At the recent IBM Impact conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Jay Snyder, director of platform engineering at Aetna, about his work with his company's private cloud.

In this case, Aetna's private cloud isn't built for running insurance applications in production mode, but is intended for the insurer's development shop.

The somewhat surprising aspect to the Aetna cloud is its cost proposition — it's actually cheaper to run these cloud services internally than rely on outside cloud services. “It's not as much about costs; it's really about easy access to tools and technologies,” Snyder says.

Aetna has a sizable contingent of developers, and at issue has been the need to provide and maintain their workstations. “Desktop and laptop tools are very heavy, and it could take 20 to 30 minutes to start them up,” Snyder remarks. By setting up virtualized workstations within the company's private cloud, developers have immediate access to their resources, and can expend their desktop memory and capacity at the push of a button.

Snyder points out that private clouds are more cost-effective than public cloud services for long-term requirements, such as developers' environments. Public cloud services are more suitable for short-term projects, such as marketing campaigns, he says. “There are too many issues with bursting to someone else's cloud.”

Ultimately, it's about time to market, and private cloud works well for Aetna here — the ability to quickly bring applications to market is essential in the health insurance business, says Snyder. “We're focused on consumer-driven healthcare. Customers want to be able to look at their health benefits through mobile interfaces.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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