A few weeks ago, we announced CenturyLink Private Cloud – a new approach to the private cloud segment that offers breakthrough simplicity for large enterprises.  CenturyLink Private Cloud is designed for those looking to deploy a transformational private cloud, instead of eking out incremental gains.

Entering a new market segment is a significant undertaking for any product organization.  Every solution requires a series of trade-offs —just ask any product manager - and development of the CenturyLink Private Cloud is no exception.  So what were the trade-offs that we made, and how do they compare to other private cloud alternatives?  For a little insight into how we evaluated the private cloud market landscape and our decision making process, read on.

Homegrown solutions

Successful private cloud deployments – though more common these days – remain elusive. The brave souls that pursue a “do-it-yourself” approach often discover that:

  • Building a cloud is hard (especially the self-service and automation)
  • Running a cloud to 99.99% SLAs is hard
  • Just because you call it cloud doesn’t mean it is one
  • Users do not automatically gravitate to what you build
  • Lots of time and money are wasted when these lessons are learned the hard way. Forrester Research posted this great analysis of DIY private clouds: “Why Your Enterprise Private Cloud is Failing.” It’s a must-read for those evaluating continued investment in the DIY path.

Why Enterprises Choose the DIY Route

  • Control over hardware and the bill-of-materials
  • Control over management software package
  • On-premise deployment if desired
  • High likelihood of achieving incremental efficiency gains

Common Tradeoffs

  • Higher human cost
  • Lower SLAs than commercial alternatives
  • Some software packages lack “true” cloud capabilities
  • Ongoing human cost & CapEx
  • Less-frequent upgrades
  • Unlikely to satisfy developer needs
  • Unlikely to transform the enterprise

Most of the benefits here revolve around control of the implementation and the specific vendors chosen. Increasingly, these are less important to enterprises. Why? They do not directly affect business outcomes. The trade-offs are what you would expect when you choose to “build” instead of “buy.”

Private clouds from traditional IT vendors don’t necessarily make it easier

Solutions labeled “private cloud” can be confusing in a number of ways. Buyers often find themselves unclear on basic questions like:

  • Who owns the hardware?
  • Am I buying it?Where does the gear live?
  • On-premises with me or in a data center somewhere?
  • How many locations can I choose from?
  • What infrastructure elements are isolated, and to what degree?
  • What is the vendor managing?
  • What I am I on the hook for?
  • Is the product “true” cloud, or just a better virtualization platform?

To make matters worse, vendors are often unclear on these questions themselves! It’s enough to make your head spin. And that’s without wading into the “stack wars” of open-source vs. commercial options.

Why Enterprises Choose the Traditional IT Vendor Route

  • Lower human cost
  • Lower risk of user abandonment (since these systems are more likely to integrate with other solutions from the vendor)
  • Higher SLAs than DIY options
  • Lower ongoing human & capital costs
  • Diversity of configuration choices

Common Tradeoffs

  • Increased cost & complexity for integration with public clouds
  • Variable self-service, elastic and scalability attributes
  • Unlikely to satisfy developer needs
  • Deployments are unlikely to transform the enterprise

Private Clouds from Public Cloud Vendors (CenturyLink’s play)

Earlier, I mentioned that our service for private cloud offers “breakthrough simplicity.” What’s so simple about it? This product is our public cloud stack on dedicated hardware, with physical isolation. No customization, no professional services required, pure OpEx. CenturyLink Private Cloud delivers public cloud-style agility, scale, and automation without the human cost for initial configuration or customization. It’s also available in over 50 of our data centers worldwide. Public cloud vendors are very disciplined in their approach to building products. This results in denying many one-off requests from customers – but also results in regular access to new features and lower prices. When it comes to private cloud, we were guided here by our public cloud heritage. These benefits and trade-offs should come as no surprise.

Why Enterprises Choose Public Cloud Vendor Route

  • Full-featured cloud services
  • Built-in management, automation, orchestration
  • Over 50 locations for deployment
  • 99.99% SLAs
  • All OpEx, no CapEx
  • New features launched regularly
  • No human cost of infrastructure management
  • Integration with managed services
  • Federated with public cloud nodes

Common Tradeoffs

  • No control over hardware
  • No on-premise option
  • Multi-year commitment

Each approach comes with its own set of benefits and trade-offs. But for transformational private cloud projects, public-cloud thinking can yield the best results.