Half A Rack In Half A Day: Building A Private Cloud

Having entered my 39th (gulp!) year in IT, it’s fair to say I’ve had to endure more than my fair share of IT hype and BS.

Many are the times at live events I’ve done a tally chart on the number of uses of “paradigm shift”. And, yes, they were all Americans. One of those alleged shifts came with “the cloud” – aka outsourcing/application service provision/mainframe time-sharing etc… depends how old you are. But such has been the focus of vendors globally on delivering cloud-based services and the tools to support them, that for the average IT team, going at least partial-cloud has been barely an option but a mandatory move.

The problem is that the “obvious option” of the public cloud is absolutely not a perfect fit for many businesses. It’s not simply a case of handing over your crown jewels to a 3rd party and hoping that they have a robust safe to keep them in; it’s also about ease of access, ease – and cost – of scaling up and what happens when you want to migrate some of those apps and data. There have been many $$$$$ horror stories in the past few years of IT budgets being blown out of the water by unanticipated costs of “going cloud”. For example, a typical developer (accepting there is actually no such thing as they are a ‘unique breed’) doesn’t generally think: “ooh, when I spin up a new instance to test this piece of code with it’s going to cost my company more money”.

If, however, we accept that ease of use, management, application and data deployment – especially in the WFH/WFA era – are good reasons for looking at a CSP, then the question has to be, is there a realistic, no-compromise alternative? That is, one that gives you all the benefits of a cloud-based deployment, but with total control over governance and costs? The answer, of course, is “private cloud”. Many vendors advertise this option – notably private/hybrid solutions. But simply focusing on the former option alone, the problem is that these “solutions” are only offering part of the story. It’s the DIY solution with lots of bits missing. To emphasise how complex “cloud building” is, when researching the topic, looking at a site offering graphical diagram software for illustrating a cloud, I noted that its diagram solution consisted of no less than 492 “ready-to-use” vector shapes which will “help facilitate the process of design and development of cloud computing”. Its not a simple solution to create – and that is a serious understatement.

So, when SoftIron approached me to test its private cloud solution, I was both fascinated and cynical in equal measure (as one should be). Moreover, when the challenge was put to me to build that private cloud solution: networking, compute and storage, plus management (basically everything but the apps and data – and users) in half a day, it was hard not to laugh. But, naturally, I took up the challenge and, lo and behold, behold and lo (and all that stuff) in the company’s Berlin labs I achieved said task in time for several excellent craft beers 😊

The finished report is available here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/cdn-media.softiron.com/doc/Broadband+Testing_SoftIron+HyperCloud+Product+Review.pdf

Other than the story of SoftIron being a relative “David” getting there ahead of any of the “Goliaths”, even more compelling is that the company is so anal about QC and security that it makes almost (not the CPUs!) everything in-house, even elements such as the Baseboard Management Controller – a specialised service processor that monitors the physical state of its surrounding hardware using sensors – levels of detail and dedication to the cause that are basically unheard of. Within the Berlin labs, even the radiator covers had been hand-made by the SoftIron team – and the indoor gardens… Attention to detail is fundamental to successful innovation; it’s no use coming up with great ideas and not being able to fully deliver them. It may be relatively early days for SoftIron, but the company has delivered a solution that works; one that delivers on all the beneficial aspects of the cloud, but is in your own hands – no costly weather forecasting requirements…

This is obviously just the start of the story, but do check out the report link and you will understand why this is cloud-breaking (and ground-breaking)  stuff!

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