As adoption of the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud rapidly increases, one of the top questions we get is the difference between a “Private Cloud” and an “Enterprise Cloud”. Private Clouds have been around for close to 10 years in one form or another. Some enterprises — including Nutanix customers — have built modestly successful private clouds based on VMware, Microsoft or OpenStack-based software while many others have tried and failed. In this blog, we have attempted to articulate the difference between the two “clouds” and provide recommendations for how to evaluate the alternatives.
What is a Private Cloud?
Irrespective of vendors, the fundamental attributes of private clouds are the same:
- Resource Pooling: Consolidate storage, server, virtualization and networking infrastructure and expose them as a pooled set of resources that are then made available to end-users and applications. Automate all the manual steps associated with connecting storage to virtual machines or configuring virtual networking policies.
- Automation: Automate/orchestrate common operations within the datacenter including provisioning and scaling infrastructure, issue remediation, and more.
- Integration: Integrate with ticketing and catalog management software products such as HP Service Manager and ServiceNow and combine with show-back/bill-back functionality.
- Self-Service: Provide self-service access for end users to deploy and manage VMs and services based on administrator set policies.
Private clouds, however, have several challenges owing to their hardware-defined architectural legacy:
Challenge 1: Ignoring underlying infrastructure
Private cloud stacks solve front-end administration requirements (tenancy, self-service, orchestration, etc.) without resolving underlying infrastructure inefficiencies resulting from disparate storage, servers, virtualization, and networking components. While stacks like OpenStack defined the different pieces of the puzzle, vendors rushed to propose underlying hardware-centric infrastructure with their own integration issues. Storage was still the same old SAN and NAS arrays, networking operations were still manual, forklift upgrades still had to be done.
Challenge 2: Curing the symptom, not the problem
The onus of building the cloud—when left to the customer and specialist teams—often becomes a multi-year effort. Automation is included as a means to get infrastructure components talking with each other. But procurement of newer infrastructure requires even more time spent keeping the automation current. The focus, unfortunately, becomes getting infrastructure to work as opposed to running business applications and services.
Challenge 3: Vendor Exclusivity for Virtualization
Legacy private clouds target virtualized workloads and are consequently locked into the virtualization provider. VMware private clouds mean vSphere and vRealize; Microsoft leads to Hyper-V, System Center and Windows Azure Pack. Depending on the hypervisor, customers are “stuck” with a single vendor.
Challenge 4: Too much of a good thing
Vendor packaging of disparate products combined with the inevitable deployment and management complexity often results in “Shelfware”. Private cloud stacks packaging/licensing complexity, ELAs, and “we may want to do it someday” resulted in bloated IT expenses.
Challenge 5: Additional layers
Public cloud connectivity is a bolt-on – another layer of software, a cloud gateway that is not natively integrated.
As a result, larger enterprises with diverse IT teams and automation specialists are more likely to build private clouds, but the broader IT base generally struggles. The intent is right, but the tools are complex and ineffective.
How is an Enterprise Cloud Different?
The enterprise cloud brings the goodness of public clouds to enterprise datacenters. But instead of the “top-down” approach of private cloud solutions, enterprise cloud introduces a “bottom-up” approach. Unless the underlying infrastructure is simplified, no amount of automation and orchestration on top will help.
So what are the traits of the enterprise cloud?
- Turnkey hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a prerequisite for Enterprise Cloud. Compute, storage, networking, and virtualization resources are pooled through highly available and distributed software without any dependency upon proprietary hardware.
- Enterprise Clouds are application-centric. Resources are mustered in unison to quickly and efficiently provision applications. Storage, networking, and security policies are applied at application granularity and subsequently adapt as applications evolve. Enterprise clouds are about making infrastructure “invisible” and putting the focus on applications.
- Management is both built-in and consumer-grade. Unlike private cloud solutions that require standalone infrastructure just to run the management software, enterprise clouds natively integrate end-to-end datacenter management. Additionally, like consumer devices that don’t need a user-manual, managing an enterprise cloud is extremely simple. Administrators manage enterprise clouds with one-click simplicity.
- Automation is natively built in. Information, as opposed to raw data, gets passed along from one layer to another, and the system automatically reacts without user intervention. The best piece of automation is the one you don’t have to build!
- Hybrid is built-in. No plugins required to go to public cloud services such as AWS, Azure or both (with more options coming). And data transfer between on-prem datacenters and clouds are efficient by default, saving network bandwidth as well cloud storage costs.
- Freedom to choose. You get your choice of hypervisor, hardware vendor, public cloud, and flexibility in payment models. You will never be locked in.
- Open and extensible. While 80% of functionality is built-in, extension and automation is always important. enterprise clouds integrate with other systems easily through open and extensible REST APIs.
- Machine intelligence. The enterprise cloud learns and adapts based on your applications, and your specific use case. Seamless software upgrades add newer capabilities, and improve system performance. Day 365 is always better than day one on an enterprise cloud.
The “why” and “what” of private clouds and enterprise clouds are very similar. The “Why” – bring public cloud-like agility to enterprise datacenters. The “What” – seamlessly deliver infrastructure services for applications and services. It is the “How” where they differ.