The hybrid cloud is the new reality for most IT organizations. Depending on their business drivers, organizations find that certain workloads are best suited for public cloud while others for private cloud. As organizational needs change and maturity evolves, these workloads constantly migrate between these clouds. Private and public clouds need to be extensions of one another and work together in a hybrid model.


Cloud gives us flexibility, scalability, resiliency, and reliability. Cloud has shaken up our operating model to a service-based model where solutions depend on the organization’s need.


NetApp IT provides Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), via a hybrid cloud offering that consists of a private cloud combined with public cloud providers. Depending on the workload characteristics, systems will be provisioned on the appropriate cloud.


Private vs. Public Cloud

Many people are confused about the definition of a private cloud versus a traditional private data center. A traditional data center houses groups of networked computer servers and storage that organizations use to organize, process, and disseminate data.


When we define a private cloud, we mean a data center that leverages cloud features to deliver IT as a service (ITaaS) to internal business users. A private cloud offers similar characteristics to the public cloud, but is designed for single organization use.  These characteristics include:

  • Catalog-based, on-demand service delivery
  • Automated scalability and service elasticity
  • Multi-tenancy with shared resource pools
  • Metering with utility style operating expense models
  • Software-defined, centrally managed infrastructure
  • Self-service lifecycle management of services 

Our private cloud is evolving to meet these characteristics.


The Private Cloud Architecture

Our private cloud is based on the FlexPod® Datacenter which combines NetApp FAS storage, Cisco Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI), and Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) servers. The converged infrastructure enables NetApp IT to build public cloud architectures and delivery models in our private data centers and gain the benefits, such as centralized management and the ability to scale as business requirements change.


Just like public clouds, our private cloud solution is multi-tenant. The Cisco ACI provides a software defined networking (SDN) capability to create virtual private clouds, like those found in Amazon Web Services (AWS) private clouds. Multiple customers or tenants share compute and storage. Because the multi-tenancy constructs are software-defined, the architecture is highly modular and can scale as we grow. We avoid the need for dedicated hardware for different tenants or use cases.


We leverage ONTAP® virtualization and secure multitenancy features like storage virtual machines (SVM) and IP spaces to provide storage-as-a-service to our internal tenants. Based on individual requirements, each tenant is mapped to a respective IP space and SVM. (The IP space feature enables a single storage system to be accessed by clients from more than one disconnected network, even if the clients are using the same IP address.) Tenants are separated by security boundaries such as a DMZ, public zone, or an administrative boundary such as a business unit.


The IT architecture is similar in nature to public clouds, such as AWS, where customers can host their applications in one or more virtual private clouds and subscribe to provider services like elastic block store (EBS), S3, etc. In the NetApp IT private cloud, we place tenants/applications in respective zones where they can securely subscribe to IT services including storage-as-a-service, core services (DNS, NTP, etc.) or any other XaaS we offer in this environment.


Having a consistent architecture across public and private clouds helps us streamline our service catalog blueprints so that the same blueprint logic can be leveraged across all cloud types. The catalog has built-in workflows that define user permissions and entitlements. Users can turn off services when they aren’t needed (such as on weekends) and turn them on when they are (app test). This means users can manage the lifecycle and bypass IT involvement to start, stop, and decommission services.


Like the public cloud chargeback system that relies on a utility-style operating expense model such as metering, NetApp IT uses a similar showback model to track and share its private cloud expenses.  We plan to use OnCommand® Insight (OCI) track and report these activities in future.


How the Private Cloud Works

In the NetApp IT private cloud, services are requested from a self-service catalog portal, orchestrated via OpenStack, and then provisioned using open APIs. This architecture offers two primary advantages: the ability to deliver predictable performance to our end users and access to centralized support for networking, compute, and storage services. Other benefits include:

  • Instead of deploying three separate products, we are installing one FlexPod with a validated architecture. Configuration guides further streamline workload testing.
  • We have one single point of support for any FlexPod issue instead of three.
  • By using open APIs with consistent blueprints to deploy our infrastructure services (IaaS) in the cloud, we remove delivery discrepancies and enable automated provisioning.
  • A software-defined, multi-tenant stack eliminates the need for multiple sets of hardware/PODs while the modular architecture supports scalability as our environment grows.
  • The above factors significantly drive down our expenses for both deployment and operations.


Powered by FlexPod

By leveraging FlexPod, we gain the many benefits of cloud computing—elasticity and centralized management—in our private cloud. The converged architecture dramatically reduces infrastructure and application delivery times while lowering costs. FlexPod also prepares us for the future where data will be everywhere.


For more on the NetApp IT private cloud, read the blogs, 7 Reasons Why Moving Apps from the Public to the Private Cloud Shouldn’t be Hard and Three Steps to Defining a Cloud-First Strategy.


The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading data management solutions to support business goals. Want to learn more about the program? Visit

Gopi Sirineni

As Senior Manager for Cloud and Compute Services, Gopi is responsible for designing, implementing, and provisioning both cloud (private and public) and compute infrastructure and services in support of NetApp’s IT strategy. His role includes advancing the cloud eco-system and promoting a culture of technical excellence. Gopi previously managed email infrastructure as part of the NetApp End User Services team. Before joining NetApp in 2006, he worked in various IT positions at Nokia and Visa.

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