Thursday, June 10, 2010

Private Clouds – What’s in a Name?

“Happiness is like a cloud, if you stare at it long enough, it evaporates” - Sarah McLachlan

Remember when all of our secretaries and stewardesses turned into office managers and flight attendants overnight? Remember when all the co-los and server-hosting companies became cloud providers overnight?

(To alleviate all suspicions – as my readers know, I am an ardent advocate for Cloud computing and SaaS in particular, so this post is not about arguing the merits of this constructive and disruptive trend).

Cloud means different things to different people – but mainly it means “a cool way to market my same old, tired stuff”. I worked with a co-lo provider a couple of years back. A few months ago I went to their site to check prices and lo and behold: They became a Cloud Provider! They had clouds splashed all over their site and every solution they sold was a Cloud solution. I called up a sales person and asked about their elasticity and time units. Turns out they were elastic in one direction – you could always order more servers – and you only had to commit to one year in advance. On a geological time scale that is quite flexible. When I laughed and asked what was ‘cloudy’ about their offering, the guy got confused and said that his manager will get back to me.

So what is all this newspeak about Private Clouds?

Guess what is happening to the good ol’ data center? As David Linthicum aptly puts it in his latest blog post: “the reality is that ‘private cloud’ is just another term for on-premise systems”.

Point number one is that I find the term an Oxymoron:
Cloud means that it is ‘somewhere out there’; location is transparent. Cloud means sharing; resources are transparent. The physical server I used this morning might be used by someone else this afternoon.
Private means it is in my back yard and only I get to play in the sandbox.

Point number two is that even if we apply the Cloud concepts to the enterprise, it will be relevant to a very small number of very big players. Those enterprises that are truly global and distributed. They could take advantage of the peaks and troughs, of the "follow the sun" model, of the large numbers and justify the investment of a Cloud player.

And what about the rest of us mortals? Let’s assume that a certain percentage of our IT services will not transition to the cloud – be it regulation, compliance, perceived loss of control, or the illusion of maintaining job security. We should be using Cloud-enabling technologies, to make a smarter use of our resources and data centers. That means virtualization, automation, orchestration and auto-provisioning technologies. We only get the silver lining – not the cloud.

So the Private Cloud, in essence, is a wonderful opportunity for the big vendors out there to sell to the enterprises - new equipment, new systems and new services.