How to Predict Your Private Cloud Readiness

Cloud readiness is more than market position and organization size. It is profoundly linked to your level of platform standardization.

By Shawn Edmondson

At rPath (and Opsware before that), I've met many IT teams at customer and prospect sites. Thanks to unique business situations and unique decision histories, the world of IT has a wild variety of approaches and processes. That variety keeps IT interesting, at least for IT vendors! In particular, I think that deep variety is why cloud adoption is so uneven and hard to summarize.

Recently we've seen a new pattern in our prospects and customers that helps explain and predict cloud fit. Consider this way to slice the world of IT:

  • Slice 1: IT is focused on customer service and works hard to satisfy many internal customers with different requirements. R&D needs a new five-box vCenter cluster? Build it! Sales needs a new AIX box running Oracle? Done! IT builds and maintains persistently unique solutions: snowflakes.

  • Slice 2: IT provides some standard platform offerings with varying degrees of depth. Internal customers have a choice: primo service on a standard platform, or best-effort service on a custom (snowflake) platform. Need a corporate-standard SharePoint instance? No problem. The SLAs on the intranet. Need AIX with Oracle? Really? OK, but it's going to take a while.

Of course, it's really a spectrum, so let's call it the PSL: your platform standardization level.

High PSL isn't the right choice for every organization. It's just one of many dimensions in the diverse world of IT. The pattern we've spotted, simply stated is that an enterprise's platform standardization level is the best predictor of private cloud benefits.

If you are a low-PSL organization with many snowflakes (and not planning to make dramatic changes to that situation soon), IaaS might shave a few hours off VM provisioning time but it isn't going to change your life, and it will take forever to deploy. PaaS doesn't make sense even on paper.

For a medium-PSL organization that already sees itself offering solutions "as-a-service," IaaS makes a ton of sense, and so does PaaS in the form of standardized OS/middleware platforms on demand. No single Tomcat stack can fit the needs of all enterprises, but a single, specialized Tomcat stack might be fine for many internal customers at one enterprise.

What about PaaS in the form of elastic application servers such as Heroku (public), Apprenda (private), or "we should have called it PaaS long ago" platforms like WebLogic? As a centerpiece IT investment, that flavor of PaaS calls for high PSL because apps must be perfect framework citizens. There's no tweaking the platform with corporate-wide unusual requirements.

That's my hypothesis. Does it make sense to you?

With that in mind, the first step in evaluating cloud is to understand your platform standardization level:

  • Low (and not increasing anytime soon)? Cloud for you will be a pile of hype! Don't let cloud vendors waste your time.

  • Moderate? The time is ripe for IaaS and PaaS (as platform on demand). PaaS (elastic application servers) makes sense for specific projects but not for broad-based deployment.

  • High? PaaS (elastic application servers) is the simplest, cheapest, and most agile foundation imaginable.

Cloud readiness is more than market position and organization size. It is profoundly linked to your level of platform standardization.

Shawn Edmondson is the vice president of product strategy at rPath. Prior to rPath, Shawn served as product manager for HP Software (formerly Opsware, Inc.) Shawn holds a BA degree in Computer Science from Harvard College.You can contact the author at

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