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Private clouds kinda suck, you know?

Enterprises want them, but they're still a pain in the ASCII

Merlin Data Center Interior

Sysadmin Blog Are enterprises really starting to act like service providers? If you ask vendors, social media and "thought influencers" hired to speak at conferences, the answer is yes. I'm not so sure.

On the one hand, we're asked to believe that enterprises are almost universally adopting private and hybrid cloud solutions in order to offer self-service IT to internal customers. This gets combined (or not) with chargeback, automation, shorter turnaround times on change requests and other "culture changes" required for IT departments to become more "agile".

How can all of this be if enterprises are also rife with "shadow IT"; the adoption of public cloud services undertaken by various departments specifically to avoid dealing with internal corporate IT? If both are occurring at the same time, why?

Are internal IT departments simply incompetent? Are they not delivering the workloads corporate customers are demanding, or not delivering it quickly enough? Has the well simply been so thoroughly poisoned that avoidance of IT is inculcated into corporate culture, or merely habitual amongst a stubborn few?

Or perhaps – just perhaps – not nearly so many enterprises are "acting like service providers" as we are led to believe.

I absolutely believe that most enterprises want to act like service providers. I hear it over and over from everyone ranging from the coalface practitioners to the CEOs. There is no question that creating a service mentality within enterprise IT is the goal. Where it seems to fall down is fostering the capability to actually do so.

Private clouds suck

Let's be perfectly honest here: private cloud software sucks. I don't care if you use Microsoft, VMware, Openstack of most of the smaller competitors, there's always some major barrier to adoption. Some piece missing that kills it in practice.

Microsoft's System Center was sent from hell to make everyone miserable. It's a pig to install, worse to maintain, miserable to actually use and I'm pretty sure that somewhere, some-when, it kicked a kitten.

VMware isn't much better. vCenter's web client is still dated, terrible, slow and broken. vROps is slowly getting there, but it still has a lot of growing up to do. vRA is still just as awful as its predecessor and oh, vCenter Chargeback Manager, vCenter Orchestrator and vCloud Director are still separate products! What? Don't even get me started on how miserable that pile of confusion is to actually set up and use.

Openstack is amazing, if someone sets it up for you and you never, ever have to upgrade. If you want to roll you own you can skip several steps and just check yourself into an asylum directly, because that's where you'll end up. The necessity for commercial distributions and professional consulting services to install, manage and maintain OpenStack often mean it is the most expensive private cloud solution available, if it is the closest to actually usable.

Cloudstack – usually Citrix – actually has a big install base with many loyal customers, but those customers aren't growing in number. They backed their horse, it does the job, they're happy, and as far as the rest of the IT world is concerned they simply ceased to exist. Not exactly viable in the long term. Everyone else I could name who has a decent private cloud solution is a startup. Either they've done something completely insane like moved the control plane into the public cloud so that you consume your private cloud as a SaaS application (I'll bet the NSA loves that idea!), or they've built a technological marvel but are too small to get noticed, or keep up on the features treadmill.

Then there are the piles of hyperconverged companies who would love you to buy into the idea that "virtualization = cloud", because they want to market at you that they have a private cloud. They don't. Not even close, and if you ask about things like self-service or API-driven workload management they'll lose their minds all over social media.

Some hyperconverged (or storage) companies want to sell you on how "private cloud" they are because you can use Microsoft System Center of VMware's Dump Truck 'o' Software to build a private cloud on top of their storage. I want to punch them square in the jaw every single time they say it. (Assuming corporations had jaws, of course.)

We're not very good at private clouds

So no, enterprises aren't starting to act like services providers. They're trying. They want to. They're willing to invest in technologies, consulting and services that allow them to do so, but the simple reality is most of what's out there runs the gamut from "awful" to "outright misleading".

Fortunately, it's not all gloom and doom. Microsoft's Azure Stack actually looks really good. If you trust Microsoft enough to give them the keys to your corporate kingdom, they're about to deliver the best option available in 2016.

HPE has Helion Private Cloud and by all accounts they've been doing well with it. If you've got the money, they can and will deliver.

Similarly, Cisco's investments into all things Openstack are starting to bear fruit while IBM has started to rack up installations worth writing home about.

Once Dell finishes digesting EMC – assuming that is still going to go through – I expect that the result will be the ability to deploy private cloudy things to midmarket companies and higher that mostly perform as expected.

So if you want IT to behave like a service provider you either take a risk with a startup or shell out the megabucks for the full software and services suite from one of the tech titans. On the DIY side, unless you're using Microsoft, rolling your own will probably end in tears.

The more things change, the more the stay the same. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why Amazon is still a thing. ®

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