I am currently in APJ, meeting with customers. Private cloud is THE subject. Several customers have been discussing the possibility to use product development & engineering as the place where they would like to start a private cloud pilot. It is indeed an interesting space for a number of reasons. First, often the infrastructure used to run PD&E is not under the responsibility of IT, but of engineering. Many IT departments are looking forward to take over the ownership of such platforms and are looking at benefits they could offer. Quick provisioning of platforms is definitely one, knowing the time engineers loose in putting the IT gear together to do their job.
So, how easy would it be to use a private cloud in the PD&E space. Well there are some issues, not the least one being that the PDM applications (Teamcenter, SAP PLM, MatrixOne, DS Ennovia etc.) do not support virtualization and are not programmed using a multitenant approach. This makes it difficult to put them in a truly cloud enabled environment. But engineers use a lot of other tools that are smaller in nature, often open source, and used only at certain steps in the process.
So, we could envision building an environment in which physical and/or logical machines are provisioned quickly to run these applications when necessary. This would have two benefits, first it would allow a better use of the IT environment, freeing servers to run multiple of those applications at different moments in the design and engineering process. IT would also speed-up the PD&E process itself, by removing a burden from the engineers, allowing them to focus more time on development.
Now whether such environment is truly cloud is a philosophical debate in which I do not want to get into here. What I can tell you is that it would reduce time to market, while giving IT a reason to take over the engineering IT environment (ensuring back-up, patch and version management etc.). At the same time it would reduce the need to go to a public cloud environment (eg. Amazon), hence reducing the risk of information to be exposed to the outside world. This sounds like a win-win situation, isn’t it?