A Practical Approach to the Private Cloud Debate

Loraine Lawson

No doubt, you've heard that many on-premise vendors are aiming for the cloud. As you'd expect, efforts vary. Some are making focused efforts to create cloud offerings.


But then there are others who just seem to be repackaging old offerings. Pundits and analysts have a term for it-they call it "cloud-washing." Humorously enough, it's something even Salesforce.com is doing.


Among the most egregious offenders are vendors who previously sold "SOA" technologies, as David Linthicum recently noted:

'Cloud washing' is the practice of renaming technology, strategies, and services to using the term 'Cloud.' Almost all of the SOA technology players have 'cloud washed' their products and messaging to use 'Cloud.' Indeed, almost every day I'm told that 'We're no longer a SOA company, we're a cloud computing company.' Which is not at all logical.

Everybody hates this kind of marketing sleight-of-hand, and it's annoyed the experts and pundits for well over a year now. But it seems to be heating up a bit as more experts and analysts are coming out against a particular type of cloud-washing: The concept of "private clouds."


A recent CIO Zone article, "Are Private Clouds Hogwash," traces the debate over the legitimacy of private clouds to its earliest days through to the present. It's so thorough, I would say it's a one-stop, must-read article for anyone considering private clouds.


Generally, in this sort of debate, there's a lot of back-and-forth, with the analysts lining up on both sides of the debate. But, frankly, I was surprised at how many experts lined up against private clouds as a useful concept worth pursuing. There were, of course, those who are arguably motivated by more selfish-reasons, such as Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. But as the article notes:

While it is not surprising that Amazon CTO Werner Vogels and other representatives of public cloud providers are critical of private clouds, the reasons they cite tend to jibe with those of the analysts, journalists, and other private cloud critics who seem to have no dog in the hunt.

Still. No matter how many experts line up against the concept, there are still enough for it to leave working IT departments with doubts. With these kinds of debates, it's always hard to figure out motives, facts, and fictions, and sometimes the more research you do, the more complicated it becomes.


In the end, it all starts to remind me of that elementary school riddle:


(Hint: Read some of the letters aloud. Still having trouble? Here's the answer.)


So, I was glad to see Mike Kavis, a working enterprise architect and the Mad Greek blogger, step out of the "MR DUCKS/MR NOT" debate to focus on the real question IT ultimately has to answer: "Does an on-premise private cloud make sense for any businesses other than vendors selling the hardware and software that allow private clouds to be built?"


Kavis suggests there are actually only two types of businesses for which an on-premise, private cloud would make sense: Government agencies and extremely large multi-located conglomerates. If you don't fall into that category, you probably don't need a private cloud, he says:

Choosing to build your own cloud on-site is like building your own refrigerator. Sure you can do it and you can have total control over it, but it is way more expensive, labor intensive, and will take you forever to get it done. Wouldn't it be simpler to just buy one with the latest and greatest technologies and energy efficiencies and just plug it in? Now I am not saying that going to the public cloud is as easy as plugging in, but it is a heck of lot easier than building your own.

Check out Kavis' full post, "Private Clouds: Are they good for business or just cloud washing?" I think you'll find it brings a bit of practical clarity to the discussion.

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