Most enterprise executives find the idea of the private cloud very appealing. After all, what's not to like about enjoying all that scalability and flexibility within your own firewall.
But there's a growing chorus of voices arguing that the economics of the private cloud do not work. Not only are most enterprises too small to see any real benefit to manning their own clouds, but the security and reliability fears surrounding the much more cost-effective public cloud are overblown. Private clouds, therefore, entail all the costs of traditional infrastructure but deliver none of the benefits.
Word on the street has it that many of the top vendors are privately hedging their bets on private cloud technology even as they continue to push a variety of solutions to the enterprise industry. A case in point is Microsoft, which recently saw the outing of an internal report that concluded private clouds will soon be all but impossible to justify in light of the increasing economies of scale for private clouds. This comes as the company tailors its Azure platform for private cloud deployments.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a cynical ploy on the part of Microsoft to fleece its customers, but the fact is that the private cloud will serve a useful purpose in the short term, even if it is doomed to fail. As Forrester analyst James Staten points out, a short-lived cloud effort will at least help enterprises find out for themselves how complicated cloud computing really is, so they will have a clearer understanding of what is and is not possible once they tap into public services. The key to a successful private cloud effort, then, is to fail quickly and fail quietly.
Still, there are ways you can maximize the benefits of your private cloud efforts, according to Computerworld's Bill Claybrook. First, develop a clear idea of what will run in the cloud and what won't. Naturally, applications that provide a high degree of scalability and can be easily migrated from one environment to another are prime candidates. After that, it's largely a matter of devising the appropriate business processes to suit your organizational needs.
Ultimately, then, it's probably best to look at the private cloud as a means to an end, rather than the end itself. Your goal is a working knowledge of cloud environments to help you better navigate the intricacies of the public infrastructure.
And it's quite probable that most enterprises will utilize a mix of public cloud and private traditional data center resources for some time to come. But it would be unwise to devote too much time, effort and capital on the private cloud because it probably won't be around for very long.