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One man’s cloud – another man’s corporate network?

Some might argue that the concept of a ‘private’ cloud infrastructure involves a certain contradiction in terms. But the results achieved by defence company BAE Systems suggest it’s an option worth taking seriously

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Some might argue that the concept of a ‘private’ cloud infrastructure involves a certain contradiction in terms. But the results achieved by defence company BAE Systems suggest it’s an option worth taking seriously.

Cloud security issues

Speaking to delegates at the European Forrester IT Forum in Lisbon last week, BAE’s chief IT strategist Charles Newhouse told CIOs and IT supplier leaders about how his private cloud had cut 20% from his total cost of ownership of IT assets, as well as reducing the firm’s provisioning cycle by a remarkable 90%.

A private cloud infrastructure involves putting applications and resources into a cloud-type environment, but one that is hosted on the company’s own servers. At BAE, the company centralised all its applications and servers on virtualised VMware servers, which are then managed by a single service provider (in this case, CSC).

Staff wanting to access any of the services within the cloud must complete a workflow process that works like a wizard, determining the user’s exact IT requirements given their role in the company. They are then offered a list of available IT services, organised into segments such as network, mobile, or email, and a price list for each service.

While the move wasn’t universally welcomed by staff, BAE says the new environment means better demand management, and a system that allows employees to hand back assets when they are no longer needed.

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Why a private cloud? Newhouse says the company chose to go private because of the sensitive nature of its work – it is, after all, a major international defence and aerospace supplier. But it also says it went private because of residual security concerns around public cloud services.

Supporters of the private cloud say it’s a way of getting the cost benefit and rationalisation of cloud computing, without compromising security and compliance. That’s certainly true of BAE Systems – the company replaced 200 physical servers with virtual machines and replaced hundreds of service level contracts with a single contract with its cloud management provider.

However, it’s possible that the private cloud model will die out as users become more comfortable with relying on public cloud services. If we look at the HR industry, suppliers such as Workday and Success Factors are thriving, demonstrating that clients are increasingly happy to put sensitive data (the companies provide HR applications) into a cloud environment.

But HR – even though it is all about personal data about salaries and performance, let’s recall – is still seen in the corporate world as a soft option for the cloud, let’s be honest. It does still seem to be the case that cloud Wave One will be as in BAE’s case mainly a private phenomenon.

Vendors must also address the whiff of cognitive dissonance involved in selling private cloud as more secure than the alternative – it’s hard to buy into any cloud computing environment when a supplier claims that cloud is insecure, so you should buy a cloud.

Image courtesy of kevindooley on Flickr.

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