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Virtualisation and the private cloud

At last, the C word

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Lab IT, like every industry, is from time to time compelled by those with PR budgets to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous marketing. Over the course of the last two years we have witnessed one of the most over-hyped marketing terms being pushed with such vigour that it is today almost impossible to speak with any vendor without them claiming their solutions are designed to help customers make an inevitable transition to using cloud services.

I doubt whether there is a single vendor in the IT space that has not attempted to align their offerings to cloud usage. While not everyone in the vendor community sees cloud usage covering the globe in the next few weeks, a few appear to have gained an almost evangelical belief that cloud is the only logical way forward, and that IT is at a tipping point: everything will move, inevitably and inexorably, into the cloud.

Of course this is bunkum – even if it were theoretically possible, it would not be desirable for a raft of reasons from data protection to pure and simple cost-effectiveness. Given the clear signal that much IT is not budging from inside the firewall, some vendors have started to use the 'C' word in the context of organisations building their own internal variety rather than making use of external resources.

Server virtualisation has a great deal of involvement in clouds of the public variety: if you rent a machine from a hosting provider of any flavour these days it will be a virtual machine, unless you want to pay much more for your own dedicated server. The leap of faith being made in some quarters is that virtualisation is also the stepping stone to the creation of internal, "private" clouds.

This begs the question, is the linkage between clouds and virtualisation simply an example of people wanting to find ways to utilise the fashion term of the day? Indeed, is the phrase "private cloud" simply marketing code for "dynamic IT", which has long been the goal of more aspiring IT organisations? After all, the idea of creating virtual pools of servers whose physical resources can be allocated in response to changing business needs, is one of the more sophisticated ways in which virtualised systems can be utilised.

We know from your feedback that virtualisation is being deployed to support live systems. Equally we know that the majority of workloads that have been virtualised so far have been selected for very clear operational reasons. On the flip side we also know that the benefits that are expected from the virtualisation of such systems do not often come rapidly or without considerable effort.

The fact that there are management challenges associated with the daily use of virtualised systems might lead us to believe that the fact that using virtual servers in pools to meet changing service requirements is possible, but the operational problems of so doing may mean that running highly dynamic virtual workload pools is by no means straightforward. It is therefore likely that today few organisations are actively employing the private cloud model, never mind actually using the terminology of cloud to describe what they do.

So as ever with The Register’s audience we would like to ask, are you using the terms "cloud" or "private cloud" in your organisation? Is it something you are striving towards or is this yet another example of marketing hype gone mad? Please do let us have your feedback in the comments area below. ®

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