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Private cloud vs. enabling technologies

August 11, 2011

I have seen so many slide decks and presentations that claimed to sell customers the private cloud that even I got confused for some time. So what is the private cloud and why is it not what many vendors claim?

Let’s take a step back first and look at cloud computing in general. As pointed out in this earlier post I believe in the “Rule of the three S “as a rule of thumb. So a private cloud service should fulfill these requirements at least to a certain degree. Let’s start with the first S – service.

A private cloud would be a service created by the IT department that business departments can easily pick up and use or drop again. It offers a value that is needed and is internally sold on a subscription or consumption base. As with cloud services in general the risk of the service not is being picked up, is with the IT department. As IT departments usually are set up as cost centers this is a challenge with regards to implementing a private cloud. But it is a business challenge. The other obstacle is how you address competition. If you have a strong governance model in place you might want to ensure a solid baseline usage by making the service mandatory for a certain percentage of users or databases, or … .This on the other hand contradicts the flexibility that is expected when using cloud offerings. Also to what degree SLAs are guaranteed and how penalties are enforced if the contracting parties are departments of the same company is to be discussed. So the private cloud approach is a business approach in the first place and something to be rather discussed with business consultants than with technology integrators.

The issues around S- standardization and S- scalability are mainly influenced by the size and the governance model of the company and should be part of the evaluation.

So far I have seen very few customers that really have considered creating a private cloud. What I have seen though are many customers benefitting from using cloud related technologies to optimize their internal IT delivery. The technologies most of the time falsely called private cloud but widely known as enabling technologies are virtualization, self-service portals and rapid deployment solutions amongst many others. All these bits and pieces can be used to optimize IT delivery but only by being embedded into a business model that makes the use of these technologies a service they become part of a private cloud.

So be careful if someone tries to sell you a private cloud. You cannot buy a cloud as it is a service but you can buy components that might enable you to build a private cloud but at least help you to deliver IT more efficient.

There is one further kind of private cloud being used by some providers. But I am critical to call that a private cloud either. I would rather call it hosting or if you want to use a cloud term I would use dedicated public cloud (which is a major mental stretch). What happens here is that the customer gets a dedicated environment with a hosting provider, outsourcer or data center provider and accesses the systems over the internet or private lines. As it runs with a service provider it will be provisioned and charged as a service. Usually it lacks the scalability aspect as well as the standardization. Not that this per se is a bad solution. It could very well fit the requirements of a customer perfectly but I would deny myself to call this a private cloud. It is dedicated but not private as it runs elsewhere and is used over the net.

The hybrid cloud is a mixture of public cloud, private cloud and classic delivery (optimized by enabling technologies). Mixture could mean that you split the user groups by job profile, geographic region or other categories and let group A be serviced like before where group B starts using the public cloud. This Mix and Match does make a lot of sense and will be the future of cloud computing in the enterprise. Now you only need to find you own mix.

So in general be quite careful if starts to get too cloudy. Ask the expert not only for evaluating the cloud technology wise but also as a business concept and form a legal perspective. Keep in mind you seldom find this knowledge within one person.

P.S.: stay tuned for the weekend special this week: Privacy, the Patriot Act and Contracting explained

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