A Virtual Enterprise (of any size) has all the characteristics of a physical one, (machines, applications, storage, networking, administrators, users and so on) except that instead of computer hardware, it has computing resources. These resources are familiar; terabytes of storage, gigabytes of memory, CPU cores, public IP addresses and so on, there just isn't any hardware-so you don't have to worry about buying it or fixing it - but you have total control over what you do with it. Create virtual data centers, appoint people to manage them, launch virtual machines and appliances, either from a library of pre-built images, or upload your own, and launch them in seconds-all without any involvement or delays from the IT organization.
But before you IT types blow a gasket, all this comes at zero risk to the IT infrastructure. First off, Virtual Enterprises operate within enforced resource limits, which cannot be exceeded. Secondly, the actual mapping of virtual entities to the physical world is handled entirely by the system, according to the business policy. Virtual Enterprise users never get near physical hardware, in fact, so long as business policy is applied, they neither know nor care where their stuff actually runs - so there is no chance of them breaking anything, or interfering with something that doesn't belong to them.
Freed from the tyranny of frustrated users, and the mind-numbing provisioning of virtual services, the IT organization can focus on what it does best-managing the IT infrastructure. Infrastructure which can now be provided from a multitude of sources; your own local and remote data centers, hosting providers, IaaS providers, wherever. Complete elasticity, and the freedom to get the best cost/service for your requirements.
It's a cleanly delineated model where computing resources are provided by the IT organization and consumed by the Virtual Enterprise. A model where neither side needs to interfere in the day-to-day operations of the other, and where both remain fully empowered.
Now for the really interesting part-business policy, which has the ability to resolve a multitude of problems, both existing, and particularly those associated with cloud adoption.
First up is utilization. Business policy decides where each virtual entity ends up, and hence can determine whether, say, to fully load one physical server before powering up the next, or whether to spread load evenly across available resources to maximize performance. If you are a hosting provider, you likely want the former - in fact your business policy might even be to overload machines in the same way airlines overbook flights, and further to push load off elsewhere in the unlikely event everyone does show up. Now we have an effective way to really improve utilization.
Next are security and compliance. Need to comply with EU law ensuring employee data stays within the country boundary? Set a business rule for the HR Virtual Enterprise. Transaction processing must stay within a data center we own? Set a business policy. Need to ensure that research and investment banking applications are physically separated? Set another business policy.
And the list goes on - who gets to use the expensive hardware, what virtual entities need to be co-located, which must be separated for disaster recovery? All these issues and more can be solved by business policy, and as public cloud providers resolve concerns around security, those policies can be adjusted or relaxed accordingly.
Welcome to the new dawn.