Private cloud: Self-service IT at your command

Private clouds set to eliminate unecessary work for IT pros

The definition of "private cloud" tends to vary from source to source, but at First American Corp. in Santa Ana, Calif., which is building a private cloud, the benefits are crystal clear: the project will eliminate busy work for IT professionals while giving users more control over their IT resources.

First American began moving from a physical to a virtual environment four years ago, and now has 5,000 VMware virtual machines running most of its critical business applications. While the virtualization project was designed to reduce the burden of managing physical hardware, Jake Seitz, chief enterprise architect at the financial services firm, says the company is going a step further with an internal cloud that will reduce the time IT spends spinning up VMs.

"I don't think it makes a lot of sense for us to be paying tier 3 engineering folks and so on to bush a button to spin up a VM," Seitz says. "I think it's foolish and it's one of the first ways of using resources."

First American is building a self-service interface -- powered by VMware on the back end and Microsoft SharePoint on the front end -- that will let employees provision their own resources. Another key vendor is F5 Networks, whose BIG-IP devices provide content delivery, load balancing and disaster recovery between First American's two data centers in California and Texas.

"For us, self-service means we'll let the user interact directly with the cloud," Seitz says. "The end user can provision their entire environment. We're not limiting them to 'you can only build Windows or SQL or a development environment.' They can literally say 'I need to add 2,000 people for mailboxes.' They don't need to know all the things on the back end."

First American, a services provider in the insurance and mortgage industries, has about 45,000 users worldwide. The private cloud is in beta, and Seitz hopes to have most IT services delivered through the cloud within two years. After introducing the self-service interface, the next major step is to roll out a metered billing system to charge users for the cloud resources they consume.

Public cloud services didn't make sense for First American, which must deal with numerous legal and compliance issues.

"There are a lot of laws we have to abide by," Seitz says. Not using the public cloud "had nothing to do with technology. It came down to where is the data and what do we do if something happens."

Seitz expects the biggest challenges in implementing the private cloud to revolve not around technology but user awareness and training. When First American started using virtualization and delivering applications from a multi-tenant environment, "people got really nervous when they didn't own a specific piece of hardware in that rack, in that row," he says.

"Now we're moving into what we call cloud computing and again were going through the same cycle of user awareness and 'don't worry about it, it's here, you have the same SLA you had before, but it's actually a little better and financially it makes more sense for you,'" he says.

Eventually, Seitz expects users to embrace the private cloud and self-service attributes because "most of our folks, they don't want to deal with IT, quite simply."

With virtualization, First American initially set it up so users could opt in only if they wanted to, but eventually made virtualization the standard that everyone in the company used. Ultimately, Seitz says it will be the same with First American's private cloud.

"I suspect that cloud computing will be the same way two years from now, where you have to make a business case for not being in it," he says.

Not every application can be moved into the cloud, at least initially, however. First American has not been able to move every application onto VMware-based machines, and since the private cloud is backed by virtualization the same policies will hold true there.

Telephony and other First American applications that require specialized hardware have not been moved into a virtualized environment, and some Microsoft and Oracle applications have not been virtualized because of problems with vendor support.

"Even if things are good candidates for virtualization, it's a completely different story if the software or hardware vendor will support them," Seitz says. "In some applications we have to have that support, so it doesn't make financial sense [to virtualize]."

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags private cloud

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon Brodkin

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?