Is Private Cloud Real or Just a Fantasy?
The argument on whether there is such a thing as "private cloud" just won't go away. Many of the big name SaaS and Public cloud players continue to publish content that poo-poo's the reality of Private Cloud. I'm writing to suggest that the arguments against private cloud are in many cases wrong, and in some cases pure sales FUD (Fear Uncertainty & Doubt). However, before I go into my little diatribe, I want to make clear that just because I'm a private cloud believer, it doesn't mean I don't believe in "public cloud".
Some of the more common arguments on the viability of private cloud revolve around some common themes that IT has been sold by vendors for years:
- - "make better use of your internal staff by having them work on things that drive business differentiation"
- - "private cloud doesn't have infinite scale"
- - "the security of public cloud/SaaS providers is better than anything a private cloud could create"
- - "staffing for running private cloud environments will be difficult" (I thought they said there wasn't a "private cloud")
- - "public cloud offers economies of scale that can't be met by a single enterprise"
So, let's take each one of the points above and attempt to break through the FUD.
"make better use of your internal staff by having them work on things that drive business differentiation"
Who can argue with that statement? I certainly can't because I believe we all should be trying to do that. However, as IT leaders we've been told that by our vendor partners for decades and yet IT as we know it still exists. Why does IT still exist, because inherently most companies understand the "innovation & creativity" benefit of having their own IT team. While empirically I hope for the day when most IT jobs are higher level business interaction level positions, I also understand that that day is many years away, cloud or no cloud.
"private cloud doesn't have infinite scale"
True, but SO WHAT? How often does your business need infinite scale? I've done cost comparisons of well designed private cloud implementations for large enterprise and found them to be very competitive with public cloud. In fact, they were so competitive that having a little extra capacity and having a contract for "burst" capacity was OK. If I knew that I needed 2X or more extra capacity even two or three days a month, then I would consider my options for putting that specific environment in a public cloud. The alternative is to have contracted burst capacity available.
"the security of public cloud/SaaS providers is better than anything a private cloud could create"
Generally speaking this statement might be correct. There are certain industry verticals that could argue differently (Financials), but it's probably true for many. However, does that really change the equation? The difference with internal vs. external security might be minimal compared to an unforeseen legal issue that results from public cloud dependence. In each case the business needs to make a conscious decision on the importance of their IP. If security isn't important to the business when it's internal then it still won't be important in the cloud. Now consider the fact that the worst security threats come from the inside and you can understand why just moving it to the cloud doesn't solve anything. In fact it's very much like outsourcing something that's broken. In most cases all you've really done it make the problem more intractable and created a no-win situation with your vendor.
"staffing for running private cloud environments will be difficult"
So my first comment is; if there's no such thing as private cloud, how difficult could it be to staff for it? However, all kidding aside IT organizations the world over have been building and managing complex infrastructure for years. Arguably a well designed private cloud implementation actually improves usability and simplifies the roles of many IT folks because it can bring automation to otherwise high risk manual tasks.
"public cloud offers economies of scale that can't be met by a single enterprise"
Next to the "infinite scale" point that's always used by public cloud providers, this is the next most common refrain. Unfortunately, it's not necessarily the case. In a previous comment you can build private cloud environments that offer significant scale and provide all the necessary environment, security and staffing requirements at or below the cost of public cloud offerings. I'm not saying it's easy, and in each business use case the drivers and costs will be different, but it can be done. I'm not arguing in favor of private cloud for cost savings, for me it's more about options and the potential to bring new innovation to the business. If for whatever reason I can't utilize public cloud for any or all of my workloads, at least I can get the majority of cloud benefits by having a private cloud.
So, just say yes to private cloud if it's what the business needs, but like any IT solution don't implement it without a clear set of objectives. Do your due diligence and ensure you're bringing the right tool to generate the right business opportunities, whether that tool is a private, public, hybrid cloud, or none of the above.
In closing, I'm not trying to argue against public cloud, but rather to argue that the reality and benefits of both private and public cloud are real.
Long Live Cloud!