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Virtual Private Cloud: Where Is the Wind Blowing?
Some basics on building the private cloud.

View the video and slides of Jeff Nick’s keynote presentation

June 4, 2010—Between trying to cope with an information explosion amid rising costs and shrinking budgets and struggling to meet increased security threats and regulation requirements, IT managers are facing a perfect storm “to basically lose all their hair,” EMC Senior VP and CTO Jeff Nick recently told attendees of the CloudPlay conference in Sunnyvale, California. He described how EMC is working on key technologies that will help alleviate that stress by enabling private cloud computing.

Nick, who gave the keynote address at the day-long gathering of industry leaders and entrepreneurs, said it isn’t surprising that companies are increasingly interested in private cloud computing. After all, who wouldn’t want a trusted and controlled environment where they can take advantage of on-demand capacity, seamless integration, and economies of scale, he noted.

His team at EMC, he said, focuses on what technologies are needed to build a virtual private cloud environment. To do so, he explained, requires addressing three basic layers of capabilities. The first is insulation. Applications must be insulated from the physical infrastructure to allow flexibility and tenants need to be insulated from one another to insure security. Virtualization is a fundamental enabler for insulation.

Next, Nick said, users need seamless access to assets in multiple data centers. If they want to take advantage of capacity in dispersed data centers, they need to be able to do so without breaking the network connection or management infrastructures that are in place. That requires integration technologies at different levels of the stack, he said.

And third, private cloud users need control over how data is managed and secured. In order to take advantage of private cloud computing, organizations have to give up visibility and control of how IT services are delivered. “If I run my applications in-house, I control the policy settings, I control the priorities, I control the work load balance, I control my environment,” Nick said. With IT as a service, he said, “the degree of control I had is now turned over to the service provider.”

That means cloud-enabling technology needs to deliver policy-based management capabilities that let organizations set IT governance parameters for security and business continuity in the private cloud.

Virtualization, Nick said, is critical to insulation. Applications and appliances are stored in virtual containers – or bags and collections of bags—that can be moved, accessed, or managed from a container perspective. The evolution of such virtual containers promises to simplify content management. Today, he noted, managers must impose controls at multiple points of operation in order to monitor and enforce management policies—which is an immensely complex challenge. But as virtual containers evolve grouping such operations together, enforcement points can be greatly reduced. Users can set controls on containers or collections of containers via a single plug-in point instead of on the individual applications and enforcement points that they contain.

Overall, Nick said, EMC is working on technology that will allow organizations “to flexibly extend an existing environment into the cloud.”

The journey to the private cloud, he concluded, will require “more than just hooking up pipes and more than just connecting to web services.” It’s going to require the ability to create a flow of semantic information and management components that are able to interact seamlessly.

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