In an IT world where everything seems to be getting cloud-washed, private cloud is an area that may be experiencing it the most. Many infrastructures or infrastructure stacks are labeled "private cloud architectures" when they really just comprise a subset of what a private cloud is. The key points that tend to be missed, based on the NIST definition, are on-demand, self-service and measured service.
Many infrastructures described as private clouds are really talking about some subset of private cloud components, which I have referred to as converged infrastructure. Typically, it consists of some level of consolidation, virtualization and integrated hardware, possibly with some automation, monitoring and orchestration. By definition, a true private cloud includes automation, orchestration and service monitoring.
Automation is the foundation on which orchestration gets built. It is programmed processes in place for repetitive tasks. An example of a process that is easily automated is server provisioning.
In a non-automated world, an IT consumer, such as a developer, requests a new server or set of servers. The request will require network, storage, compute and security provisioning, etc. The developer may then have to seek specific approvals, ensure completion, and so on. While there are many steps to this process, they are very static in the way in which they are carried out, even though they are currently manual steps. These steps can be mapped out into a workflow, and automation or scripting tools can be fairly easily put in place to take away the manual touch points of this process. That is automation. Network operation center (NOC) administrators can input the required unique data and kick off a series of scripted processes that will provision the various data center resources once approvals are in place.
Automation simplifies processes and alleviates repetition in static workflows, but it is not orchestration. And without orchestration, we’re still not talking cloud. Orchestration involves tying disparate automated processes and IT resources together using workflows, and typically providing a portal from which those workflows can be managed. Additionally, orchestration can tie in approval processes at defined points in a given workflow.