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VMware shops eye rocky road to private cloud

VMware users say their organizations are beginning to push past server virtualization toward private clouds, but the jury’s still out on exactly which tools and processes will take them there.

IT pros have begun to favor the idea of private cloud computing but they aren’t sure how to get there, especially in mixed virtualization environments.

Private cloud differs from high-level server virtualization in that it combines automation and policy-based provisioning, workload mobility and portability, and some sort of service catalog, for IT as well as end user self-service, according to attendees and presenters at the VMware User Group meeting in Connecticut on May 2.

The benefits of private cloud computing make it a popular concept among management in some organizations, according to attendees. For example, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) would like to get to a more flexible, self-service oriented way of provisioning printers to free up help desk time, according to its IT analyst, Joe Garofalo.

Currently, the DOT relies on a lot of in-house scripting to maintain IT, largely due to budgetary constraints. The organization hasn’t decided if such a self-service provisioning tool would be designed that way or would come from a third-party vendor, Garofalo said.

Open source products are available for building private clouds, such as Rackspace Inc.’s OpenStack, but not all companies can use open source products.

“We have to be careful about what we use as a government entity,” Garofalo said – a tool might have to come from an approved General Services Administration contracted source.

Heterogeneity constrains private clouds
X.L. Global Services Inc., an insurance firm based in Stamford, Conn., is interested in building a private cloud with “a Rackspace look and feel,” which might make the company a perfect fit for OpenStack, according to systems engineer Michael Moran.

The problem is, the company is eyeing Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012, but OpenStack may nix Hyper-V support.

“Getting everything to really work [as a private cloud] is pretty far from where we’re at,” Moran said. “Management hears the cloud word a lot and wants it, but no one really knows how to get there.”

Large companies tend to have more heterogeneous environments, don’t want to be painted into a corner, and don’t see open source software as mature enough yet, according to IT consultants that work within large enterprise clients in the Hartford, Conn. area.

This makes moving some workloads out to the public cloud – rather than building an internal private cloud – more appealing in some of these shops, according to John Bythow, senior infrastructure consultant for The Open Sky Group, LLC. “You really have to standardize on a hypervisor and hardware to get into true private cloud,” he said.

Of course, VMware would like to see shops standardize, beginning with its vSphere hypervisor and continuing with its vCloud Director product, which provides Infrastructure as a Service cloud deployment and management through vSphere. But Bythow said he’s mostly “heard crickets” among his clients when vCloud Director comes up.

“It’s still the wild, wild West as far as cloud is concerned,” he said.

VMware partners working with large clients in New England say they see firms using internal private clouds, but not without some difficulty virtualizing business-critical applications.

Some, including pharmaceutical companies, skip that step altogether, according to Henry Trujillo, account manager at AccuNet Solutions, an IT consultancy based in Boston. Instead, they’re using services from companies such as Inc., EMC Corp. and Oracle Corp. to set up cloud-ready versions of those apps.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at

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