice.