Public Versus Private Cloud Distinction Starts to Blur

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Private Versus Public Cloud Computing

A plethora of applications are being considered for the cloud, but it may take at least another year before cloud computing goes mainstream in the enterprise.

When it comes to the distinction between public and private cloud computing, the lines are starting to blur as most IT organizations try to figure out where they want to use each type of cloud computing platform.

A new survey of 100 senior IT managers conducted by Osterman Research on behalf of Electric Cloud, a provider of tools for managing the application development process in cloud computing environments, makes it clear that most IT organizations are still investigating the various forms of cloud computing, and as a result, the budgets being allocated for cloud computing in 2011 are, on average, not all that substantial.

A major factor in the confusion stems from the fact that while there is a desire to reduce costs by accessing shared IT infrastructure, most IT organizations are not sure to what degree they will want to build a private cloud or simply rely in existing public cloud infrastructure. And if they do decide to build a private cloud, they are not sure if they should build that cloud on premise or as a "virtual data center" that resides on top of public cloud infrastructure.

Electric Cloud CEO Mike Maciag says he's pretty certain that the ultimate answer will be all of the above. To facilitate that transition, Electric Cloud today is releasing version 3.8 of ElectricCommander, which can now also be used to manage the application development process in a private cloud running on the customer's premise. As part of that effort, Electric Cloud now has its system integrated with IT automation tools from rPath and systems management software for running private cloud from Eucalyptus Systems.

Initially, most IT organizations will focus their cloud computing strategies around application development, followed quickly by an effort to leverage public cloud services to handle spikes in capacity requirements. Those two moves will eliminate the need for a lot of IT infrastructure that sits idle when no one in the organization is actually using it, although the company still incurs operating costs to manage it.

Further down the road, Maciag expects that cloud computing will routinely become more hybrid with application workload dynamically shifting back and forth between internal and external clouds. Once that happens, however, the distinction between public and private cloud infrastructure will start to fall apart and the term cloud computing itself may simply disappear into the ether. After all, we don't talk much about client/server as a style of computing anymore because it has become the standard way of doing things. So, too, will it be with cloud computing.

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Feb 1, 2011 9:08 AM David M Lynch David M Lynch  says:

I'm not sure that I agree with the premise that private and public clouds are blurring yet With one notable exception; where marketers are using the term 'public cloud' to describe what we used to call Software as a Service (SaaS).   One thing that virtualization has done is make the SaaS market easier to deliver and more reliable. And with the introduction of Microsofts Azure Cloud as well as others it has expanded the range of applications now available in SaaS form.

Certainly organizations are taking more advantage of this availability, especially in the SME market, where organizations are faced with the decision to either build an IT department or 'outsource' via SaaS.   And if you believe that SaaS is a Public Cloud then OK, there is some blurring starting.  

The problem I have is that its not representative of the whole market.  To me one of the key characteristics of a Public Cloud is the combination of the ownership and mobility of the virtual machine.  If I have created and own the VM, and then move it off my infrastructure to run on someone else's, and then either bring it back or ensure it's destroyed then I am using a cloud.  But if I am simply leasing a VM that someone else created and owns, then it's not really a Public Cloud.. It's SaaS.  

Outside of the SME space, most organizations are focused on learning more about what it takes to manage, control and optimize their own environments; i.e. creating their own Private Cloud infrastructures.   Which if you think about it, is not a surprise; before you can get to the stage where 'application workload(s) dynamically shifting back and forth between internal and external clouds', you  need to have an internal cloud that things can shift in and out of.  

There is a good blog on this by Jason Cowie entitled 'The Private Cloud Defined' ( ), which talks about the three main ingredients to a private cloud infrastructure, and the market is focused mostly on the second key ingredient: Management. 

Ultimately I believe that things will move to hybrid models but organizations need to build their own internal/private cloud first


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