Are Private Clouds an Oxymoron?

Cassatt Corp. has been active in promoting “internal” clouds. Last August Ken Oestreich blogged about in-house clouds. “I am simply trying to challenge the belief that cloud-like architectures have to remain external to the enterprise,” Ken wrote. “They don’t. I believe it’s inevitable that they will soon find their way into the enterprise, and become a revolutionary paradigm of how *internal* IT infrastructure is operated and managed.”

The concept of private clouds has been picked up by a number of major vendors, prompting scrutiny from several tech trade pubs. “I think I’m getting into a religious debate here, but I don’t think the notion of a private cloud makes any sense,” writes Andrew Conry-Murray at InformationWeek. “In my mind, a key component of the definition of a cloud is that you, the enterprise, don’t have to host and run the infrastructure.”

Last week Eric Knorr from InfoWorld addressed the seeming disconnect between cloud technology and where it lives, taking Dell and IBM to task for their marketing of private clouds. “My eyes start to cross when I hear about turning IT into a ‘private cloud’ that delivers cloud services to the business,” Knorr writes. 

Casatt’s Jay Fry responds today on the Data Center Dialog blog:

Cassatt has been talking about how our software delivers the benefits of cloud-style architectures using your existing computer infrastructure since its inception in 2003 (arguably sometimes more eloquently than others). However, it’s had other names along the way. The problem we’ve seen is that none of these other terms had a Trout & Ries-style “position” in people’s heads. IT ops folks had no category to put us into. In fact, most of the terms (“utility computing,” “on-demand computing,” “autonomic computing”) have been greeted with a profound glazing of eyes at best. And extreme skepticism at worst, often accompanied with “I’m hoping virtualization will do that for me.”

Jay says the cloud concept has provided a framework for thinking about new approaches to IT. “So maybe it’s a matter of semantics and nomenclature,” he says. “But it certainly feels to me like a step in the evolution of this market. And these things always do tend to evolve.”

Just one more layer atop the pile of dueling definitions for cloud computing, and a reminder that one of the fitting attributes of clouds is that they have fuzzy boundaries.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Mitch

    Don't think this will involve any paradigm ahift, I think this is what we have to work with every day.

  2. Timely post I (and others) would argue that "private" has to do with notions of control, and less physical locations. A rather lengthy post here: -- Chuck

  3. I think the problem is the lack of a clear definition for the word "Cloud". What I understand the use of the word "Cloud" is as a method of organizing IT infrastructure such that the underlying hardware is abstracted for the purpose of removing complexity for the end-user and eliminating the need to purchase infrastructure to meet each end-user's maximum compute needs. So, from that perspective, any system which layers on some sort of Grid Computing system is a cloud -- that covers Google/Amazon's offerings down to a "private cloud" system. However, if one takes the term as how Conray-Murry uses it (an external provider of utility compute services, most likely backed by the abstraction I described two paragraphs above), then, no, there is no possible way for a "private cloud" to exist. I don't think Conray-Murry's understanding is meaningful, however, as the distinction between Google/Amazon and a "private cloud" is one solely of ownership. The underlying software/hardware techniques are comparable, the end-user's experience is similar, and, with the exception of the utility compute service contract, the services that can be bundled or that can leverage the "cloud" are nearly identical.