Choosing the right private cloud solution is not an easy task. Here’s how private cloud options from Microsoft, VMware, OpenStack, CloudStack and Platform9 compare in terms of management, compatibility, complexity and security.
Last week, we took a closer look at the business and management considerations involved in building a private cloud. This week, we examine five private cloud vendors and what they have to offer in terms of management and administration, compatibility with your existing infrastructure investments, complexity in deployment and maintenance, and security.
Private cloud software has to work with the virtualization layer that is providing the resources, enabling a management interface for the self-service aspect along with a management interface for the IT administrator. All of this has to be accomplished at a reasonable price and with adequate support if you plan on making your private cloud a part of your core business strategy. With all software investments today, and especially when it comes to virtualization and cloud software, the additional question of going with open source also has to be taken into consideration with the pros and cons that come with it. Thus below, you’ll notice a mix of proprietary as well as open source private cloud options and what each has to offer.
Microsoft Private Cloud
While Microsoft was a bit late to the virtualization and cloud arena, the software giant has spent considerable resources catching up and leveraging experience to avoid some of the mistakes other vendors in this space have made. Microsoft’s private cloud software is part of the System Center 2012 R2 offering. System Center incorporates several products under one umbrella including Virtual Machine Manager, Data Protection Manager, Endpoint protection and Operations Manager.
- Microsoft’s System Center will support and centrally manage Windows 2012 Hyper-V hosts along with third party hypervisors from Citrix and VMware; KVM is a notable exception that is not included at this time. While the hypervisors are agnostic, the current lack of active third party network providers, including Cisco, is worth noting and may be limiting to some customers.
- Microsoft’s private cloud offering focuses on the application life cycle combined with automation and monitoring in one package. This, coupled with a straightforward ability to create self-service portals based on mature IIS features, helps with the installation process. Leveraging the .NET framework does allow for additional extensions and troubleshooting.
- Security can be leveraged off of existing Active Directory resources without the complexity of setting up single sign on (SSO). However this can open up additional security risks based on existing Windows Server vulnerabilities.
- While the pieces in the package may not go feature for feature when compared to other offerings, the single SKU does make licensing and purchasing easier.
VMware vCloud Suite Private Cloud
VMware is one of the oldest players in the virtualization market and has an established record of performance and reliability. VMware’s products have the ability to scale to some of the most demanding workloads. VMware has incorporated several products into its private cloud offering allowing customers to choose ala cart what features they would like to use. VMware’s vCloud Suite comes in three different versions (Standard, Advanced and Enterprise) with each incorporating additional products and features.
- VMware vCloud Suite does support other hypervisors, including Hyper-V and KVM, however extensive single pane of glass management is not advertised, as the favored hypervisor is ESXi.
- The Advanced edition of vCloud Suites adds vRealize Business for vSphere and Enterprise version includes vCenter Site Recovery Manager on top of the vRealize Business Suite. vRealize Business offers cost, usage and metering ability while vCenter Site Recovery Manager is policy-based disaster recovery.
- The vCloud Suite is packaged and requires license upgrades together as a single entity, however it is a collection of separate products, which can lead to confusion with support, and installation when compared to other offerings.
- Frequent product name changes lead to confusion on what the products do, which ones are needed, upgradable or even owned in some cases.
- vCloud has the ability to integrate with VMware’s software defined networking offering NSX, however this is an additional licensing fee with all versions of vCloud.
- Established enterprise class security at the hypervisor and network layers for easy user integration with Active Directory single sign on and its complexities are required.
- Support for VMware Virtual SAN and OpenStack allow for flexibility in both storage and third party cloud integration tools.
OpenStack Private Cloud
OpenStack is one of the most popular open source cloud operating options today. It has the ability to manage compute, storage and networking and deploy them is an easy to use, but somewhat feature limited dashboard. Unlike VMware and Microsoft, OpenStack does not have its own hypervisor.
- OpenStack can be used with VMware’s ESXi, Microsoft’s Hyper-V, or Citrix Xen, however it is most often used with KVM, which is also open source. With more vendors including OpenStack APIs this will encourage more adoption.
- OpenStack supports a wide range of software and hardware due to its open source nature. This allows for flexible architecture that can support both legacy and new hardware platforms.
- While the capital cost of the software is free (since it’s open source) the soft cost in training your IT staff will have to be accounted for.
- Similar to other open source offerings, a community support model is in place over paid maintenance, this may require trained staff for immediate support needs.
- With so many community developers and quality feedback from users the complexity of installation and operation is simpler than might be expected. OpenStack is directly focused on the cloud platform and does not have additional pieces which reduces complexity.
Platform9 OpenStack Private Cloud
Platform9 is a private cloud provider based on OpenStack that does not reside onsite. Platform9 uses an OpenStack as a service model to allow organizations to manage their private clouds from an external cloud. While this might seem a bit unusual for a private cloud solution, the key point to remember is that your data still resides inside your data center, it’s simply the management piece that is external to your company.
- Platform9 currently supports the KVM hypervisor with VMware ESXi in beta testing. Currently there are no plans for Hyper-V or Citrix Xen listed.
- Being a hosted solution there is no software to install or upgrade. Platform9 handles all patches and upgrades to the OpenStack core.
- Simplified user portal, image management and infrastructure discovery allow for reduced administrative overhead while leveraging the scalability and reliability of OpenStack.
- Policy based deployments with infrastructure monitoring brings many of the popular public cloud features into the private cloud space without limited complexity.
- No capital costs to get started; the solution is priced as a monthly service fee.
Apache CloudStack Private Cloud
Another contender in the open source private cloud space is Apache’s CloudStack. The CloudStack solution supports a wide range of hypervisors from VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and KVM. CloudStack is offered as a complete solution minus the hypervisor, allowing companies to have a robust management interface, usage metering and image deployment. Storage tiering and Active Directory are also included with limited software defined networking.
- Unlike OpenStack, which focuses on the core cloud aspect, CloudStack is looking to provide everything under the single open source umbrella.
- CloudStack is an economical approach to the private cloud with many popular features included. One concern is the quality of those features, along with the support that exists with open source software.
- It includes a Java-based management agent, which may cause some concerns regarding performance, security and version splintering.