The Problem With (Some) Private Clouds

Just about every big tech company has launched private cloud hardware, software or a related data center service. The problem: Many "private cloud" offerings aren't clouds at all. Here's why.

In my mind, cloud computing offers the following:

  • On Demand, Scalable Services: As you application traffic goes up, the cloud provider automatically boosts services to ensure your performance scales accordingly.
  • Pay-as-you-go platforms: The more you consume, the more you pay. The less you consume, the less you pay.
  • Seamless Upgrades: In most cases, you don't even notice when a cloud system has been upgraded. It just happens. In some cases, there may be new "features" or major "user interface" changes -- but they don't require you to completely re-learn the system.

Middle Ground?

Now, the challenge: Many companies want the cloud capabilities listed above. But they don't want to be on "shared" systems because of security or compliance concerns. Instead, they want a private cloud -- "dedicated" systems just for their company, with all of the benefits listed above.

Some private cloud providers deliver the goods. But many are bending the truth. The next time you're evaluating a private cloud service, ask yourself: Is this a true private cloud with all of the benefits above or is it nothing more than:

  • A server you own in someone else's data center: These are slow to scale. And chances are, you will need to pay a one-time fee to buy the server. Then when it runs out of gas, you'll need to buy another server. Then another, and another. The cost model and upgrade cycle here are unpredictable. Especially when you require unplanned operating system, database and application upgrades.
  • A dedicated server that the data center provider owns: Here, you likely pay a monthly fee for the provider's server. But again, does it scale higher on-demand -- with no need for you to manually order more horsepower as traffic grows and performance slows?

Of course, there are full-blown private cloud services that deliver all the goods. Just be sure you have a clear list of requirements and benefits before you sign on the dotted line.

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