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Re: "private cloud"

Over on the Enterprise Irregulars mailing list, someone asked what “private cloud” means. As ever, that group has a fascinating response. Here’s how I responded, which sums up a lot of what I’ve been saying on the topic of late, mostly in the IT Management & Cloud podcast:

What Private Cloud Seems to Mean

When I encounter “private cloud,” it usually means applying cloud technologies (virtualization, self-service, automation, generalized pools of resources [driven by the previous]) behind the firewall. It’s more than virtualization consolidation, though virtualization is a huge part – if not the most important technological enabler. The self-service (or “run book,” if you’re old school) parts are important as well.

I’m extremely suspicious of private cloud being much of a cost savings, but if it was done properly you would get the non-financial benefits of (public) cloud computing: quick boot-strapping, not having to wait 4 weeks for the DBA to get to your email, etc. In theory, this means IT can stop being slow (as they’re trained and rewarded to do with their “we fear change” philosophy – needed for how crappy enterprise IT tends to be during updates) and speed up. There’s also some (potential) process change in getting developers and operations people more friends, flying under the phrase of “dev/ops” in the gasbagosphere (myself included there).

The main thing that frustrates me about private cloud is that it seems to be a way for vendors to make money twice off cloud computing: once in the private cloud transformation, and then once all the fears blow over/get fixed, a second time for the public cloud transformation. It’s like retail in the early 90’s: remember when “no one” would dare type their credit card number into “the Internet”? Now everyone does, of course.

That cynicism aside, I do think that the happy path of “private cloud” is much better than whatever you want to call how IT is run now (ITSM, maybe, but that’s a bit unfair to ITSM). The main thing that frustrates me is this focus on “we must own our precious data” instead of innovating around/beyond that constraint. Sure, it’s “real,” and I’m not belittling it, but I expect more from the industry than to let that be a wall that keeps innovation at bay.


That’s an incomplete view, but I think it applies to the majority of instances of “private cloud” I come across. I’m sure the EI thread will pull out plenty more interesting to pile on. You can’t really be an absolutist about cloud computing, let along private clouds: throwing out a loose definition like the above is always a good honey-pot for better ones. For example, my podcasting buddy John Willis has a pretty good rant on why private cloud is actually awesome, ask him about it sometime. Also, see James’ discussion of EMC and VMWare’s private cloud recent machinations.

Categories: Cloud, Enterprise Software, Systems Management.

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13 Responses

  1. Extremely smart to be "suspicious of private cloud being much of a cost savings". In a mid sized business deployment, look at lost economies of scale as well as both hardware and software resources needed to get to an equivalent of a major cloud services offering; if anything, cost will increase.

    Cloud computing cannot be private because it's about purchasing computing resources as one needs them, to scale up or down, from a massively scalable computing services environment, the kind of thing that renders current IT paradigms pretty much useless. Then, I’m still waiting for someone above my pay grade to bring clarity to cloud anything. My biggest frustration; private cloud thinking reinforces the status quo, inhibiting collaboration and change.

  2. Les from my experience that is lots of spare compute and storage capacity sitting idle or severely under-utilized in todays IT environments you do not need to be a big as amazon in your offering to still make cost savings (time is money for some) by applying similar technologies, techniques and processes to a "private" cloud.

  3. We are extremely suspicious about private clouds. Mainly because the main advocates of private clouds are those selling HW – Cisco, EMC, F5, IBM, etc. Virtualization has suddenly become = cloud. Self-service and elasticity are one aspect of cloud computing but they are far from the main benefits. The main benefits are being able to abstract away the management of HW/infrastructure platforms and getting access to platforms that keep getting better. For example, when I build on a platform such as, I automatically get to take advantage of the new UI, new reporting and social features, with no rewrites. That's the power of cloud computing, not eking out a little bit more savings than a virtualized datacenter! (more on our perspective here –

  4. Michael, I found it interesting that you noted suspicion that private clouds wouldn't get all the financial benefits (presuming you primarily meant economies of scale and no CapEx) of public clouds, yet you didn't mention all the other benefits that private clouds often lack — scalability on-demand, disaster recovery preparedness via ability to fail-over to multiple hosting locations (not RTO/RPO-style DR), the offloading of infrastructure management responsibility, just to name a few. As you say, virtualization is nice and a big part of private cloud, but doesn't address many of the operational enhancements that Cloud portends (or pretends depending on how sarcastic one feels at the moment).

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] RedMonkGear « Re: “private cloud” […]

  2. […] changes, meet spikes and dips in performance demands, and go against their trained (and rewarded) practice of fearing change. More important than deploying the initial versions of an application or service, operations staff […]

  3. […] mean all sorts of excitement when it comes to enterprise cloud strategies between the two. And, as the guy who panned “private cloud” last week, I gotta love this commentary on private clouds from the Azure […]

  4. […] and Google’s (not too business oriented). Others like IBM and HP are more interesting in tooling private clouds, where as Microsoft seems very keen on delivering a new way for general software developers to […]

  5. […] talking not only IaaS, but PaaS: you’ve got pretty good marketplace CYA there. You know, if you go in for the whole private cloud thing – which most seem to be […]

  6. […] Selling into the (currently being built-up) desire for private clouds makes perfect sense for any company. If private cloud means the Fortune Spendsalots are each going to implement their own clouds, you can see the dollars rushing around there. As I often note, that cynical take on private clouds makes me overly-leery of the concept. […]

  7. […] the most part, getting involved in the could involves using a cloud, not building your own. (See the “private cloud” exception, here.) When it comes to consuming and building on the cloud, the first dynamic that changes is […]

  8. […] a sense of “that’s not really what you want,” which, really, tends to align with my more long term opinion. But, I wouldn’t write-off Microsoft doing a private cloud: at the moment, it seems like […]