Private vs. Public Clouds: The Never-Ending Story

It’s almost like a headline from a supermarket tabloid — The Private Cloud: Fact or Fiction?

Despite endless coverage of the desire of enterprises to mount their own internal cloud architectures, debate rages on as to whether private clouds are real or just the IT equivalent of a blurry photo of a man in a gorilla suit.

Tech journalist Manek Dubash asked the question point blank in a recent blog, “Private Clouds: reality or myth?” He argues that the barriers to private clouds aren’t so much technical as economic. Sure, you get to move VMs around the infrastructure much more easily than before, but there is no way a small, localized cloud can compete with the economies of scale of the public services. Given a choice between paying the chargeback for internal resources or the going rate of, say, Amazon or Rackspace, most business managers will choose the latter.

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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.

That may be true for bulk storage or batch processing of non-critical data, counters Brad Vaughan, director of cloud migration services at The Armada Group, an IT consulting firm, but when it comes to the important stuff, most CIOs will want to keep it in-house no matter what the cost. He notes that to get those economies of scale, most public services utilize generic IT infrastructure that fails to provide the optimized environment required by many applications, such as those supporting high-volume customer transactions.

If security is your top priority, however, note that recent research is starting to suggest that private clouds don’t have much of an advantage. According to Unisphere Research, which recently polled 430 Oracle users on behalf of security firm AppSpec, nearly half said even private clouds were too risky due to their habit of replicating and relocating database information across internal infrastructures. For many, the mere thought of data travelling outside their own business unit is unacceptable. Some public providers, meanwhile, are starting to offer cloud services locked away behind individual firewalls.

It’s true that CIOs have a lot to learn about provisioning and managing private clouds, but this doesn’t mean the concept is dead in the water, says David Link, CEO of cloud consultancy ScienceLogic. Whether it’s self-service portals, automation, chargeback or any other feature, there’s no reason why a private cloud can’t be every bit as innovative and compelling as a public one. Success or failure will depend largely on planning, execution and a clear vision of what your goals are.

And that’s where we stand. Private clouds are real, if you believe in them. Public clouds are the only true clouds, depending on how you define them. And the trade press will continue to tout both versions, not to mention hybrids, all while keeping up on the ongoing controversy surrounding the entire issue.

Now if only I could find my gorilla suit.

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