If you could build the perfect network -- and the perfect IT organization -- what would it look like, and how would it work? That may sound like an impossible task, but it's not. It's the true potential of the private cloud, and I'm amazed that more IT leaders aren't taking advantage of it.
The perfect network would cost a fraction of what it costs companies to run their networks today. It wouldn't just offer "five nines" of reliability -- it would offer 100 percent reliability. It would be simple to manage, and it would scale quickly to any size.
What if you could do this now? The answer is you can. It's the not the IT of the future, it is today's IT -- if you want it.
When I started out to build a "network of the future," it wasn't my intention to build a private cloud. But that was the result, because building a better network -- and a better IT infrastructure -- is about more than just hardware.
The basic idea behind cloud IT is a serverless office: All of a company's servers and systems are virtualized in a data center accessed by a fast, inexpensive -- yes, they do exist -- Virtual Private Network (VPN). Cloud IT does not use single servers to support individual applications, it uses a group or groups of servers to support all (or at least most) applications.
But a true private cloud doesn't just virtualize servers -- it virtualizes everything. Imagine the cost and reliability benefits of server virtualization extended to every network component: routers, firewalls, load balancers, backup systems, and others. Virtualizing everything isn't just possible, it's essential to taking full advantage of a private cloud infrastructure.
A cloud IT organization also requires an IT staff that is ready and willing to get behind this approach. Most companies I've worked for had separate server, network, and storage teams that worked independently from one another, which is wasteful and inefficient. Instead, you need server, network, and storage staff assigned to cloud teams; without a team-based approach, a cloud IT strategy won't deliver its full potential, and it may fail completely.
How does this work in practice? At Fetch Technologies, we have used Cloud IT to save more than $500,000 in purchase costs and $35,000 in monthly recurring costs. During the first phase of the project alone we reduced our monthly data center costs by 50 percent. We're not a huge company, so these are significant savings.
We also now run applications with 12 months or more of zero downtime. One of our primary data center design goals has been a 100 percent redundant, automatic, self-healing infrastructure that also allows for zero downtime maintenance during normal business hours. We're not yet at 100 percent uptime for all of our systems, but we're clearly moving in that direction.
Fetch Technologies' QA and Research teams have been managing their own virtual servers and cloud resources for over six months, and they're enjoying the benefits of not having to ask IT to make simple changes like adding memory or even creating new servers. As a result, when we add QA and research staff, we are in effect also adding IT staff. We call this distributed IT, as our IT capabilities are spread throughout the company and potentially even to clients.
As most IT leaders know, it's impossible to predict an organization's future IT requirements, let alone judge the needs of current or future clients. A cloud IT approach offers a simple answer to this problem: Stop trying.
Instead, we can design our cloud to be both rapidly and massively scalable -- two goals that had always been mutually incompatible in the past. Over the past two years, the Fetch Technologies cloud has grown from five virtual servers to more than 250; sometimes we add up to 15 new virtual servers a day, and we could toss in many more than that if needed.
We can also build entire new data centers quickly because we use canned, preconfigured sets of components to keep our data centers small and efficient. As a result, we're building what we call redundant arrays of inexpensive data centers -- the RAID of the future.
Private cloud computing is not hype or a marketing myth, it is the future of IT and the benefits have been apparent for years. Those benefits make one thing clear: If you are not running or at least building a private cloud today, your IT organization is living in the past.