03-08-11 | Blog Post

Anatomy of a Private Cloud: History, Architecture, Platforms and Other Resources

Blog Posts

Mike Flaherty of Online Tech describes cloud architecture – the history, platforms and various resources for a cloud computing storage network and management framework.

Welcome to today’s videoblog where we’ll discuss the anatomy of a private cloud. I’m Mike Flaherty with Online Tech, and I’ll be hosting today’s videoblog.

Today’s talk is targeted at giving you a high-level overview of cloud architecture, so let’s get started. I’ll run through a quick history, talk about platforms and then the various resources we’re going to use in the cloud compute storage network, a management framework and then give you a quick summary. If you have any questions, you can send those in via email or give us a call.


So let’s look at the history of the private cloud, or cloud computing in general, where does it start? Look at Gall’s Law – “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.” So with the cloud, we take the building blocks of the past components that have worked, we stitch them together in a way that adds value, and it adds big value.

So we take the memory, we take the processors and storage, network, put a layer of management on there as a wrapper, and we have cloud architecture. There’s really nothing new here, it’s just the way we have stitched things together and we’ve seen how the technologies have matured, and that has given us the modern-day cloud architecture.

So years ago when modern computing first started taking shape, big iron mainframes appeared. Time-sharing and centralized computing was the norm. As PCs started to appear, we then shifted to having a computer on or under our desk. Although powerful for their day, these PCs were limited in what they could process and connect to. They were usually connecting to a local server in the same building.

But then, the web appeared, and now PCs could connect to servers on the other side of the planet. Amazing, disruptive changes began to take shape, and as web and commercial internet services matured, connectivity speed increased, and broadband, DSL and cable connections appeared.

We also saw terms like ASP start to pop up. Imagine that, an application hosted somewhere else, other than in your office. The buzz word started to come out over the years, like grid computing, utility computing, on-demand computing, and finally Software-as-a-Service.

As we approach the present day, we then saw enterprise class virtualization begin to take shape, and that really captured the attention of business, and the cloud was born.

Choosing Platform

But where do you start? What platform do you use to start your cloud?

Online Tech has chosen the following systems to run its entire back office, customer portal and website. And this is the same system we use for our customers and our private cloud offering. Our cloud components include Dell servers, EqualLogic SAN – and these really exceed the expectations for us and our customers for performance, scalability and reliability. The rock-solid switch fabric from Cisco to tie the cloud components together, and then for security, Cisco and Fortinet firewalls and security devices to secure the cloud computing experience.

And after extensive testing, Online Tech chose VMware for its virtualization layer. While Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer had matured, VMware, we feel, has the most mature, stable and scalable virtualization platform compared to other vendors. Even analysts at Gartner admit that Hyper-V is underperforming against their expectations. Even in markets where Hyper-V was supposed to make an impact, like the mid-sized market, VMware is still gaining new ground and new customers.

Why VMware?

So since the virtualization layer is so critical to cloud architecture, let’s spend a few more minutes on why VMware was chosen as the platform.

First, VMware offers a complete platform solution.

Second, the foundation has got to be rock-solid, and that’s the Hypervisor. So if you look at the fourth generation VMware Hypervisor ESXI, it’s got a tiny footprint of about 70 MB. You’re looking at 2 GB with Xen or Hyper-V. So the larger footprint, what does that give you? A larger attack surface for threats out there, and the threats continue to grow.

Number three, above the Hypervisor, you need the right management tools to go from zero to 100% virtual, and VMware gives you the perfect tool in the vCenter Server to manage everything from a centralized view.

Number four, you also want a solution that works with the broadest set of hardware and operating systems, and that’s VMware again.

And five, you want something that’s customer-proven, and certainly VMware is working and running in Fortune 50 companies out there, as well as small to medium businesses. So VMware offers all of this within a cloud framework and then some.

Stop Fighting Servers

So, stop fighting with your technology, embrace the power of the cloud, and yes the cloud can help you stay out of the penalty box and help you with your entire IT infrastructure.

Cloud Management

For a good starting point in cloud management, we’ll use tools like VMware vCenter Server – it really does give you the flexibility and provisioning, automation and permits greater scalability while giving you great and deep visibility into your entire cloud infrastructure. We consider this a very, very sharp tool in our toolset for cloud management.

There’s an old story of two lumberjacks in a tree-cutting contest. Well, the first lumberjack picks up a rusty axe and runs into the woods and immediately starts cutting trees. The second lumberjack spent most of the contest sharpening his axe. The second lumberjack walks out into the forest and drops the biggest tree around. And the moral of the story is, don’t use rusty tools.

We feel VMware gives you, through vCenter, a very sharp tool, and it really goes beyond what’s necessary to create the powerful cloud experience. It saves time, and gives you a great advantage when implemented correctly.


Lastly, a simple formula – P+M+S+N – really defines the infrastructure for the cloud. It’s processors, memory, storage and network. These are the building blocks, and as we delaminate the cloud beyond its management and virtualization layers, you’re left with these components. Compute resources, shared storage resources and data stores and network fabric tie the system together, and give you want you need to save time and money and create a more resilient computing experience in the cloud.

Well that’s it, thanks for watching this cloud blog, and if you have any questions, please email or call us. Thank you.

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