The argument for private clouds

While some argue that private clouds don't exist, they may be the right choice in many situations, i.e., when there is a "barrier of exit" from internal infrastructure to the public cloud.

James Urquhart
James Urquhart is a field technologist with almost 20 years of experience in distributed-systems development and deployment, focusing on service-oriented architectures, cloud computing, and virtualization. James is a market strategist for cloud computing at Cisco Systems and an adviser to EnStratus, though the opinions expressed here are strictly his own. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.
James Urquhart
2 min read

Rich Miller of Data Center Knowledge noted an excellent response by my former Cassatt colleague, Jay Fry, to Andrew Conry-Murray of InformationWeek and Eric Knorr of InfoWorld, who contend that there is no such thing as a private cloud.

Jay's response is excellent, and I absolutely concur. However, I get so frustrated with these "its gotta be off-premises" arguments that for some time now, I've been trying to figure out a quick and dirty response I can fire off whenever such "puritanism" comes into play.

On Monday, in response to Rich's tweet about his post, I came up with a tweet that sums up my position as succinctly as I think I can put it. Here's the tweet:

The argument is that straightforward. In a few more words, I argue that:

  • Disruptive online technologies have almost always had an enterprise analog. The Internet itself had the intranet: the use of HTTP and TCP/IP protocols to deliver linked content to an audience through a browser. The result was a disruptive technology similar to its public counterpart but limited in scope to each individual enterprise.
  • Cloud computing itself may primarily represent the value derived from purchasing shared resources over the Internet, but again, there is an enterprise analog: the acquisition of shared resources within the confines of an enterprise network. This is a vast improvement over the highly siloed approach IT has taken with commodity server architectures to date.
  • The result is that much of the same disruptive economics and opportunity that exists in the "public cloud" can be derived at a much smaller scale from within an enterprise's firewall. It is the same technology, the same economic model, and the same targeted benefits, but focused only on what can be squeezed out of on-premises equipment.

Update: See my comment below for a clarification of how I use the word "scale" here.

Now, whether it is in fact better to override the desire to build a private cloud, and to go right to a "public cloud" model is debatable and almost certainly dependent on situation.

I showed recently that there is a case to be made for a "barrier of exit" for medium to large enterprises from their own infrastructure to the public cloud. If I am right, then a "private cloud" architecture is a great way to get moving in the right direction.

So there you have it: my argument for why private clouds not only exist, but why they may make sense in many cases. While Eric Knorr may roll his eyes at this, he should do so knowing that I'm rolling my eyes right back at him.