As cloud adoption continues to soar, the debate between public and private continues apace. While I am a fervent believer in the public cloud, I do believe there is a lot of opportunity for private clouds in many areas, especially industries that have strong technology footprints and experience with large data center management, such as financial services and government.
Over the weekend I read a piece by Jonathan Feldman that really showed how challenging private cloud solutions can be. Lots of dependencies on non-mainstream software packages coupled with a lack of cloud-specific skills shows the lack of maturity in the private-cloud space. But there was one quote that really helps explain the difference between private and public clouds. In a nutshell, it comes down to the user's necessity and desire to master the complexity of the software. Feldman wrote:
There's complexity underneath public cloud services, but it's not your complexity. It's the service provider's. And chances are your service provider is way more situated to handle that complexity because of (and I know this is a tired old phrase when it comes to the cloud, but it's true) economies of scale. As in, they do it all the time and you don't.
It's not that private cloud is particularly unmanageable, but rather there is a lack of certain niceties, primarily packaging and management of the software that make it less complicated to get involved in.
So if you want to go for a private cloud you have to be prepared to handle a certain level of difficulty, or trade money for time and work with companies like Eucalyptus or Cloudscaling that can help with the setup and deployment of private cloud solutions.
That said, there are few who would argue that the current state of private cloud is anywhere near as easy to use as public cloud services from Amazon Web Services or Rackspace. But this is where there is opportunity for vendors addressing the needs of end users as well as developers, system administrators, and architects who get into the game now--especially around emerging leaders such as OpenStack, which has seen tremendous growth since inception just over one year ago.