Are Private Clouds Worth the Hassle?

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

How to Choose the Right Cloud

A closer look at the three types of cloud computing - private, public, and hybrid

Private clouds are still drawing keen interest among enterprise managers, primarily as a means to gain all the benefits of public cloud computing while retaining full control of data, applications and infrastructure.

It's perfectly natural to want to have your cake and eat it too, but that doesn't mean private clouds automatically give you everything you desire. Clearly, the technology offers some key advantages over current static architectures, but in many ways it falls short of the capabilities found in the public realm. And there is a fairly steep learning curve when it comes to deploying and managing your own cloud that, quite frankly, hasn't entered into the conversation just yet.

None of that seems to be getting in the way of a good time, however, at least from a hardware vendor's point of view. IDC recently released a four-year estimate on hardware sales trends and concluded that private clouds will be primarily responsible for driving the industry to $6.4 billion in 2014. The bulk of that, about $5.7 billion, would come from server sales, more than double the pace in 2009.

And clearly, there is growing interest across a wide spectrum of both hardware and software vendors in taking some of the sting out of building and maintaining private clouds. Quest Software, for example, took a bold stride in this direction recently with the acquisition of Surgient, a specialist in private cloud and IaaS automation technology. Along with its Surgient Automation Platform, the company has a self-provisioning virtual machine that can be used for cloud software testing in Hyper-V environments.

But does the private cloud really lend itself to a do-it-yourself mentality? Australian IT analyst Sam Higgins argues no, saying the logistics involved in maintaining a true private cloud, as opposed to a virtual machine cluster or some other half-measure, will quickly outweigh any benefits in infrastructure consolidation or application delivery. Not only will you need a first-class server/storage/network environment, but tools like comprehensive IT asset management, automated provisioning, service usage monitoring and end-user self-service as well -- all governed by a single service desk and complete service catalogue. A tall order by anyone's standards.

And even after all that, the private cloud still falls short of a public cloud in one key area: scalability. As's David Carr points out, anyone facing a sudden burst of demand won't be able to ramp up capacity or processing power beyond what their internal infrastructure can support. This is where the hybrid cloud comes in handy in that it keeps everything in house except in emergency situations. But is it worth the time and expense to build a private cloud that works well most of the time, except when you really need it?

For the very large organization, that answer might still be yes if it can be demonstrated that private cloud technology can make more efficient use of available resources and could further streamline the often bloated environments that have taken root over the years.

As for the rest of the industry, it would seem that the ROI calculations on private clouds are still in the formative stage.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 6, 2010 11:18 AM Mark Mark  says:

The concept of Private Clouds are being pushed by the hardware manufacturers afraid of being "shut out" in the Cloud game.  Look at IBM Cloudburst and the Private Azure offering exclusively through Dell and HP in this country.  Those vendors will describe how easy it is to "expand elastically" by adding to your private cloud through hardware acquistion.  They are less likely to address the 4% utilization statistics on a Saturday night.  The idea of Cloud is easy management, yes, but it is also one of full elasticity and pay-per-use.  Now that public cloud security has been fully addressed with SSL and encrypted file and database systems, this allows IT to look at "virtual private clouds" from the publc IaaS vendors to run their Enterprise SaaS applications.

Aug 9, 2010 2:00 AM Yvon Decelles Yvon Decelles  says: in response to Christofer Hoff

I also kinda choke on my coffee when i read that

Aug 9, 2010 12:23 PM Christofer Hoff Christofer Hoff  says: in response to Mark

>>> Now that public cloud security has been fully addressed with SSL and

>>> encrypted file and database systems, this allows IT to look at "virtual

>>> private clouds" from the publc IaaS vendors to run their Enterprise

>>> SaaS applications.

...I had to check the date and ensure this wasn't posted on April 1st.

Fully addressed, eh?

Interesting assertion.

Aug 20, 2010 5:01 AM we are cloud we are cloud  says:

Thanks for this post. The compelling business case for the cloud is realized by many IT professionals, but determining the return on investment of a technology such as cloud computing can prove to be difficult. Have you encountered the ITX (IT Cloud Transformation) ROI Calculator? It's a free online service which will enable you to quickly estimate how much you stand to save in the cloud, versus on-premise. The program takes into account software applications, servers, data centers and back office functions and determines which would be cheaper with Web-based software applications and how long it would take to achieve ROI. For more info see this blog post

Aug 25, 2010 12:29 PM Jonathan Price Jonathan Price  says:

I agree with the observation that Private Cloud really makes sense where it exploits resources that are already available.  See an approach that reuses standard server hardware at


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