Cloud computing, though being claimed to be the de facto computing infrastructure of today and tomorrow, is not without problem. The fact that data is being stored in the cloud is a terrifying thought for many. Personal usage and low level usage may have less fear. But large corporations with sensitive and life-and-death information are not fully comfortable with entrusting data to a third party. So, in addition to the versatile, cheap and easy-to-use public cloud, many large service providers also offer private clouds to prestigious customers. Private clouds are in fact dedicated hardware including servers, hubs and controls segmented from the main servers. Some may even provide private cloud infrastructure in a separate location. But having data kept by facilities hosted by others is still a big concern.
OCGIO recommends that departments could engage cloud computing infrastructure in three approaches. For non-sensitive data and those facing the public, the public cloud is recommended. For departmental operations, it recommends the semi-private cloud provided by the OCGIO data centre. It will be shared-used among different government department users. For the dedicated systems of vital information, it recommends the private clouds provided by contractors, assuming that the security of out-sourced private clouds will sufficiently protect the data. However, for the most paranoid users, this is not enough. Data must be watched by their own staff at all time. Thus a private cloud must be managed in-house.
To address such needs, Nebula, a newly formed company, is dedicated to a solution to this problem. It has released the first turnkey private cloud for business users. All is needed is a small air-conditioned room for the purpose. The minimum system is only half-rack tall, like a small desk, and is expandable to five racks. The base price for the lowest configuration is about US$100,000. It comprises 64 cores, 384 GB of memory and 96 TB of storage. The specification can be scaled up as required to 1,600 cores, 9,600 GB of memory and 2,400 TB of storage. The system consists of Nebula controllers, Nebula management software, and x86 servers. A single Nebula controller can manage up to 20 servers, so a full rack would be 20 servers plus 1 touch screen controller at the heart.
The beauty of the system is that it is all-in-one and is instantly ready for use. So a department could spend less attention to the setting up, maintenance and operation of the infrastructure. One trained officer could do it part time; and full attention could be focused on applications instead. One such system could easily meet the computer needs of the entire department, with connections made to devices of individual officers through the Internet. Imagine that even a small office setup would require many servers for various functions such as mail, file and applications, and backup. Now one system could do it all. However, please do not be tempted by this beautiful machine. Private cloud always requires some attention on hardware. It is better to use the public cloud or just rely on the OCGIO data centre. For the details of this state-of-the-art machine, you may take a look at a recent article at IT World, or see the video below.